There are few things that any of us dread more than confronting a family member or co-worker. These stress-filled collisions can often become emotionally charged and highly uncomfortable. Many people will offer up the biblical mandate to “turn the other cheek” as a way to avoid confronting someone about something painful in their life. Jesus’ teaching on “cheek turning” is often misused and stripped out of context (but that's for another post). The simple truth is that there are times to confront and times to avoid confrontation. If you are unsure which situation you are in, consider the following points:
When To Confront:
1)When the damaging behavior in question has become repetitive.
Life is filled with hurts and slights, both given and received. We all make mistakes, but when “mistakes” repeat themselves over and over, they are no longer mistakes, but a pattern of behavior. Ignoring someone who is consistently toxic in the way that they treat you isn’t mature, it’s being a doormat. Picking up the slack for a co-worker who is having a bad week can be a good thing. On the other hand, constantly carrying the weight of other people's responsibilities only enables them, and leaves you exhausted. This doesn’t mean that you go to battle every time someone hurts you. People who fight everything tend to cause more problems than they resolve, but when inconsiderate actions become a trend, it’s time to step in and address it.
2)When you are invested in the relationship.
There are lots of unhealthy people in the world, luckily you don’t have to deal with all of them (it only seems like it some days!). You don’t have to address every injustice you see around you. Confrontation only works when it happens in the context of a relationship. If I don’t know that you care about me as a person, why would I care what you think about my behavior? When we have a relationship, I am less likely to feel attacked when confronted. Also, most confrontation comes at a cost, emotionally and sometimes even relationally. Confronting someone is only worth the price I pay if that person is someone I care deeply about or interact closely with on a daily basis.
There are also times to avoid confrontation:
1)When I’m simply trying to vent my anger.
Anger is a healthy and common emotion. It’s even normal to feel angry when I am confronting someone who has been mistreating me. If anger is the only thing driving my confrontation, however, things will go poorly. Anger is my body’s way of telling me to have a closer look at something. There may be something that I legitimately need to address. It’s also possible that I just need a good night’s sleep.
I hope these thoughts help as you navigate the stress of confrontation and the ups and downs of your everyday relationships!