Author: Heidi Gilboy
So maybe you are standing in the church lobby reeling from the impact of the words being hurled at you; or perhaps you are sitting at your kitchen table (as I was) while your close friends and ministry partners let you know that they are leaving the church (and why your failures are to blame). Whatever the circumstances of the attack, the first ACTION I need to take is to TAKE THE TIME I NEED to be able to choose my reaction.
This might mean saying something like, “Thank you for bringing this to me. I need some time to pray and think about it. Can we set up a time to meet?” If the confrontation has been initiated by text or email, I avoid continuing the conversation through those easily misconstrued channels and ask for an in-person meeting to work things out. Then I wait; cool off; maybe seek the counsel of a wise mentor (not a gossip session!); and set a time to get together with the person who hurt me when I have gained some emotional stability and perspective (see part 1).
Before I meet with them again I wrestle through to the place where I MAKE THE DECISION TO FORGIVE. This doesn’t always mean I feel emotional forgiveness…that can be a long journey! But I have to start with the choice to forgive and the determination to hang on to that decision. And I pray for them….it’s amazing what a difference this step makes!
When I have taken the time needed, I can connect with the difficult person in my life with a right perspective and a heart of forgiveness and grace. I want to hear what they have to say and take it into consideration, but in the end I HAVE TO STICK TO THE MISSION God has revealed to me. I am not always “in the right”–and even when a dragon approaches me breathing fire, there may be some nuggets of truth in their words. Knowing what God has called me to do (and therefore not do) helps me sift through what they are spewing at me to accept responsibility for my part and reject the guilt I don’t need to own. And I know for sure that God hasn’t called me to be anyone’s savior! That job is taken by Someone much more able than I am!
As I interact with the difficult people God has placed in my life, I want to keep my ultimate goal in mind: TO DISCIPLE OTHERS TO BE AND DO WHAT GOD HAS CALLED THEM TO. I start by recognizing that most dragon behavior is a cry for help coming from a place of pain. Sometimes, I just look right at the person who is attacking and ask, “How can I help you?” I try to listen for and ask questions that will expose the real pain going on underneath. I have been amazed at what has been revealed as I specifically ask God to show me the reality behind what I see. Here are some questions I ask myself: Do they need to be heard and validated? Do they need some perspective they lack right now? Do they need healing from a deep hurt? Are they reacting from a place of fear? Do they need a grace-filled but firm reprimand for displaying behavior that isn’t Christ-like? Are they frustrated because they are not involved in the kingdom work God has called them to?
Ultimately, I want my response to be about what is best for them (not just what will make them happy) and not about my own need to win or be justified. Philippians 2:3-4 challenges me to put away my own ambitions and pride and instead value the other above myself…putting their needs first. The chapter goes on to remind me of Jesus’ willingness to empty Himself and be mistreated and misunderstood as my example. I have to walk into the situation with the trust that GOD HAS GOT MY REPUTATION AND IS MY DEFENDER.