Do you get panicky when you think about telling a coworker how their actions affect you? Do you walk away from conflict – however big or small they are – because you don’t want to have to deal with it? Do you play ostrich (hide and pretend it doesn’t exist)? If you said yes to any of these scenarios, you may have a fear of confrontation.
I get it, I really do. Conflict is something I tend to shy away from but I wasn’t always like that. Oh no, there was a time when I would wade into a fight neck deep and blaze my way out. But, I learned that kind of behavior was more harmful than helpful.
People started shying away from me and I earned a reputation of having a “bad temper”. Every situation became a confrontation – regardless of the cause – because of my response. So, I overcompensated by going in the other direction.
Why We Fear Confrontation
Like me, you may need to figure out why you are afraid of confrontation. Some possible reasons are:
Fear of rejection – when we believe someone is rejecting our ideas (and by extension rejecting us), we may get a bit defensive. This causes us to lash out at the other person. Next thing you know we’re in a fight and we don’t know how it started.
Fear of losing control – confrontation is sometimes the outward manifestation of a power struggle. We fight because we want to feel in control or because we fear that we are not in control but want to pretend that we are. This article from LovePanky.com gives six reasons why we fear confrontation.
Did you notice the connection? One fear can lead to another fear. It’s almost like we’re creating a fear chain. Initially, we’re afraid of this one thing, and then we become afraid of another thing because of that first thing.
Pretty soon, if we’re not careful, we’re going to be locked up in our houses afraid to go outside or bathe or cook! I know, that’s a bit dramatic, but I want us to realize how destructive even a little fear can be.
How to Overcome Fear of Confrontation
The Bible offers us solutions for handling conflict. Typically, when we go to speak with someone, it’s because we recognize an issue or see the potential for one. Here are some steps for conflict resolution:
1. Identify your own issues. Sometimes, the things that make us mad in another person are things we also struggle with. Or, it has to do with how we respond to someone else’s words or actions. Recognize that the flaw may be ours. Matthew 7:3-5 says that we must first take the beam out of our own eyes before hoping to take the speck out of our brother’s eye.
Self-inspection is key. Decide if the source of conflict is something that has to do with your attitudes, motivations or behaviors.
2. Speak to the person. Covey, in his book 7 Habits of Highly Effective People teaches that we must begin with the end in mind. In this situation, visualize how you want the conversation to end before you approach the situation.
Understand that during the conversation you may have to stop a few times to remind yourself of what you want to accomplish. In the heat of the conversation, you may get so upset you completely lose control and the argument (Matthew 18:15).
3. Invite a third party to go with you. If speaking to the person by yourself doesn’t work, take someone else with you (Matthew 18:16). Sometimes, the presence of an impartial witness allows each person to keep their cool. Our fear of being embarrassed before our peers becomes a motivator for us to keep a cool head.
4. Bring it before the church. This instruction is specific to those who are in the body of Christ (Matthew 18:16). But if you are not both believers, you may need to take the dispute before a board or court of law.
5. Pray. Though this is listed last it is by no means the least important. As Christians, we are encouraged to pray at all times, in all things and about everything (Philippians 4:6). Take your fears to God in prayer. Tell Him what you are afraid will happen and what you hope to accomplish.
Pray before you confront the person you have an issue with. Pray while you are speaking to the person. The beauty of prayer is that it brings us into the presence of God and has the power to change our hearts.
God knew that we would have conflicts and confrontations with each other. That’s why He put these principles in the Bible. How do we overcome a fear of confrontation?
By following the biblical method of conflict resolution. We learn to manage our conflicts before they escalate into a confrontation.
Challenge: Do you fear confrontation? What is the reason at the root of your fear?
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