“We need to talk.”
Four little words that induce fear, anxiety, and dread in all who hear them. When we hear them, we wonder if we’re going to get dumped or fired. We think we’re going to get in a fight or get in trouble. The Enemy starts filling our heads with lies faster than we can formulate one rational thought.
What is it about that simple combination of two- and four-letter words that makes our heart beat faster, our stomach tie up in knots, and sweat come out of our pores?
Copyright: treewat0071 / 123RF Stock Photo
I think part of the answer is that we are afraid of conflict or confrontation. There, I said it—the dreaded C words.
I grew up in a culture in which people didn’t talk about things. I’m a third-generation American-born Chinese. My grandparents immigrated to America, my parents were born here, and my cousins and I were all born here.
Most Chinese families do not talk about stuff. Oh, they’ll gossip about other people, but they suppress their own feelings and put on a façade that says everything is going well.
I learned from my parents’ generation that appearances and how others perceive you are more important than dealing with your true feelings. This way of thinking also contributes to the pride and overachieving one-upmanship prevalent in many Chinese families.
Since the adults in my family didn’t talk openly about their feelings, the suppressed hurt, anger, and resentment came out in huge, dramatic outbursts. As a child, I learned that conflict led to something drastic like divorce. I thought any conflict meant you hated someone or you were no longer loved.
Since that was what I saw growing up, as an adult I viewed my own relationships the same way.
Whenever I heard the words “We need to talk,” I interpreted them as a precursor to rejection. This played out in my friendships and professional and romantic relationships. My default response was to withdraw and break ties any time I perceived a problem. This was a coping mechanism of self-preservation.
Thankfully, God has shown me that conflict does not equate hate and rejection. Conflict is normal. Whenever we have differences of opinions, we have conflict. If we can view conflict as typical without attaching negative connotations or projecting onto others, we can have difficult conversations without turning them into heated, emotional battles.
As a follow up to their book Boundaries, Drs. Henry Cloud and John Townsend wrote How To Have That Difficult Conversation You’ve Been Avoiding. The authors encourage us to set healthy boundaries by having those difficult conversations instead of remaining silent. Saying “We need to talk” is actually a good and healthy thing.
When we operate from a place of fear, whether that’s fear of rejection, fear of the unknown, or fear of not getting the answer we want, we avoid confrontations. And when we avoid conflict and confrontation, we withdraw from truthful conversations.
However, if we prayerfully try to align ourselves with God’s will, chances are God will prompt us to have such conversations for our good and the good of the other party. Jesus was surrounded by conflict. He had many confrontations through speaking truth in love. That’s what he commands us to do as well.
One strategy that helps me combat fear when I’m trying to decide to turn toward a conflict instead of running away is playing a game of “What if” in my mind. This helps me go on the offensive and face all the worst-case scenarios the Enemy can throw at me.
I ask God to tell me his truths, and he reminds me of who he is and what his Word says. That helps eliminate the fear of the unknown. If I can dismiss the Enemy’s lies with God’s truths, I can position myself to deal directly with conflict instead of repressing my feelings until something catches me off guard and I explode.
Here’s an example:
Problem: I don’t want to volunteer anymore. I’m feeling burned out. I can tell my lead or I can keep serving and get resentful.
Fear: She won’t like me.
Truth: If my lead gets mad and doesn’t like me because I only want to serve for the right reasons, then that’s on her. I can’t take responsibility for how she may or may not respond. If she dislikes me because I won’t volunteer, she’s probably not the healthiest friend for me anyway.
Fear: No one else will volunteer and the ministry will die.
Truth: This is God’s ministry, not mine. He will provide the volunteers to make it work if he wants it to continue. I don’t know whom God wants to bring up in this area. Maybe my staying is actually preventing someone else from serving.
Solution: I can choose to have that difficult conversation with my lead.
The Enemy knows the lies that play in our minds. When I’m running myself ragged and not spending time with God, I make it too easy for my brain to operate out of fear. However, when I slow down and spend time with God, it’s easier to catch myself and combat the fear with God’s truths.
If I’m reading God’s word and listening to his guidance, I can bring my desires in alignment with his and confidently utter those four little words: “We need to talk.”
Lorianne Lee was a teacher for nineteen years, and she has been a part of The River Church Community for seventeen years. Lorianne is a creature of habit. She doesn’t like surprises or change. In fact, she admits it bothers her if someone sits in “her spot” at church. Lorianne appreciates God’s sense of humor, and she finds it ironic that God is changing her in so many ways. Lorianne wants to be open to whatever God has planned, even if that includes change.