The Relational Covenant:
1. Stand Shoulder-to-Shoulder
2. Believe the Best
3. Talk To, Not About
A special series by Jack McQueeney, Executive Director of the Glen Eyrie Group
We’re back with the next part in our blog series, The Relational Covenant!
Talk to, Not About!
IMPACT ON DISCIPLESHIP:
Talking To, Not About is the epitome of the Relational Covenant; it’s the evidence that you are choosing to live it out. After you’ve committed to Stand Shoulder-to-Shoulder with the person you are discipling, you choose to Believe the Best about that person’s choices, words, and actions. In order to live both of these principles out, you’ll have to Talk To, Not About, because eventually — as is the nature of all relationships — things will get messy, misunderstandings occur, mistakes may be made, and you inadvertently hurt one another on some level.
Having these hard conversations takes great wisdom, and should always be steeped in prayer. If we err on the side of over-sharing, we can easily overwhelm another person, especially if s/he is a young believer. Be judicious about what you are sharing so that the other person is not discouraged and is clear about how to move forward. Remember that the Lord challenges us in Ephesians 4:29 to share only what is to benefit the other person and to draw them deeper in their ability to walk with Jesus in a way that honors Him. However, this doesn’t mean it’s best to just never talk about hard things! Rather, it means that in Talking To, Not About, it is absolutely essential to follow a few key steps (which we walk you through below in “How to Have a Hard Conversation”).
On the other hand, we can also err on the side of choosing to say nothing, thinking this is the more mature or gracious path. But choosing to say nothing can lead to deeper misunderstanding and drive a wedge in the relationship that grows to distance and even resentment. To Believe the Best does not mean to gloss over a person’s actions. It means to prayerfully seek the Lord and ask Him for permission to share, and to ask Him for clarity and wisdom in what should be said. When we allow fear to keep us from speaking up, we rob the person who hurt us of the opportunity to grow and develop in their character, and also of the choice to offer an apology. We also rob ourselves of the opportunity to humbly recognize that we may have misunderstood another’s actions or intentions and grow in our understanding of how God created that person, maybe even needing to be the one who apologizes.
We fail to Stand Shoulder-to-Shoulder when we refuse to enter into a hard conversation, a hard place with the person we’re discipling. We simply aren’t strong enough to over and over again have our feelings hurt by another – even if it is unintentional – and not eventually allow that to seep into the way we view this person, and lessen our commitment to them. It’s inevitable that we’d at some point begin to see that person as the manifestation of the way they’ve hurt us: “oh, she only cares about her own schedule.” Or “oh, he’s just a thoughtless person.” We fully undermine our ability to Believe the Best because we so internalize the way they hurt us that we don’t even realize that we’re not Believing the Best anymore! It can take great moral courage to Talk To, Not About with wisdom and humility, but in doing so, we allow our apprentice to see our own humanity, and how to walk with Jesus even in our weaknesses. We also give the other person the opportunity to see Biblical authenticity in friendship, demonstrating how someone can maturely walk hurt feelings, setting them up for success in their own relationships further down the road.
It’s essential that we Talk To, Not About with the person we are discipling (or with the person who is discipling us!) if we are to successfully be in a relationship with them for an extended period of time.
One of the best examples of Talk To, Not About occurs in Galatians 2:11-14. Paul writes:
When Cephas came to Antioch, I opposed him to his face, because he stood condemned. For before certain men came from James, he used to eat with the Gentiles. But when they arrived, he began to draw back and separate himself from the Gentiles because he was afraid of those who belonged to the circumcision group. The other Jews joined him in his hypocrisy, so that by their hypocrisy even Barnabas was led astray.
When I saw that they were not acting in line with the truth of the gospel, I said to Cephas in front of them all, “You are a Jew, yet you live like a Gentile and not like a Jew. How is it, then, that you force Gentiles to follow Jewish customs?
Paul disagreed with a choice Peter (Cephas) was making. Paul could’ve chosen to ignore it, at the expense of Gentiles everywhere and for all time not fully understanding the Gospel of Christ. Or Paul could’ve chosen to circumvent Peter and the other apostles and simply tell all of the churches he founded and ministered to that Peter was simply wrong, at the expense of church unity. However, Paul chose to speak to Peter about the issue. The result?
