What we have here is a failure to communicate


I hate confrontation. Even if it’s a situation where I have been wronged, I would rather just struggle through the ramifications instead of calling someone else on what they did to me. I know other folks who, while they don’t like confrontation, don’t have any trouble telling other people that they’ve been hurt. A part of me admires that. To be able to tell someone that they hurt you? Wow.

But I think there should be balance when dealing with hurt feelings between people. If you’re prone to whining or if you get your feelings hurt easily, you should realize that and consider whether or not the person who hurt you actually did it on purpose. And if you’re prone to spouting off or losing your temper, you need to realize that and consider how your words affect the people around you. And if you despise any sort of confrontation (like me) you also need to consider sucking it up and honestly telling people how you feel about things — because if people don’t know how you feel, they won’t know to stop doing the things that hurt you.

Matthew 18:15 talks about how to deal with a believer who has sinned against you. Note that it does say specifically that it’s how to deal with another believer who hurt you. Not a nonbeliever.

 15 “If another believer[d] sins against you,[e] go privately and point out the offense. If the other person listens and confesses it, you have won that person back.

This is my difficulty. I don’t speak up. If someone hurts me, I keep quiet about it and either blame myself for it (most often, whether it’s my fault or not) or I develop an unhealthy picture of the person who hurt me. Both responses are silly.

Now I know there are a lot of different applications for this verse, but this morning when I read it I really thought about how people don’t communicate with each other anymore. I’ve seen this happen a lot. Two people have a discussion, and one of them hurts the other person’s feelings. But instead of communicating with each other, they both stay quiet. That’s how resentment starts to build. I don’t know if they think they should be able to read each others’ minds or what. But staying quiet about it doesn’t work.

I am constantly amazed at how poorly people communicate with each other. At home. At work. At church. Whatever you’re doing, you need to communicate. People can’t read your thoughts. People don’t know what you’re thinking, what you’re feeling, and don’t assume that they do.

Most of the time, when we do communicate, we do it wrong. We tell other people that we’ve gotten our feelings hurt in a way that makes the whole situation worse. One thing I have learned is that when you do decide to stand up and tell the offender that you’ve been hurt, you need to do it humbly. Because there’s always a chance that you’ve misunderstood. And most of the time anything that you perceive as a sin against you was unconsciously done. So if you go barging into a confrontation, demanding that the person who hurt you apologize and turn from their wicked ways, how is that going to go over? Not well, I’d wager.

Be humble about it. Make sure they understand you love them and that you still want a relationship with them. Then tell them how they hurt you.

After that, one of two things will happen.

Either they will react with shock, completely uncomprehending that anything they did or said hurt you (this is most often the case). Or, they won’t care. They will realize that what they did or said hurt you and they won’t be willing to change or apologize or admit that they’re wrong — or if they admit they’re wrong, they will still keep doing it anyway.

If the first reaction, you’ve got a friend. Forgive them. Be friends. Communicate with each other. Live happily ever after. Whatever.

If the second reaction? Continue on to verse 16.

In either case, you have to communicate. And communication is difficult. Because you have two (or more) people who think differently and act differently and do everything differently, trying to have a relationship with each other that is mutually beneficial. It doesn’t matter if you’re talking friendship or dating or marriage. Two people communicating is always a risky business, and there’s always a chance that someone is going to get hurt.

But if you don’t communicate, you can’t be friends. If you don’t communicate, you can’t bless each other. If you don’t communicate, you can’t help each other. If you don’t communicate, you’ll never learn. So, as far as I’m concerned, even though communication is difficult and sometimes means you’ll have to confront other people with the things that hurt you, it’s worth the risk.

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