I love/hate difficult discussions!

Proverbs 27 6

I am in a position in life where I “get to” and “need to” have difficult conversations on a regular basis.  Any time you are in leadership you will have to discuss, evaluate and try to encourage improvement in yourself and others, and that process can be difficult.  In my position, most of my difficult conversations have to do with life choices and heart issues and at times those discussions can be challenging.  However, over the years there are aspects of these conversations that I have grown to appreciate and therefore I would say that I have a love/hate relationship with difficult discussions.

I think it’s pretty easy to understand why I hate hard discussions, however there are so many good things that come out of “well thought out” difficult discussions – and these apply across the board to way more areas than just church life!  If you are married, on occasion you need to have difficult discussions.  If you are an employee or employer, on occassion you need to have difficult discussions.  If you are a parent, or a student or even just a friend to someone, on occassion you need to have difficult conversation.  Now before I share with you why I both love and hate these types of discussions, let me define some situations that might fall into this category.  When I say “difficult discussions” I mean: you need to talk with your spouse about spending patterns…that’s difficult.  You need to talk with an employee about his refusal to meet your expectations…that’s difficult.  You know that you should talk with your friend about the way that they are treating their kids and their spouse…that’s difficult.  These are just a few examples, you likely have some of your own right now, but let me share with you why I love/hate these talks.

Why I hate these talks

I’d guess that it’s pretty easy to understand why I don’t like the responsibility of sharing my observations with others concerning their lives, but there are some pretty particular reasons that I struggle in this area.  First of all, fear and anxiety makes it difficult to have these conversations.  Fears about what others will think, how they will react and what will happen to our relationship are very real.  Maybe you’ve experienced those feelings and it’s kept you from saying anything.  I know I have!  Second, all of the “what if’s” roll through my head as I am preparing to have a difficult conversation.  What if they get mad?  What if they don’t respond well?  What if they quit?  These are some of the things that we all experience when we need to step into someone’s life.

Reasons I love difficult conversations – Despite finding these conversations difficult, there are several reasons that I’ve grown to love them and would encourage you to embrace a gracious, loving and truthful approach to your relationships!

  1. Having difficult conversations allows both parties to grow and improve!  It doesn’t matter if your conversation is revolving around work, school, home or spiritual life, everyone has room to grow and improve.  I’ve found that we don’t tend to grow when we are allowed to coast!  When we drift, we drift down stream…not up!  I also think that each of us want to be the very best that we can be in the different aspects of our lives, therefore at times we need to be challenged and encouraged.  Having difficult conversations can accomplish this as long as the conversation ends with help and hope!
  2. Generally, these conversations strengthen your relationships.  Recently I had a conversation with my wife where I shared a few things that I had been thinking about.  I was nervous about sharing these thoughts, however after we were able to talk and discuss them, our relationship was strengthened and even more trust was built!  This is why I love these types of discussions.  My closest friends are people that I can absolutely tell the truth to and they can do the same to me…and we do.
  3. Difficult discussions force both parties to check their motivations and fight drift!  Whenever you are going to talk with someone about something you’ve noticed in their lives, you need to check yourself first.  I think it was a famous philosopher (jk) who said: “Check yourself before you wreck yourself”.  When I’m struggling with something and a friend talks with me about it, it guards me from coasting and vice versa.
  4. Difficult conversations cause me to pray and rely on God.  I love difficult conversations because they make me uncomfortable, which causes me to run to God for help.  This is a good thing for all of us to embrace.  I am naturally inclined to taking care of things myself and so when I feel out of my comfort zone I am reminded that I need someone bigger than me!

Let me leave you with this: I know these discussions are not fun, but they are fruitful. Proverbs 27:6 says – “Wounds from a friend can be trusted, but an enemy multiplies kisses” In other words, someone who tells you the truth in a gracious way is to be trusted over someone who simply says whatever we want to hear!

So…how about you?  How do you feel about difficult conversations?  Leave a comment to share your thoughts.

I love/hate difficult discussions!

Small Groups Still Matter For You…Even If They Haven’t Worked Well In The Past!

The opposite of love

If you don’t know me very well, allow me to introduce one aspect about me to you: I am a passionate person.  When I choose to get involved in something I am generally all in.  Now, of course there are exceptions but for the most part, this is how I choose to live my life.  This choice to be passionate about what I do shows up in many areas, but don’t let that confuse you into believing that I am equally passionate about all things.  There are two key commitments that I am most passionate about and in fact I am willing to give my life to these two things…and I believe I am.  Here they are (drum roll please): I am committed to helping people know Christ who don’t yet know Him as the Forgiver of their sins and the leader of their lives, and I am committed to helping others who already know Him grow in their relationship with and commitment to Him.  These two commitments are the things that I am most passionate about in life.  I spend hour after hour, day after day, week after week and now year after year in pursuit of these two commitments.  With that in mind, when I talk about involvement in a small group as one of the best (if not the best) ways to grow in your relationship with God and others, and then I hear stories of small groups not working super well, or quite frankly stories of small groups failing, I am deeply saddened.  However, this sadness is not terminal.  Just like I wouldn’t stop eating if I had a meal that burnt my tongue or tasted horrible, I am not convinced that a bad experience means that the program is terminal.  So, let me share with you 3 reasons why I believe small groups are still for you, even if you’ve had a bad experience or the group wasn’t all you hoped it would be.

  1. We don’t maintain, we drift!  Generally speaking, people don’t do well in their walk with Christ when they choose to sit on the sidelines.  I know, I know, sitting out of a small group or some sort of intentional relationship doesn’t mean you’ve stopped being involved in the church, but it does mean that you’ve chosen to try to pursue Christ on your own.  Frankly, the people in Scripture who I find doing this don’t maintain, they drift.  Here’s where the problem lies – we don’t tend to drift in good directions, we usually drift away from God.  For example, when King David decided to seclude himself and send everyone else out on the mission, it was easy for Him to make isolated decisions that led him downhill quickly.  Drift happens!  This is why we need intentional relationships.
  2. We can’t love others and leave them alone!  To love someone means that we take purposeful action and make sacrifices for their good.  Sadly, I think that we equate hate as the opposite of love, and that may be true, but inactivity is also the opposite of love.  Refusing to pursue and actively invest in someone is also the opposite of love.  As Christians, how are we displaying the love of Christ to one another without this type of strategic, intentional activity?
  3. Someone else needs you!  Whenever I hear stories of people having a bad experience in a small group it always motivates and moves me to make sure that I am helping to provide a great environment for life change and meaningful relationships. Maybe your poor small group experience will serve to enable you to help mold and remake a small group so that someone else can enjoy a better small group experience in the future.  If you’ve been a Christian for a while, you have meaningful input that needs to be shared with other Christians and we need you to help with the growth that God is bringing to us.

I don’t think that writing this post will necessarily change anyone’s mind, but I do want to leave you with a few questions if you find yourself saying: “Small group just isn’t for me.” First: what is your strategy then for the clear commands of Christ to invest in each other? Second: who gets to ask you strategic questions so that you don’t drift?  The answer to those questions are really something that I am passionate about and I want to invite you to be passionate about them as well.

Small Groups Still Matter For You…Even If They Haven’t Worked Well In The Past!