Sometimes love requires confrontation, but when is it appropriate? Speaking the truth in love is called for when the behavioral issue is both important and chronic (e.g., a destructive habit, a major doctrinal error, an abusive behavior pattern, etc.); and when we’ve earned the right to speak (e.g., as a family member, good friend, or maybe as a victim). Then, it must be done quickly, and in a graciously candid, loving way.
- Instruct a wise man and he will be wiser still; teach a righteous man and he will add to his learning. (Proverbs 9:9)
- Wounds from a friend can be trusted… (Proverbs 27:6)
- …the pleasantness of one’s friend springs from his earnest counsel. (Proverbs 27:9)
- He who rebukes a man will in the end gain more favor than he who has a flattering tongue. (Proverbs 28:23)
- As iron sharpens iron, so one man sharpens another. (Proverbs 27:17)
A humble consideration of our own limitations, and an earnest desire to serve, compel a listening ear. In Covey-speak, we “must seek first to understand, then to be understood.”
- Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves.
- Each of you should look not only to your own interests but also to the interests of others.
- Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus. (Philippians 2:3-5)
Love, as Biblically defined, is not rude or self-seeking. It doesn’t use the “open wide while I cram this down your throat” approach. Biblical love forgets about the need to be accepted. It makes sure that what the recipient hears is filtered by kindness and concern for them. And, it also refuses to walk away having spoken only half the truth. If angry opposition arises, love is patient and not easily angered. Finally, this kind of love keeps no record of wrongs. It’s important to quickly deal with the important issue(s) and move on. Only then are we confronting for their good. And, be confident that the right medicine, lovingly applied, may not taste good, but it heals.
Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. (1 Corinthians 13: 4-7)
A gentle answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger. (Proverbs 15:1)
Instead, speaking the truth in love, we will in all things grow up into Him who is the Head, that is, Christ. (Ephesians 4:15)
1. Affirm your love for the person.
2. Ask for permission to speak into their life. (“It seems to me that _______. Help me understand why ____. This (or _______) has been a struggle for me too at times. What do you think? Does what I’m saying resonate as truth with you? Am I off base here ?”)
3. Give them a chance to respond and/or offer a defense. Do not interrupt.
4. Continue by asking questions that illuminate the behavioral issue, its consequences, etc.
5. Conclude with a reaffirmation of your love for them.
6. Pray with them (allowing them to lead off or end the prayer, if possible).