Don’t Hide from Hard Conversations

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I started the Three Question Leadership Blog 4 years ago. I thought I would spend the next few weeks sharing some of my first posts, in their entirety, here. Whether you’re new or have been with me all along, I hope you find these concepts applicable.

Have you ever had a meeting scheduled that you dreaded all day? Maybe it’s a yearly review, a potentially explosive situation, or a conversation you are fully expecting to go south. Over the years, I have learned the difficult lesson to not run away from difficult conversations.

A few years ago a terrible situation arose at Penn State University that cost many people their jobs, and left a disastrous effect on several young boys. Through such a terrible situation, we learn an important lesson with implications for both youth ministry and the church as a whole.

We could look at the Penn State situation and pass judgment on those involved who did not adequately report or act. But judgment is not ours to pass.

We could, standing on the outside, lament the state of our nation and the depravity of “those sinners”. But again, judgment is not ours to pass.

We can, however, put ourselves in the shoes of the leadership. Child molestation is a terrible act, and churches are not immune to sexual predators. So, ask yourself, how would you respond if someone informed you of inappropriate acts between an adult and a child?

I remember, very vividly, having a situation arise at a previous church where inappropriate statements were made between an adult and a teenager. I was informed of the situation, and discussed steps with my pastor. Both families were church members, and the conversations that laid ahead were less than appealing. So we waited for the “right time” to meet with each side. Unfortunately for us, the “right time” did not arrive before the “necessary time”. We drug our feet, and in the end, acted out of necessity rather than concern, and damage was done.

Side note: the situation referenced here was nothing illegal. It fell into that gray space of needed to be addressed, but no one was in danger and no law was being broken.

We avoided the hard conversations. We knew we would be uncomfortable, so we waited. I wonder if the officials at PSU were in the same boat. They did not want to have the tough conversation, so they waited for the “right time” and instead found the “necessary time”.

The “right time” and the “necessary time” are two contrasting opportunities. The “right time” is much more of a gamble. I have a tendency to justify waiting by saying I am waiting for the right time. The right time, however, comes before the necessary time.

The “necessary time”, too often, means we have acted too late. When we wait to respond, we find ourselves stuck in a situation where we have to react to the chaos around us. When we take care of business at the appropriate time, we find ourselves able to help guide the conversation forward.

The principle we can learn is this: the hard conversation, though uncomfortable and daunting, is much easier than waiting for the time bomb to blow.

Do not be afraid to have the hard conversation. In my experience, actually, I have started realizing the moment I dread a conversation is a sign I need to act.

What conversation are you dreading? What conversation do you need to have? What situation makes you uncomfortable but needs to be addressed? Make time this week to bathe it in prayer, and pray for God’s guidance and strength to act.

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