Nancy and I had been working on a volunteer project together for a few weeks. We enlisted some help from other women and formed a team, which Nancy led. The project seemed to be coming together well, but whenever there was a problem, Nancy became very hard to deal with. She started pointing fingers, losing her temper, and making the others feel very unappreciated.
When Nancy and I first met, we had a lot in common and got along nicely, but now she seemed like a totally different person. It appeared that her pride was getting in the way of her relationships. She wanted the project to come off perfectly, leaving no room for mistakes, and she was hurting all of us in the process.
I knew I needed to say something to my new friend, but I wasn't sure how to bring it up. The Bible calls us to hold each other accountable for our actions. Galatians 6:1 (NIV) says, "Brothers, if someone is caught in a sin, you who are spiritual should restore him gently." But what if Nancy was offended?
After all, I wasn't perfect, either. What right did I have to confront her? I didn't want to risk losing my friendship with her, and I didn't want to be kicked off the project.
But I had also struggled with pride in my past, and I was thankful that others had confronted me about it. As Proverbs 25:12 says, "Like an earring of gold and an ornament of fine gold is a wise reprover to a listening ear." It wasn't going to be easy, but I knew it would be good for her, like it was for me.
Before I decided to confront Nancy, I searched my heart to make sure I wasn't harboring bitterness or jealousy against her. I wanted to be sure my motives were for her good and not to satisfy my own ego with retribution.
When I found my motives were pure, I set up a time to meet with her. Until the day of our meeting, I prayed. I asked God to give me clear words of wisdom during the confrontation.
When we met, I made sure to approach her with grace and humility. No one is perfect. All of us have had some kind of problem in our lives that needed to be addressed. And because Nancy was a Christian, I assumed that she would want to know if something was bothering me. Sometimes people are truly naïve of their actions, and they only need someone to be brave enough to help them see their mistake. Proverbs 12:18 says, "There is one who speaks rashly like the thrusts of a sword, but the tongue of the wise brings healing." So I took a deep breath and made sure I wasn't approaching her with my weapons drawn.
When we first sat down, I began to praise her strengths, choosing compliments that were sincere, not flattery. I said something like this:
Nancy, you are a great leader. You're doing a great job with this project, and it looks like it's coming along nicely. I can tell you have a great gift for administration and creative thinking.
As I began to share my concerns, I tried to show her that it wasn't just for my benefit, but also for hers. My purpose wasn't to condemn her or to make her feel guilty. I simply wanted to help her live a better life. As Romans 8:1 tells us, "There is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus."
Since Nancy is a believer, I could trust the Holy Spirit to convict her heart. I saw my sharing more as an opportunity to remind her of principles that she already knows. Next I said:
I've really enjoyed working with you on this project for the most part, but I've noticed that when things aren't going the way you want them to, you get very upset and oftentimes blame your anger on the other women. I know that you want to put together a top-notch project, but I think you may be struggling with some pride issues, and you're hurting relationships in your life as a result.
I didn't stop there, though. Because I have fought pride in my own life, I admitted my faults to Nancy and gave her the grace that I would have wanted if the roles were reversed. I told her,
I'm not trying to condemn you. I know what it's like to want excellence in everything, and I understand the pressure that comes when my name is on a project as the coordinator. It isn't easy, and I understand that. But there were others that confronted me about my pride, and I was glad they did. That's why I felt like I needed to say something today.
I explained how the Lord has helped me continually overcome that problem area in my life and what I've learned as a result. Then I invited any feedback that she had.
Nancy thanked me for being brave enough to talk to her. She had realized that the other women were upset, but no one had taken the time to tell her why. Nancy also told me that she had been confronted about pride in her life before, but she thought that she had overcome that area of sin. As a result of our conversation, she thought it must be time to revisit that topic and promised to make an effort to change.
We prayed together, and by the time I left the room there were no hard feelings between us. It would have been so easy to have talked to her in anger and frustration. But because I had not condemned her and spoke with compassion, we were both spared deep wounds. Nancy and I left with a new respect for each other that paved the way for future communication.
Did Nancy still struggle with her sin? Yes, but the confrontation was not wasted. Although there was no guarantee that my words would have any effect, the seeds had been planted. I gave the message to Nancy that God gave me, and my conscience was clear. In reality, the only One who can change a person is God as He works in hearts. As 1 Corinthians 12:6 says, "There are varieties of effects, but the same God who works all things in all persons."
Copyright © 2006 by FamilyLife. All rights reserved.
FamilyLife is a donor-supported ministry offering practical and biblical resources and events to help you build a godly marriage and family.