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Thursday, March 1, 2012

Loving Confrontation

            George Guthrie writes of an experience that made an impact on his life. Sue, a young lady in his singles’ group, confronted him with news he probably did not wish to hear. Here is how he tells the story:

            One day [Sue] approached me–I was serving as head of the singles' Council at the time–and requested we talked privately for a few minutes. Being single, young man I was thrilled at the opportunity; but talk had nothing to with counsel business or romance.
            Sue started by thanking me for the job I was doing in leading the group and said she deeply respected my walk with the Lord. Then she said, “I want to share with you what seems to be a weakness in your life. You are so busy and move so fast from one project or person to another you often lose eye contact with people. By being distracted, failing to maintain eye contact and looking away from a person, you communicate that the person and what they are saying are not important to you at that moment.”
            Sue went on to give examples, showing that the problem, rather than an isolated incident, had a pattern. She also told me about a godly missionary she had known while serving overseas in a journeyman program. This man, with the weight of his vast mission responsibilities on his shoulders, had never failed to stop and listen intently when Sue needed to talk. He had given her “the gift of his presence.”
            Sue's rebuke was painful but much needed. That encounter, which happened over a decade ago, has made a lasting impression on me. To this day if I am in conversation with a person and my attention begins to falter, Sue’s exhortation comes to mind. I challenge myself, “focus, George. Your full attention.” I still struggle with that focus, but that sister in Christ, who risked being misunderstood and becoming the object of my defensiveness, has by her truth telling had an impact on the way I relate to others.

            I can think of no other example of loving confrontation: speaking the truth in love, and then the listener hearing the truth in love, and doing something about it.


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