By Joanna Hester, Contributing Writer
My first roommate is a wonderful woman who, when I arrived in Spring 2013, was already dating her now-husband. I didn’t have a problem with him until, gradually, she started spending more time with them than me. Yes, that’s as selfish as it sounds, but I’m an introvert whose love language is quality time. I was starving. Because I was starving, I became bitter toward their relationship. When he proposed, I was angry.
She asked me why I wasn’t excited for her on our way to Chick-fil-A for an overdue roomie date.
“I don’t really…like Cody.”
I made concessions that I was being petty and selfish, that I should be happy because marriage is wonderful and I had no moral reasons for them to separate, but I didn’t apologize. For a few weeks following, I felt like our relationship was strained and awkward. I was not invited to be a bridesmaid, which I expected, and I purposefully avoided her either by coming in late or getting out of bed when she was gone. I couldn’t bring myself to talk to her. I could not physically bring myself to apologize.
In the four years that I have been at Asbury, there is one phrase I have come to despise: “I hate confrontation.” I’ve heard it from so many students, friends and passing strangers. I get it. If you’re going off the definition provided by your Macbook’s dictionary, confrontation is concerning: “a hostile or argumentative meeting or situation between opposing parties.”
What everyone hates is the heated arguing, the tears and the sundering of a once good friendship. That is good and right of you to hate it, because it is the sundering of relationships that God hates. No one was designed to be enemies, but rather brothers and sisters living in eternal glory. But we’re not quite there.
Somewhere during my junior year I realized that student community here tends to be shallow. We live for each other’s approval and validation in our arguments. We want to be right all the time. I’ve seen roommates split up because they don’t know how to communicate with each other in honest ways, and friendships disintegrate into poor essays of face-to-face politesse and flattery because of one offense that we are afraid to own in any way.
This is not Christian community. This is not iron sharpening iron, or the kind of intimacy and honesty that should make us beacons in our dark world. If the word “intimacy” makes you squirm, let me give you a different meaning: feeling as though you can be vulnerable with your heart and mind with another person and they will not betray you for it.
Not betraying someone does not mean letting misbehavior slide. But it does mean being able to approach a friend in a way that says, “I’m here to help preserve you, because I love you and Christ loves you.” That is the purpose of confrontation. To redeem a relationship and to strengthen it by way of being upfront and honest about their offense, thereby creating a deeper sense of understanding among believers – to heal wounds and challenge each other to grow closer to God and to each other.
Confrontation is a two-way street, you can’t just be able to confront someone, you must also be able to accept it. Confrontation is being able to go and say, “I hurt you, and that was wrong. There’s a rift in our relationship that I wish to mend.”
And, no, not every offense needs confrontation. If it isn’t a moral or ethical issue, ask yourself why you’re so offended and resolve that for yourself. Did the offense damage your relationship? That’s when confrontation needs to occur, when the damage extends to how you interact with each other and needs to be rectified.
After weeks of relative silence I wrote my roommate a letter. I detailed that I was wrong in my heart and actions, and that I recognized I had given her words of discouragement and offense instead of affirmation. I left it on her desk and avoided her for one more day.
She wrote me back. She showed me so much more grace than I deserved. She gave me love and acceptance. We came up with a plan of action: every Wednesday was for us. Though I still wasn’t in the bridal party, I did go the wedding and we visit with each other often. I can even admit to being friends with her husband. Our damaged friendship was redeemed, repaired and strengthened.
Photo by Green Chameleon via Unsplash