A few days ago, I drove to my local coffee shop to meet someone for a hard conversation. Things in this relationship hadn’t gone like I had hoped, and I knew it was best for me to step away and let go of it all, but I was still anxious about how the talk would go. I cared deeply for this person, but I had been hurt by them and I knew I probably had hurt them back, and we needed to talk about it.
When I read “When You Have to Say the Hard Thing” by Annie Downs on (in)courage, I felt like I was reading the story of my own coffee shop conversation. The story she opens with echoed mine perfectly, and I realized I’m not alone in this.
We all have to have hard conversations. We all have times where we are hurt or when we hurt others, times when we have to confront messy issues, times when we have to apologize and ask for forgiveness, and other times when we are the one extending grace.
Downs says, “For years I thought it was easier to stay quiet, avoid “confrontation,” and never share my feelings if they were negative. If I loved my friends, I thought, I should just keep my hurt or sadness to myself, and move on. I just don’t like saying the hard thing. It’s not fun for me. My personality tends to lean towards LET’S HAVE A GREAT TIME, not LET’S HAVE A HARD CONVERSATION. But the older I get, the more I recognize that the hard conversations are actually what make for the great time.”
Can you relate? I can.
This particular conversation I had this week ended in a mutual parting of ways and the end of a relationship, but there have been countless others where relationships were strengthened through shared honesty and vulnerability.
Sometimes, we have to say hard things. Sometimes, those hard things may even hurt, but when we are sharing these things in love, we are creating room for new growth and new life.
“Because truth in love leads to health and life,” Downs says. “Truth in love doesn’t kill, it resurrects. Truth in love may hurt, WILL hurt if you ask me, but it will also heal.”
We must be careful to not have these conversations from a place of self-righteousness or selfishness, but from a place of humility, graciousness, and deep love.
So, how do we enter into these conversations well? Crosswalk.com contributing writer Wendy van Eyck shared an article called “9 Helpful Ways to Have Hard Conversations” and I found these few to be extremely great tips:
- “Pray about it.” I get wrapped up in how I’m feeling, what I want to say, and how I want to say it, and I often neglect to intentionally pray about the conversation I’m about to have. “Pray for the right timing and the right words,” van Eyck says. “Ask God for solutions to the problem. Pray for insight into the situation and ask for a humble heart to admit where you may have played a part. Then keep praying for the situation right until the conversation and even afterwards.”
- “Be comfortable with silence.” During these conversations, having pauses where each person can take a moment to breathe and process and even pray before speaking again is crucial. Don’t rush to fill those gaps with more words-- let there be space for quiet. James 1:19 reminds us, “Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry.”
- “Bring solutions.” van Eyck suggests having “a few ideas for how to move on in the relationship. Be specific and practical. Don’t leave the conversation without any resolution.” Sometimes, that might mean saying that you need some time before you communicate further. Sometimes, it might mean setting healthy boundaries for the relationship. Creating an action plan (even if it’s to not act) gives both people a clear and helpful path forward.
We have these hard conversations because these relationships are valuable to us and we want them to be healthy and happy. Colossians 3:12-14 reminds believers to “clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity.”
Speak the truth in love this week, even if it requires a hard conversation. The Lord is with you!
Publication date: September 29, 2016
Rachel Dawson is the editor of BibleStudyTools.com