- While we don’t know definitively what happened after the conversation, we do know that 2 Peter 3:16 says, “He [Paul] writes the same way in all his letters, speaking in them of these matters. His letters contain some things that are hard to understand, which ignorant and unstable people distort, as they do the other Scriptures, to their own destruction.” That is to say, Peter commends Paul and even calls Paul’s letters Scriptures (“the other Scriptures”).
- We are proof that Paul’s message prevailed – most of us reading this are not Jewish; however, we’ve fully embraced the Gospel of Jesus Christ without following the Mosaic law in its entirety.
This is a beautiful example of the powerful impact we can have when we choose to Talk To, Not About.
HOW TO HAVE A HARD CONVERSATION:
- Pray: “Search me, God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. See if there is any offensive way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting” (Psalm 139:23-24).
- WHY: No, we don’t want to deluge the other person with all our issues. But no, neither do we want to avoid the conversation all together. So what to say? Where do we need to speak, either for their good or for the good of the relationship, and what would simply damage both? Spend time at the feet of Jesus, pouring out your heart to Him. As you do this, you’ll hear the Spirit prompt you about what to mention and what to leave out.
- In praying, choose to forgive the other person. The world would teach us that we process a misunderstanding, then forgive. This is not the way the Kingdom works! We are called to forgive as God forgave us. Forgiving frees us from self-focus and helps us speak in a way that emphasizes what is best for the other person, knowing we are loved and protected by a Father who loves us deeply.
- Praying also allows us to perceive the hurt, argument, or situation through the lense of the Holy Spirit and approach it by exemplifying the fruit of the Spirit – in peace, patience, and kindness – engaging the person out of the same compassion that Christ forgave us (Eph. 4:1-4, 31-32).
- Plan – after asking the Lord for direction/guidance, make a plan for when, where, and how you want to talk to the person.
- WHY: Again, this protects you from word-vomiting your issue. It helps you clarify what you want to say.
- TIP: Ask them when a good time to talk about the issue is. This way the conversation can be more on “neutral” grounds and they can have the opportunity to pray and prepare their heart too (don’t forget, we’re Standing Shoulder-to-Shoulder with them, Believing the Best in them that they too want to pray and have God’s peace and perspective)!
- Act –
- When you talk, remember the Relational Covenant: Stand Shoulder-to-Shoulder with them as you view the issue, Believe the Best in the scenario, and continue to Talk To that person about the issue, not others.
- Enter the conversation with humility, gentleness and patience. (Consider Eph. 4:1-6.)
- Consider praying together first – this models submitting control to Christ, placing Him in authority over the situation and your relationship, and also invites the Holy Spirit into the conversation.
- You can begin by stating: when you said/did _____ it made me feel ______. In the future, I would request you not _________, but rather please do ___________.
- Allow time for the other person to state their feelings or even rationale. Remember that your perspective isn’t the only perspective, and just because you feel a certain way doesn’t make you right and the other person wrong.
- Come to a conclusion. This is a very important step. Come to a place of mutual agreement on the issue and a plan for a way forward. This is the actual piece of reconciliation and movement toward unity in the faith.
- Even if the conclusion is disagreement, you can disagree and yet continue to respect each other and love each other as Christ selflessly loves and serves the church.
- Pray and ask the Lord to continue to bring you into unity with your brother/sister in Christ. Make a plan for how you will continue to grow in the areas of humility, honestly, and reconciliation.
(Check out our “How to Have a Hard Conversation” Infographic here for easy reference later!)
Remember, the heart behind The Relational Covenant is to strengthen our relationships with the Body of Christ – it’s essential to practice all three elements together! We’re never going to get it perfectly, but in the long run it’s so very worth practicing – when we Stand Shoulder-to-Shoulder, Believe the Best, and Talk to, Not About, we experience the best kind of Christian community.
Thanks for joining us on this journey!
©2018 by Jack McQueeney. All rights reserved. Please do not reproduce without express permission.