I Need to Confront You

A couple of weeks ago, I received an email that said, “I need to confront you.” That friend was the third person to confront me within seven days. All of them about different things. Who enjoys being confronted or criticized? I certainly do not and I’m guessing you don’t either. Yet confrontation and criticism happen almost daily. Brothers and sisters criticize each other. Kids criticize parents. Staff confront employers. Spouses criticize each other. Students criticize teachers. Church members confront pastors. Athletes condemn their coaches. Friends rebuke friends. Whatever season of life we are in, we will experience criticism and confrontation. Sometimes the criticism is fair, delivered graciously, well timed, and with constructive and loving motivation. Other times it is unfair, destructive, false, and at the wrong time! How are you and I to respond when someone says, “I need to confront you”? To begin to engage that question, we need be reminded of why criticism is needed.

Until our battle with sin ends completely in glory, you and I will always wrestle with sin and its deceitful intent.


The author of Hebrews reminds us that sin is on a mission to deceive. “But exhort one another every day, as long as it is called ‘today,’ that none of you may be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin” (Heb 2:13). Sin distorts and spins truth and understanding. Until our battle with sin ends completely in glory, you and I will always wrestle with sin and its deceitful intent. Therefore, we must humble ourselves and admit that the first person to be deceived by our sin is ourselves. Paul experienced this dynamic and recorded it for us in his letter to the church in Rome. “For I do not understand my own actions. For I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate” (Rom 7:15). In an act of grace designed to protect and free us from our own sin’s deceptive work, the Lord will at times send a person to confront us and enable us to see where sin has pulled the wool over our own eyes. Such a person is a kindness from God. David wrote in Psalm 141, “Let a righteous man strike me – it is a kindness; let him rebuke me – it is oil for my head; let my head not refuse it” (v 5). Like a surgeon cutting with a scalpel, the pain is real, but the wound is designed to heal and repair. Because confrontation can hurt and embarrass us, you and I are prone to discount it and defend against it to protect our reputation. Scott Sauls reminds us of that when he writes, “Our character must matter to us more than our reputation.”(1) To respond to criticism well, you and I need to begin by admitting we need it and it is part of our Father’s gracious process in maturing our character.


Even though we may be able to intellectually agree that confrontation can be a gift from God, it is still quite difficult to respond well. Through his Word, our Father shows us the spiritual exercises we need to use to train our hearts to be fit for the difficulties of criticism.


The Spirit shows us in Proverbs 15:31-32 that genuinely listening when confronted will lead to wisdom and dismissing criticism leads to self-destruction, “The ear that listens to life-giving reproof will dwell among the wise. Whoever ignores instruction despises himself, but he who listens to reproof gains intelligence.” Genuinely and actively listening when criticized is not something that a sinful heart does readily or naturally. Instead, it wants to deflect, deny, dismiss, and demolish the criticizer to save face. “Unhealthy people, when criticized, tend to spin, manipulate, and regroup.” (2) To refuse to listen to another’s confrontation without trying to understand where their heart is coming from reflects a potentially foolish heart, which the Spirit says is shameful (cf. Prov 18:13). Instead, our Father calls us to train ourselves for wisdom, which involves actively listening with the goal of honest and deep understanding before we launch into schooling them with our opinion (Prov 18: 2). The Spirit must give us strength and courage to listen actively

Humble Ourselves

King David models what it looks like for us to humble ourselves when someone hurls criticisms. As David makes his way into Bahurim, a man came out of his house and started throwing curses and actual stones at him. Usually you and I would respond to that poorly timed and ungracious approach like one of David’s men, Abishai. The reflex of Abishai’s heart was to dismiss the man, refuse to listen, and to strike back. “Why should this dead dog curse my lord the king? Let me go over and take off his head” (2 Sam 16:9). David’s friend literally wanted to take his head off! Honestly, you and I can identify with Abishai more often than we want to admit. Especially if the person confronting us is someone with whom we do not respect or agree. David, however, models for us the response of a heart saved by grace and fit for purpose. “If he is cursing because the LORD has said to him, ‘Curse David,’ who then shall say, ‘Why have you done so?’” (2 Sam 16:10). In counseling, I often tell people that grace calls us to honestly listen and own whatever percentage we have contributed to a struggle. We need to humble ourselves and ask if God has dispatched this person into our lives to help us see ourselves more clearly. Even if only 2% of what they said is true, then we need to admit and own that 2%. We will personally benefit from humbling ourselves to valid criticism, even when it is delivered with bad motives from people whose other opinions we may not otherwise value. When confrontation comes, our hearts are prone to try and exalt ourselves. True gospel leadership mirrors Jesus, who humbled himself so that he might exalt us (Phil 2:8).

Repenting is a changing of one’s way of life, thought process, attitude, etc. with regard to sin.


When we learn that we have been in error, whether it be 5% or 95%, our Father instructs us to own it, admit it, and change it. Repenting is a changing of one’s way of life, thought process, attitude, etc. with regard to sin. Once again, King David can instruct us. In 2 Samuel 12, God sent Nathan to confront David about his infidelity with Bathsheba. We need to note that Nathan did not go into David’s room with his confrontation guns blaring. Instead Nathan starts a conversation and invites him to talk. David listens and realizes that he is being rightly confronted. He had been blinded and deceived by his own sin of adultery and he needed Nathan to help him see clearly again. When he did, he owned his sin against Bathsheba, Uriah and ultimately the LORD (cf. Ps 51:4). He changed and asked for forgiveness. Contrast David’s authentic repentance with Saul’s deflective repentance in 1 Samuel 15:24 when he said, “ I have sinned, for I have transgressed that commandment of the Lord and your words, because I feared the people and obeyed their voice.” When confronted, Saul was reluctantly willing to admit his error, but he quickly deflected his guilt by blaming his error on what he believed to be the greater sins of those around him. Deflective repentance says, “OK, I am guilty, but their guilt is actually worse than mine and the cause of mine.” When confronted, you and I need to ask the Spirit to help us repent in the same way he guided David to repent by owning it, admitting it, and changing it. The Spirit is always at work changing us and we have the opportunity to participate in that change by leaning on His resurrection power at work in us (Eph 1:19). Grace trains us to be fit for confrontation by showing us why we need it and how to respond to it.


(1) Scott Sauls, From Weakness to Strength. (Colorado Spring; Cook, 2017), p 77.

(2) Ibid, p 78.