Having a Difficult Discussion

Posted by Kevin Henning & Tamara Henning on August 14, 2022
Having a Difficult Discussion

It would probably be safe to say the majority of those reading this do not like the idea of confronting another individual over an issue. We would rather avoid this at all cost. However, it would be very unlikely for a person to get through life without ever having to confront or be confronted by a co-worker, a brother or sister in Christ, a neighbor, or especially a spouse.

Instead of seeing an issue that needs to be addressed as a “CONFRONTATION!”, maybe we could begin seeing it as more of a “difficult discussion” and interject a thought and action process that would, at its heart, put the glorification of Christ as the priority.

How can we begin to see a difficult discussion as an opportunity to put someone else’s needs above ours and show the heart of Christ in a hard situation? Implementing the following biblical principles can bring a greater blessing to you and the one you are having the difficult discussion with.

1) Pray 

Begin praying ahead of the upcoming difficult discussion. This not only puts God directly in the middle of your preparation but helps you to have the right biblical thinking going into the discussion. It reminds and helps you to be gentle, patient, and kind in your discussion.

“Therefore, confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person has great power as it is working.” - James 5:16

2) Discern 

Be discerning with your preparation for your discussion. Is what you wish to discuss a biblical principle or is it your opinion? Often opinions and not biblical principles take center stage in a difficult discussion and can be more self-centered than God-centered.

“The way of a fool is right in his own eyes, but a wise man listens to advice.” - Proverbs 12:15

3) Timing 

Ask the person you wish to have the discussion with if this would be a good time to have a difficult discussion. We must be careful that we do not force a discussion on someone who is not ready. When we do force a discussion, it becomes more about us wanting to deal with it for our own wants than a genuine desire for reconciliation. If you have asked and the person says yes, then proceed! If the answer is no (or nothing), then stop. Tell the person you are ready to talk whenever they are ready. This gives you peace knowing you have done your part towards your initiation to reconcile. “The ball is in their court,” so to speak. (See Romans 12:9-21.)

4) Affirmation 

Affirm the person as you begin the discussion. This is such an important aspect to setting the right atmosphere. Let the person know you care about them and that they are important to you as you begin your difficult discussion.

“Let each of us please his neighbor for his good, to build him up.” - Romans 15:2

5) Speak truth ... in love! 

Clarify and verify what you are thinking and what you are hearing, being careful to not make assumptions (falsehoods/lies) or try to finish sentences for the other person. No one is a mind reader; only God sees our hearts. Even if the discussion does not go perfectly, you will have done your responsibility to speak up, speak truth, and speak it in love.

“Therefore, having put away falsehood, let each one of you speak the truth with his neighbor, for we are members one of another.” - Ephesians 4:25

6) Build up 

Help to build up the other person by using your speech and actions to create an atmosphere of love and grace. This takes thought and a genuine desire to find ways to encourage the other person during your difficult discussion.

“Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear.” - Ephesians 4:29

7) Stay current

Address one problem at a time, refraining from bringing up old past issues. Deal as quickly as possible with the current problem. Often old problems/issues can remain just under the surface because the issue was not dealt with in a God-honoring manner and will often worsen the current problem if brought up.

“Therefore do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble.” - Matthew 6:34

8) Reconcile 

Having a desire for reconciliation must be the heart-motivated priority throughout your entire difficult discussion. You should desire to do everything possible to have reconciliation with the person you are talking with and be willing to compromise (as long as doing so doesn’t go against God’s Word) with the desire of repairing and improving the relationship.

“So if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your gift there before the altar and go. First be reconciled to your brother, and then come and offer your gift.” - Matthew 5:23-24

9) Demonstrate Christ

Make your difficult discussion an atmosphere of a “sweet smelling aroma,” giving the other person something more than what was there before. Make it a priority in your discussion to create a closer relationship with that person and help them to know the nature of who Christ is, both to the believer and to the unbeliever. (See 2 Corinthians 2:14-16.)

10) Practice, practice, practice

Experiencing the blessing of having a difficult discussion is not something that will happen overnight. That is why the Bible tells us to put into practice the things we have seen and heard (Philippians 4:9). In reality, you will have plenty of opportunities to practice these principles and may even get a chance this very day!

Review these principles prior to having the difficult discussion, for yourself and with the other person, whether or not they share your faith. This will help you to focus on the godly principles needed to bring glory to Christ (our goal in life). The key is that you are trying to glorify God in your difficult discussions and begin to realize the blessings of obeying God’s principles. It will bring genuine growth to you and genuine reconciliation with others.

The question is not if you will need to have a difficult discussion, it is when you will need to have one. How will you do it - your way or God’s way?

Kevin Henning

Kevin and his wife, Tamara, are both certified biblical counselors, serving at the Faith Biblical Counseling Center. Kevin also practices Chiropractic medicine for a living.

View Resources by Kevin Henning
Tamara Henning

Tamara and her husband, Kevin, are both certified biblical counselors, serving at the Faith Biblical Counseling Center.

View Resources by Tamara Henning
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