Confrontation is not my favourite thing. Given the choice, I’d always choose to play nicely with the other kids in the playground, blissfully pretending everything was hunky dory. But life’s not like that and sometimes we just have to deal with stuff.
So, imagine my horror recently when it became clear that I really could not ignore ‘a thing’ any longer.
I knew if I didn’t deal with it, I would be pushed into a (metaphorical) dusty corner. I chewed it over. Should I? Shouldn’t I?
And then I realised, as I mulled and prayed, it wasn’t the confrontation I had a problem with, I was actually more worried about the reaction of the other person. This might not seem like an earth-shattering revelation, but to me, it was as though all the lights had suddenly flickered on, after a lengthy powercut.
With this breakthrough in mind, the next day, I gathered my cowardy custard guts together, plastered a (fake) smile on my face and attempted to have a pleasant conversation with said person, focusing on the way the situation made me feel. After all, that’s what psychologists always say to do; don’t focus on what the person did, but focus on how their actions made you feel.
And the response? Well, said person looked at me, paused and then dived headlong into a pool of defensiveness, anger and chucking-it-back-in-my-face. It was my fault apparently. I should never have done XYZ (as they dredged up some long-forgotten misdeed from the 1990s).
It wasn’t entirely unexpected, but it had the virtual effect of a police taser on my already scrambled emotions. If I could have laid on the floor twitching, begging for it to stop, I would have done. But, I stood my ground and remembered that it was not the confrontation I feared, but the reaction. And the overblown reaction said more about them, than me.
In the end, realising I’d inadvertently lit an emotional bonfire and there was no fire extinguisher to hand, I had no option but to walk away.
Later, I fumed and mulled and fumed some more. All evening long, I struggled to erase the unedited highlights from my head; their anger, their defence, their diversionary tactics. Could I have approached it differently? Should I have even approached it all?
Funny then, that I should read John 21 and in particular a hardly noticeable tale- within-a-tale in verse 22.
Jesus is talking to Peter and gently hinting to Peter how his life would end. Peter was obviously distracted and looked behind him to ‘the disciple Jesus loved’ and said, ‘What about him? What will happen to him?’
Jesus said, ‘What does it matter? What’s that to you? I’m talking to you…I want you to follow me’.
Wow. Reading that I was smacked between the eyes (again) about what God asks of us. So often in difficult times, whether that’s confrontation or other emotionally draining situation, we focus on the person, on the stuff around us. What about him? How will he react? What happens to her? How come they have a better deal than I do?
And all Jesus says in reply is, what does that matter to you? Just follow me.
I realised that with all my mulling, both before and after the confrontation, there was one thing I’d forgotten to do. I’d become so fixated on the whys, the why nots and the possible reaction, that I’d just forgotten to look to Jesus for His lead, for what he wanted me to do, say, think or feel about it all.
In this story, Peter was so focused on what might (or might not) happen to someone else, that he nearly missed what Jesus was saying to him. Jesus reminded him, stop worrying about what will happen with other people, stop stressing about their lives, their decisions, their reactions…just follow me.
Understanding that, helps me to look at the bigger picture. I’m not called to over-think or worry about negative reactions, I’m called to do the right thing (as calmly and as nicely as I can), to put one foot in front of the other, and just follow.