Last week I had an issue with a friend. I felt wronged and disrespected. I felt unloved and unvalued. And, for some reason, I felt like that person ought to know how I felt.
Why do we do that? Why do we feel we have to tell someone when they hurt our feelings? What’s really behind that line of thinking?
Maybe it stems from our sense of justice. If that person remains ignorant to the fact they hurt us, they will never feel guilty. And they should feel guilty. After all, THEY HURT US. It is only justice they should feel bad for doing so.
Or maybe we feel we have to tell them they hurt us out of pride – we won’t stand for it! We don’t deserve to be treated poorly, and they need to know they aren’t going to get away with it. We may not exact revenge, but we will cut off that relationship or alter it in some way to make it impossible for them to hurt us that same way again.
In either case, there is one thing behind this compulsion to give offenders pieces of our minds: selfishness. Me, me, me – it’s all about me and my feelings.
Is it biblical to confront people for these self-centered reasons? to take justice into our own hands or to defend our own honor?
Do not repay anyone evil for evil. Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everybody. If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone. Do not take revenge, my friends, but leave room for God’s wrath, for it is written: “It is mine to avenge; I will repay,” says the Lord. (Romans 12:17-19)
So, how do we live at peace and leave revenge/justice/our defense up to God when someone has hurt us? We feel angry and bitter, there is no denying it. What do we do with those emotions so we can live in agreement with this Romans passage?
I asked a wise friend this question, and he gave me an incredible answer. Don’t confront someone unless your heart is for them.
In other words, if it isn’t in their best interest to be confronted, keep your feelings to yourself. Until your heart is more concerned with their benefit than with your “need” to express your feelings, keep your mouth shut and your heart in prayer.
Needless to say, this piece of advice isn’t natural. But it’s biblical.
Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves. Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others. (Philippians 2:3-4)
I sat on this idea for a couple of days, questioning if my heart really was for my friend who had inadvertently hurt me. To be honest, I wasn’t thinking about him at all in the beginning. I was thinking about me and what would make me feel better. The more I thought about it, though, I don’t think going off on my friend really would have made me feel much better. It would have angered my friend, hurt my friend, and I doubt it would have tempered my anger and bitterness much at all.
My friend had already hurt me – there was no undoing that. But I had a choice in how to respond. I could hurt him back, or I could help him see how he hurt me so he wouldn’t make the mistake of hurting anyone else again. I could root for him in my soul to become better than how he had acted toward me. I could believe that he hadn’t intended to hurt me, and I could believe, through Christ, my friend had the ability to grow. I could long for him to grow and make that the reason for my confronting him.
I believe this is one way to apply Paul’s instruction to live in peace with one another and consider others better than ourselves.
I’m happy to report approaching my friend with this mindset – what’s best for him in this situation – worked out pretty well.
Although the rule of thumb is counter-intuitive to us self-centered humans, I think we’d do well to live by it. Don’t confront anyone until your heart is for them.