The Art of Having Hard Conversations

Have you ever had to have a hard conversation with someone? Did you have the hard conversation even though it was scary to do, or did you chicken out?

In the past I have sometimes shied away from hard conversations, hoping the person would one day see things from my perspective on their own.

Let’s face it, hard conversations are confrontational. They are risky. They are uncomfortable. They make you feel fearful and anxious. But if your motive is pure and your cause just, forcing yourself to be honest, vulnerable, and forthright in your relationships can have rich rewards.

I don’t know about you, but there is nothing more annoying to me than “fake friends,” “fake relationships,” or “fake church” (community). If we cannot be real with each other, particularly in our close relationships and within church communities, then we are living a lie.

“Living a lie is just as much a sin as telling a lie.”

-Dr. Christy Anderson

In the Bible we read about Nathan’s “hard conversation” with David after David had sinned with Bathsheba. God sent Nathan to confront David about not only his sleeping with Bathsheba and getting her pregnant, but having her husband killed and then taking Bathsheba as his wife. David had started living a lie. This impacted his relationship with the Lord and the Lord wanted to have a “hard conversation” with David; so God sent Nathan the prophet to confront David.

In this historic event we learn the value of and “art” to having “hard conversations” with people. Nathan was a respected prophet, but David was the king and he was in a position of authority that could have made Nathan’s live miserable. David could have even taken Nathan’s life if he became offended at him. From Nathan’s perspective, he also knew that David had been willing to kill an innocent, loyal man within his own army to keep his sin with Bathsheba a secret. Thus, Nathan had to use tact in his approach to this very hard, confrontational conversation with David. But the effort paid off and caused David to repent and be restored in his relationship to the Lord, which in the end is the central issue or value that the Lord sought through sending Nathan in the first place. As the Lord’s representative Nathan’s willingness to have a hard conversation with David helped restore the Lord’s relationship to David that had been damaged by David’s sinful actions.

We all generally realize that our sin causes broken relationships with the people around us, but have you ever considered that our sin also causes a breakdown in our relationship and ability to have intimacy with the Lord?

In Matthew 18:15 we learn that, “If your brother sins, go and show him his fault in private; if he listens to you, you have won your brother.” Thus if we are offended, as God is said to have been offended by David’s behavior (2 Samuel 11:26), we are to go to them in private first and have that “hard conversation.” In this case God sent His mouthpiece of the time, Nathan to confront David about the sin in the hope of winning David back to Himself. Thus, the confrontation was not for the purpose of condemnation but restoration.

Paul states in Ephesians 4:25, “Therefore, laying aside falsehood, SPEAK TRUTH EACH ONE of you WITH HIS NEIGHBOR, for we are members of one another,” and he continues in verse 29-30 saying, “Let no unwholesome word proceed from your mouth, but only such a word as is good for edification according to the need of the moment, so that it will give grace to those who hear. 30 Do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption.”

At the end of the day, it is our relationship with the Lord that is the most critical and precious thing we need to maintain, because it is only when we are close to the Lord that our cup can be filled to overflowing with His Spirit, goodness, love, and blessing. God’s manifest presence in our life is what empowers us to overcome our flesh and live victorious lives that are able to be a blessing and consistently edify everyone around us, even when we have to sometimes speak the truth in love through having some “hard conversations.”

The next time you have to have a hard conversation, recognize not only the issue that has provoked the need for the hard conversation, but consider thoughtfully how that issue has impacted your relationship with God, your ability to enter (or not enter) His presence, and your ability (or lack of ability) to hear His voice.

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Phoenix, AZ