An Excerpt from the book
Tools for Improving Relationships
by Beverly Caruso
Cassie was visited at home one day by Jan, whose hesitant attitude told Cassie that this was not a casual drop-in. She wondered what was wrong.
Seated on the living room sofa, Jan immediately fell silent. Then she began to speak softly. Cassie was not really prepared for what Jan said at last.
“This is hard for me to tell you, Cassie,” she began. “But I feel you need to know. So many times when we’re together, you dwell on all the ‘negatives’ — every bad thing that happens to you, no matter how big or small. Cassie,” Jan faltered, “I feel that you do this because you’re seeking attention and sympathy.”
Cassie was stunned, unaware of any such motive, and immediately grew angry. Frozen, barely able to speak, she gave little response. After a long, awkward silence, Jan left.
For day, Cassie endured an internal wrestling match. How could Jan, her friend, say something that hurt so deeply? Who was she to correct anyone? Yet Cassie knew that it had not been easy for Jan to confront her. She finally asked God to show her if what Jan said was true.
Gradually, in a few days’ time, Cassie had her answer. The Holy Spirit convinced her, by reminding her of specific instances, that Jan had been absolutely correct — not only in her assessment of Cassie’s self-pitying and manipulative attitudes, but in the humble, broken-hearted attitude in which she had come. Jan, because of her long-standing love for Cassie, was probably the only person who could have confronted her.
Cassie was undone by Jan’s love and willingness to risk rejection. She wept for a long time in repentance before calling Jan to admit she had been right.
I want to point out an important facet of this account. Jan and Cassie had already established a commitment to one another by virtue of their friendship. It was this foundation of love that wore down Cassie’s resistance to the unpleasant facts.
In our congregation, we chose to make a definite commitment to “speak the truth in love” with an eye toward helping each other see blind spots. Verbalizing that commitment seemed to unlock our frozenness about going to one another and made us more willing to receive correction, too. (We’ll talk more about that end of it in the following chapter on “transparency.”)
Let’s face it. It is a risk to go to someone with a word of correction. We risk saying it the wrong way, hurting them and being rejected. That tough to face! Therefore, I recommend verbalizing a commitment, maybe between yourself and one close Christian friend, entering into this kind of loving and corrective relationship.
One very important caution: Pointing out each other’s faults, short-comings and sins is not something that should be done in a group setting. Some organizations undertake this kind of group confrontation, such as Alcoholics Anonymous and other behavior modification clinics. Those groups, however, are normally supervised by trained professionals. Confronting someone with their flaws in front of even a small group — say, a Bible study — can bring devastating emotional results.
It’s important, then, that the setting be private and comfortable. In this way, you can direct a friend’s attention to one of their blind spots without destroying their dignity or self-esteem.
This approach — commitment mixed with a caring atmosphere — is often enough to help a friend let down their defenses and listen to what you have to say.
Excerpted from Loving Confrontation, Bethany House Publishers, 1988, Bev’s first published book. Now out of print.
Still included in the updated and republished book now titled:
A Church Learns to Get Along.
Available from or Order Page
© Beverly Caruso