As a pastor, I walk from one hard conversation to another. Here is some insight God has given about hard conversations that I hope will reduce the stress and increase the effectiveness of these talks.
Life is a series of hard conversations. The first one occurs between a person and God. A lot of people never have this first hard conversation. God has commanded us to confess our sins and to confess Jesus Christ as Lord.
Hard conversations happen in several contexts. The hardest conversation may be confronting someone about their sin.
The Bible commands us to express our love this way: “Open rebuke is better than love carefully concealed” (Proverbs 27:5). “If your brother sins against you, rebuke him” (Luke 17:3).
Comforting someone may be just as difficult. Comforting a parent who has just lost a teenager in an auto accident or to suicide may be just as difficult. I find correcting people is not easy. The rude usher has the power to wound the tender spirit of an unsaved person and hinder the years of faithful witness of a Christian friend. Someone needs to correct the rude usher.
A hard conversation may mean that you are candid with someone. You have to tell them a painful truth. Have you ever told your mom that she can’t drive anymore? Have you told a staff member that they are out of position? Have you told your son or daughter that your spirit is not at peace with a relationship in their life? Love demands these hard conversations.
Hard conversations test your honor and reveal your character. What’s in the well comes up in the bucket and you get to see what is in the well during a hard conversation. I have the deepest respect for those who can navigate the hardest conversations with wisdom, grace, love, and skill.
Circumstances influence hard conversations. Scar tissue from a previous conversation may taint the current conversation. Once you have been burned by someone, then you struggle to open your heart again. Conflicts of interest and conflicting relationships infect hard conversations and often produce double-tongued people who say one thing to you and then something different to others. When facing a hard conversation, I suggest that you assess the circumstances, personalities, and factors that may influence it.
Here are a few tips for the hard conversations of life. First, you must do it. We need hard conversations in our lives. These authentic, life-altering conversations can bring us into a depth of relationship that many have lost. A rebuke or hard conversation can make a relationship soar: “He who rebukes a man will find more favor afterward than he who flatters with the tongue” (Proverbs 28:23).
Second, you must control your emotions. I get keyed up before these hard conversations finding it hard to control my emotions and continue to think clearly. The Bible tells us to “rejoice with those who rejoice and weep with those who weep” (Romans 12:15). People experience extreme emotions and as a pastor we empathize with them. Emotions can distract from the real issues but they also convey the gravity and meaning of the experience. I am tempted to fear a hard conversation because of the emotions that it provokes. I have learned that hard conversations do not change things but only reveal them. The fruit of the Spirit is self-control. We have to rule over our spirit: “Whoever has no rule over his own spirit is like a city broken down, without walls” (Proverbs 25:28).
Third, you must seek win-win solutions. Honor demands that we find solutions to problems that cause everyone to be healthier. Paul said that “in honor giving preference to one another” (Romans 12:10). Hard conversations become easier if you can win your brother or be won by a brother that you know is intent on God’s glory and your good.
I pray that we will embrace the challenge of hard conversations and be a tool in the hand of God to make every life better. God bless you!
Clayton Cloer is pastor of the 2,400-member First Baptist Church of Central Florida in Orlando. He has degrees from Clemson University and Mid-America Baptist Theological Seminary, receiving his Ph.D. in 2000. He served as president of the Florida Baptist Convention’s 2009 Pastors’ Conference and member of the Florida Baptist State Convention’s State Board of Missions from 2007-2013. Cloer served as pastoral leader for Yes2Marriage.org campaign for Florida in 2008. He has led church development, leadership training, and evangelism teams to Paraguay, Yemen, Belgium, China, South Korea, Moldova, Israel, and Tanzania. He and his wife, Linda, have two sons, Nathan and James.
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