When we talk about "fighting" in relationships, we get different ideas about what it looks like. For this blog post, let's narrow "fighting" down to confrontations where there is an issue to address. So when should we enter into a confrontation? And when should we not? Here's some of my thoughts.
NOT time to fight:
- When anger is clouding your judgement. As the Bible instructs, "In your anger do not sin" (Eph 4:26). Anger is a "hot" emotion that consumes everything in its path. In that way you are liable to say or do something you'll regret. However, this is not an invitation to drop the confrontation totally. Rather, take some time out to let the "hotness" cool off, then consider what your next step should be.
- When you're simply wanting your way. We are to put other's interests before our own (Phil 2:3), and confronting someone else simply to get what you want is not the way to go. Perhaps you could check with someone you trust and has wisdom whether the confrontation has merit, or is simply selfish.
- When you have had conversations with the other person that has amounted to nothing. This is one that I'm learning about. Sometimes continually pressing a person about an issue is not helping. Jesus says in Matt 7:6, "Do not give dogs what is holy, and do not throw your pearls before pigs, lest they trample them underfoot and turn to attack you." It is a strange statement that Jesus makes, but I've learnt the value of it. Sometimes you just have to make peace that no amount of talking is going to change the situation, and it is best left to God. This is not about giving up on the person. Rather this is trusting that God knows best and has the situation under control.
When to fight:
- When it is an opportunity for growth. Prov 27:17 says, "iron sharpens iron", which means that there are times for friction and conflict for people to get sharpened and grow.
- When you've been putting off a confrontation for a while. Sometimes it feels like the issue you want to bring up is not big enough to warrant a confrontation, or you need time to "build your case". What I've learnt is that a timely confrontation is far more productive than one where you are completely ready with a full case. It obviously bugs you enough for you to be thinking about it! Bring both truth and grace along in the confrontation and find a solution together.
- When the person seems blind to their actions. Many people use Jesus' teaching in Matt 7:1-5 (the speck and the log) as a reason not to confront someone else, and to simply deal with your side of the coin. The thing is that Jesus asks us to deal with the log in our eye SO THAT we can help our brother out! So yes, be careful to deal with your own blind spots, but it is no excuse for you not to help someone find that clarity in their life too.
When confronting, grace and truth are needed. This post is not about simply going into a confrontation no matter what, but I've described some scenarios where myself or others I've observed have either shied away from a necessary confrontation, or gone in guns blazing when there is a better approach. As we learn how to do the difficult aspects of relationship well, we will have healthier, fuller lives!