By: Tiffany Joy Layton
Do you know that feeling in the pit of your stomach when you have to have one of those notoriously hard conversations? Those talks where you want to literally do anything else will often leave many of us wanting to run for the hills. And sadly, many of us figuratively do. When something arises that requires accountability, confrontation of sin, or reconciliation, the proper conversation a Christian should be having often takes a back seat to the fear and uncomfortableness of the situation. However, as Christians, we are called to a better way. A way that does not glorify self, but rather God. It is, after all, God’s glory that should be the objective of any conversation regardless of the difficulty or ease.
I am no stranger to the struggle of said conversations. From a young age I was held accountable by my parents to not shy away from these types of talks. My upbringing may have been a little different from others in that both of my parents are Biblical Counselors. Let’s face it, their entire profession is centered on difficult conversations handled biblically. But through the years I did learn some valuable lessons from them on how to handle hard conversations the right way. And as I gained experience as an adult serving in ministry, I learned how to implement their lessons even better. I want to share with you some of the most important things I’ve learned on how to prepare for hard conversations the right way.
Preparing for a difficult conversation is three fourths of the battle. It is not something to be taken lightly and should be handled with as much care as actually speaking to someone should. It is very hard to be pleasing to God in these types of interactions with others when we do not regularly spend time with God in His Word. The Word gives us all we need for life and godliness (2 Peter 1:3). Throughout some of my experiences, and plenty of time with God, He has taught me a few helpful ways to approach this subject. I have gathered together a list of preparations to think through before approaching someone. I pray this is helpful, encouraging and motivating as you approach people with love and honor. You will also notice that all of these points are first examining self. This is a crucial step in the process that must not be overlooked!
“And why do you worry about the speck in your friend’s eye when you have a log in your own? How can you think of saying to your friend, ‘Let me help you get rid of that speck in your eye’, when you can’t see past the log in your own eye? Hypocrite! First get rid of the log in your own eye; then you will see well enough to deal with the speck in your friend’s eye.” Matthew 7:3-5 NLT
Have I spent time in prayer about this?
Our very first step to take is prayer. It sounds almost too simple doesn’t it? We must seek the Lord’s heart and will in all situations, and there really isn’t any way to phone this step in. We must simply take the time to pray! It is amazing the clarity, peace, and confidence this will bring to all situations.
In my experience, when someone is preparing to have a difficult conversation with someone else, they almost always first go to “someone they can trust” for advice. This is actually not the biblical process laid out for us in Scripture. The only time we are to involve anyone else is only after we have gone to the person and there has not been reconciliation and/or repentance. When we say we are just seeking wise counsel before we have ever gone to God in prayer or have gone to the other person, we are doing nothing more than participating in disguised gossip. (Matthew 18:15-20 NLT)
Have I repented of my sin?
As Matthew 7 teaches us in the above paragraph, we have no business confronting anyone else if there is unconfessed sin in our own lives. We must ensure that we have properly confessed our sins against God, and our sins against others. This is quite possibly the most humbling of steps. To be in right standing with God positions us properly to lead others to right standing with God.
Have I studied for contextual, biblical reference?
As a Christian, we hold a very important responsibility to handle the Word of God correctly. When we are approaching a hard conversation with someone, we must not forget to enter the conversation with biblical proof as opposed to mere opinion. Contextual, biblical Scripture means not picking out random verses to fit our narrative, but rather studying the wholeness of Scripture to obey God’s narrative. God’s Word is living and active and can do so much more than our imperfect words could ever do. (Hebrews 4:12 NLT)
“Study and be eager and do your utmost to present yourself to God approved, a workman who has no cause to be ashamed, correctly analyzing and accurately dividing the Word of Truth.” 2 Timothy 2:15 AMPC
Is this a difference of opinion or a sin issue?
It’s a very dangerous tightrope to walk when we say things are unbiblical that the Word of God does not actually confirm. We must be careful that we do not play God. It is okay for people to have different opinions. If a conflict arises with a fellow believer, but is only based on a difference of opinion, this does not warrant a confrontational conversation. We should seek to have reconciliation. And sometimes that looks like agreeing to disagree.
Is this about my feelings or God’s glory?
One of the most valuable lessons my parents taught me when I was very young was that just because my feelings were hurt did not necessarily mean someone else was wrong or that they owed me an apology. That is a hard pill to swallow when our feelings are hurt, but it is biblical nonetheless. We must first be certain that our desired conversation is not centered around our feelings, but rather that God be glorified.
Am I seeking to be right or to be reconciled?
Let’s face it, we all like to be right. I don’t know anyone who does not hate being wrong. It’s a part of our fallen, human nature. However, as I often say, God’s Kingdom is upside down. In our preparations we must ensure we are dying to self and seeking to honor God in his command to be reconciled to one another and to help one another reconcile to God. As we prayerfully prepare, we must check our motives to be sure they are seeking to accomplish God’s purpose of reconciliation.
I want to encourage each of you to embrace and utilize your Quiet Time with the Lord. It is in this place that God will equip you and teach you His ways. When difficult conversations with others arise, and they will, you will then be fully prepared to honor the Truth of Scripture, properly love others, and walk in obedience to God!
Tiffany was born and raised in central Alabama and earned a bachelor’s degree in Theology while residing in Mobile AL. She then moved back to her hometown and met her husband while working as a barista in a local coffee shop! Tiffany and her husband Lex have now been married for 6 years and have both service in several different church staff positions. She is a proud dog mom and loves coffee, songwriting, art, Japanese/Thai foods, sunsets, and spending the day at the lake/beach! Tiffany is passionate about helping women deepen their understanding of Scripture through Bible study and quiet time, and as a result, creating lasting discipleship!