20 June 2008

Safety First! Using Well Chosen Words

I have been asked by a couple folks what has prompted my post on biblical confrontation. I guess it's a fair question but not one I can answer with the details I think folks are hoping for. As I said before, what really spun my wheels is not my story to tell. There's been more than one incident that prompted the post.

As a biblical counselor it's my privilege to know things about people that they might not share with everyone. Biblical counselors do not hold to the world's idea of confidentiality, but we do hold to God's. What I mean by that is I have had more than one occasion to share what I have been told by someone seeking my counsel to an appropriate person, more than likely their pastor or a person in authority. This has never been a surprise to my counselee- they get full disclosure on what level of confidentiality they can expect from me. Additionally, they get the first opportunity to tell the person or to have me with them as support when they tell the person. What they don't have is a worry that I will make their business public.

Ever have someone share something you told them? Ever have it get back to you and felt the sting of betrayal? It doesn't have to be about something tender to you, just the idea that what you said was talked about... your story was told by someone else... it's not a good feeling. It makes you wonder if you can trust them with something that is tender for you. I try very hard to make my boundaries known so people can feel safe with me.

Safety. I don't know why but I have always been wired to consider safety. My family calls me "Auntie 9-1-1." For the last couple of weeks I let my blog reading slip. It started because I had my sister here with me and then I read a couple of things that made me think that I might want to knock some heads together. I get pretty annoyed that Christians can't seem to dialog without things turning nasty. We should be the safest people on the planet, we believers. That's hardly the case.

I understand that we all want to have our thoughts and actions affirmed. We get off on hearing the chorus of 'amen!' and 'way to go!' It stings like heck to have someone you see as an ally set their jaw and tell you they think you're wrong. It wouldn't be so bad if they just said, "I think you're wrong." Instead we all have the tendency to drive home the point about how wrong we think they are by using adjectives like: stupid; dumb; moronic; idiotic; juvenile etc. Then we justify use of inflammatory words by saying things like: "it's in the bible!" As if we, in our sinfulness, can use words with the same precision as God in His holiness.

Let me confess right here and right now. I am guilty of this same thing. I am not giving myself a free pass.

So, what do we do? How do we confront people when we think they are wrong? In humility and love we should agonize about the words we use. How should we respond when we are confronted? In humility and love, even when the words used in the confrontation are harsh and inflammatory. Better to let our Heavenly Father deal with their heart for using harsh words than He should deal with our hearts for receiving correction with bitterness. The same is true when we correct gently and it is received with hostility.

Not every correction has merit. If someone confronts you and they are in error, you still need to respond in a humble and gentle fashion. Ignoring someone who is offering correction isn't a response. It doesn't solve anything. It keeps the layers of offense building by causing bitterness on one side and the idea that the correction was accurate and/or you are unrepentant or hostile on the other.

God in His mercy continues to have relationship with us, even when we're wrong and adamantly so! He is our model for extending mercy to one another.

Proverbs 10:19-21
19 When there are many words, transgression is unavoidable, but he who restrains his lips is wise.
20 The tongue of the righteous is {as} choice silver, the heart of the wicked is {worth} little.
21 The lips of the righteous feed many, but fools die for lack of understanding.

Ecclesiastes 5:7
7 For in many dreams and in many words there is emptiness. Rather, fear God.

Ecclesiastes 6:11
11 For there are many words which increase futility. What {then} is the advantage to a man?

Psalm 37:8
8 Cease from anger, and forsake wrath; do not fret, {it leads} only to evildoing.

James 1:19-20
19 {This} you know, my beloved brethren. But let everyone be quick to hear, slow to speak {and} slow to anger;
20 for the anger of man does not achieve the righteousness of God.

1 Corinthians 13:4-7
4 Love is patient, love is kind, {and} is not jealous; love does not brag {and} is not arrogant,
5 does not act unbecomingly; it does not seek its own, is not provoked, does not take into account a wrong {suffered,}
6 does not rejoice in unrighteousness, but rejoices with the truth;
7 bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.

1 Timothy 2:8
8 Therefore I want the men in every place to pray, lifting up holy hands, without wrath and dissension.

Proverbs 25:11
11 {Like} apples of gold in settings of silver is a word spoken in right circumstances.

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