Over sushi, I affirmed my friend, whom I’ll call Amanda, for her first big leadership opportunity. She had just led a major ministry event, and from my perspective, it had been an incredible success.
“Honestly,” Amanda said with a little shake of her head, “when it was over, I didn’t feel successful. I felt like crying.”
Amanda shared that she had experienced conflict with her team, and it came to an ugly head during this event. I pressed a little further, getting the facts about how a particular relationship with her coworker had gone sour. Her details were her own, but the story was familiar—good people, with good intentions, getting it wrong with one another.
And then I killed the conversation with my next question: “When are you going to have that tough conversation to resolve the issue?”
Amanda looked at me like I had asked her to throw her cat off the highway overpass. Apparently, I had asked the impossible.
What I’ve learned over countless lunches with women like Amanda is this: The prospect of a tough conversation scares many into silence. But dealing with difficult matters—be it resolving conflict, confronting a character issue, or uprooting bad behavior or poor performance—is not an optional exercise in Christianity.
The Bible calls us to be people of reconciliation: people who pursue peace and value unity, people who do not live as the world lives but choose the deeper, sometimes scarier path of real relationships with one another. Real relationships take hard work, but I’ve discovered that the ministry of tough conversations is the fertilizer of soul growth.1
The Ministry of Tough Conversations
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