I am not a big fan of conflict, but there are times when conflict just can’t be avoided. I do believe there is a right way and wrong way to handle conflict. The person initiating the conflict doesn’t always surprise the other person. They could probably feel the pressure rising. There are other times that the person confronted is blown away that they’ve caused someone else harm by their actions or inactions. I read a great book recently called “Crucial Conversations” and was super informative about this topic.
The Apostle Paul is writing to the church in Corinth what seems to be a follow-up conversation to a recent letter that engaged in criticism of behavior that was ungodly. He is affirming the changes that he is hearing about. It’s not really a “conversation” as much as it is correspondence. Check this out….
8 I am not sorry that I sent that severe letter to you, though I was sorry at first, for I know it was painful to you for a little while. 9 Now I am glad I sent it, not because it hurt you, but because the pain caused you to repent and change your ways. It was the kind of sorrow God wants his people to have, so you were not harmed by us in any way. 10 For the kind of sorrow God wants us to experience leads us away from sin and results in salvation. There’s no regret for that kind of sorrow. But worldly sorrow, which lacks repentance, results in spiritual death. (2 Corinthians 7:8-10 NLT)
There are times when correspondence can set up a “crucial conversation”. There are times when I advise one person to sit down and write to the person they are in conflict with. I want them to be forthright and honest. I don’t always want them to send the letter, but it gives great clarity to their main issues. I think writing things down sometimes reveals that there is pettiness and selfishness. When I write things down on paper, they seem very real and concrete.
The other thing I love about this passage is accountability. I need someone who will hold me accountable for my words and my actions. The church can provide accountability if I submit to it. My wife provides accountability. My business partners provide accountability. The end goal of a critical correspondence or a crucial conversation is change. Change is always happening. Ironically, change is consistently changing. Change often equals growth. The Lord is after my heart to keep changing to become more like His. I have tremendous pressure to become self-centered and inward focused. The Lord is calling me to a life of love, compassion and generosity. I must meet the Lord with godly sorrow for my self-centered, self-serving ways. His Word calls me to repentance for sure. Repentance is critical to my spiritual journey with the Lord. I welcome critical correspondence and crucial conversations that are sent from the Lord to help me grow.