"I have something kind of hard that I have to say to you. And I'm really nervous to say it."
I was surprised. My friend and I had been enjoying a meal and meaningful conversation for the last couple of hours, and, as I thought we were closing our time, she suddenly shared this news. I was surprised, not just that she had waited so late into the evening to bring it up, but also that she was so hesitant about it. This is a woman I respect, confide in, and know to be quite firm in her convictions. What could possibly be so difficult for her to say to me?
My friend needed to confront me, and, like most people, she wasn't particularly excited about it. Confrontation is frightening because we don't know how the other person will respond to our words and we risk hurting her (and our friendship) by bringing up an area of weakness in her life. Exactly how we want to spend Friday nights with our pals, right?
As my friend was tripping over her words and gently phrasing her concern about me, my heart was actually filling with joy. I felt honored that she took the time to sit with me and speak honestly about a flaw in my character. I felt thankful that I had a friend like her, who cared about my edification and my reputation as a minister of the gospel. And I felt humbled by the truth in her words. Having a mirror held up to your mess isn't very pretty. But it's how we can start cleaning it up.
In my case, I have ALOT that needs cleaning! (Thank God for his grace) The irony of me feeling loved as she confronted me is that her confrontation was about how I hurt people. With my words. Often.
Now, I've known this about myself, and my husband of 13 years has done quite alot of work to help me grow in this area. With him and the Holy Spirit, I've come a loooooong way (by his judgment). But it's still obviously an issue because a number of other people had shared ways I had hurt them with my friend; so many, in fact, that she finally felt compelled to confront me about it. (Thank God for his grace)
She provided specific examples of situations in which I had been hurtful and unkind, but we didn't stop there. Because the benefit of having a true friend confront me is that I can sort through not just my outward behavior (my words) but also ask questions about the inner cause (my heart). Acknowledging that my friend was right about those circumstances was the easy part. The real work was processing what was happening in my heart to even bring those words to the surface.
Of course it is difficult to hear that I had (unintentionally) caused other people pain. But if all I did was apologize for my words without understanding their source in my heart, then I wouldn't have the opportunity to change. Which is why it is so loving to confront one another, why the Bible says that the wounds of a friend are faithful. Confrontation is not just a step towards reconciliation (forgiving one another), it should have as its goal sanctification (being formed more into Christ) .
I am on a lifelong journey towards holiness and I need faithful friends who will admonish me in wisdom and exhort me every day, so that I am not deceived about my own sin. I am so thankful that my friend loved me enough to name the works of my flesh and call me towards the work of the Spirit. God has used her (more than once) to "make me over" in his image!
What about you? How has God used faithful friends to work on your heart? How have you responded when he has called you to confront someone?