todd clark

How To Confront A Friend & Keep The Relationship

Boxing gloves image available here.

I wanted to begin this article by saying, “No one likes confrontation.” But I have found that is, unfortunately, not true.

 There are some who love confrontation,
and if there is not currently a crisis in their life,
they will create one so they can confront it!

So it would be safer to say, “Most people don’t like confrontation.” And that is because we have seen confrontation break up friendships and dissolve marriages. It takes tremendous courage to confront. And before we get into the steps on how to confront in a healthy way, allow me to construct some guardrails concerning this topic.

– Confrontation should be a rare occurrence. This is not something you do on a regular basis. It is not like, “Man, I have not confronted anybody all week, and here it is Friday … I better confront someone!” In fact, I would go so far as to say that if you find yourself constantly confronting people – you may need to be confronted about that!

It is not our job to confront a person every time they lose their temper, spend money foolishly or fail to discipline their children. That is between them and God. However, when you see a friend or family member who is caught and entangled in a serious web of sin, you should love that person enough to confront and hold that person accountable.

– Confrontation is not intended to make you feel better. Confrontation is done for the benefit of the person you are confronting. Do not enter into confrontation because you want to get something off your chest or bring someone down a notch! Confrontation is done in order to restore the other individual and to improve their quality of life and relationships.

– Confrontation is usually most successful when it is done privately. There is often a temptation to confront a person in front of others, so you will have the protection of the group. Your best chances for positive results will be greatly enhanced if you go privately. There is not a person on this earth who lays awake at night dreaming of being confronted publicly.

– Confrontation should be spoken and not written. There is often a temptation to escape face to face confrontation by writing a letter or sending an email, but friends, that is a big mistake! Here is a principle that has served me well and guided my life for more than a decade:

Criticism should be spoken, and encouragement should be written.

– Criticism should be spoken.  That is because when you write out criticism, or something confrontational, there is way too much room for the person to misread your words and / or add words or a tone that you did not anticipate.  But when you are bold enough to speak criticism or confront face to face, the person can easily understand your tone and also go back and forth with you when sentences don’t make sense.

– Encouragement should be written.  This is because you want the person to be able to hold onto these words. I promise that when you take the time to write out words of encouragement – people hang onto them. They can reflect upon your words of encouragement on tough days.

Now, the scaffolding for how to confront a friend
and keep the friendship is found in II Samuel 12.
In this section of the Bible, Nathan is confronting David
concerning his affair with Bathsheba and his murder of Uriah.

1. Nathan confronted in God’s time.

It is worth noticing that Nathan didn’t come on his own schedule.

II Samuel 12:1a – The Lord sent Nathan to David. When he came to him, he said…

When you are preparing to confront a person, timing is critical. The right words at the wrong time can become the wrong words.  Pray for God’s timing and be sensitive to the Holy Spirit’s prompting on when you should talk to a friend, family member, neighbor, classmate or coworker.

2. Nathan confronted in truth.

II Samuel 12:9 – You struck down Uriah the Hittite with the sword and took his wife to be your own. You killed him with the sword of the Ammonites.

Nathan had taken the time to gather and lay out all the facts. Nothing could possibly be argued or denied. David had quite literally killed Uriah with the sword of the Ammonites and taken Bathsheba as his wife! This was all truth.

Friends, until you have all the facts about a situation, you are not ready for a confrontation. All effective confrontations must be based upon the truth.

Frankly, it amazes me how many people rush into confrontation with wrong motives and false facts.

3. Nathan confronted with tact.

Nathan didn’t enter David’s house in anger and just blurt out … “David, you have really blown it big time. Everybody knows you have been running around with Bathsheba, and everyone is talking about how you had Uriah killed.”

Nathan didn’t do that.  He was tactful!

Somebody once defined tact by saying,
“Tact is the ability to make people feel at home when you wish that they were!”

Nathan approached David tactfully by sharing a parable … Vs. 1-4

II Samuel 12:1-4 –The Lord sent Nathan to David. When he came to him, he said, “There were two men in a certain town, one rich and the other poor. The rich man had a very large number of sheep and cattle, but the poor man had nothing except one little ewe lamb he had bought. He raised it, and it grew up with him and his children. It shared his food, drank from his cup and even slept in his arms. It was like a daughter to him.“Now a traveler came to the rich man, but the rich man refrained from taking one of his own sheep or cattle to prepare a meal for the traveler who had come to him. Instead, he took the ewe lamb that belonged to the poor man and prepared it for the one who had come to him.”

II Samuel 12:5-6 – David burned with anger against the man and said to Nathan, “As surely as the Lord lives, the man who did this must die! He must pay for that lamb four times over, because he did such a thing and had no pity.”

“Nathan’s sword was within an inch of David’s conscience
before David even knew that Nathan had a sword!”
– Alexander Whyte

Nathan was absolutely masterful in the way he helped David to understand and personalize his sin.

If God has called you to be his messenger and confront someone … do it skillfully.

And realize the words that you bring are like a sword, and they can do a great deal of good if used effectively, but they can also do a great deal of damage if used unwisely.

4. Nathan confronted with tenderness.

Nathan used some pretty strong words in his confrontation …

II Samuel 12:7 – Then Nathan said to David, “You are the man!”

… but Nathan was actually very attentive to David’s heart and tender towards him. Nathan’s whole goal was to help David, not humiliate him. “Tender confrontation” may sound like an oxymoron, but the Bible teaches us that all effective, fruitful confrontation originates and flows from tender hearts.

Galatians 6:1 – Brothers, if someone is caught in a sin, you who are spiritual, restore him gently.

May God bless you, friends, as you strive to confront with tenderness, tact and truth in God’s perfect time.


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todd clark


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