Having written about how to confront someone lovingly, I feel it is important to add a postscript to the discussion, and that is: It is not our job to change the other person. It's simply our job to communicate with the other person. Change is up to God.
Over and over, I see people (particularly women) reinterpret the idea of lovingly confronting someone into subtly manipulating someone to change. Let me explain how this works, and why it can be a relationship-killer.
The point of confrontation (or "care-frontation," as I like to call it) is to call attention to a fault or error that is actually causing harm to the doer. Your intervention is designed to edify, encourage, and seek the ultimate good of the other person. Unfortunately, some can take this too far.
Distinguish between a preference and a moral issue.
I know of a woman who harassed her husband incessantly over the fact that he drank coffee. She believed that his intake of caffeine was damaging his health. Now, her motivation was good. She wanted to protect her husband's health. There's nothing wrong with that. But her method of doing so was wrong. It caused strife in their marriage, and her pursuit of the issue became part of an overall habit of nagging and manipulation.
There are many such issues in which we truly believe that we are looking out for the other person's best interests. Before we make it a full-blown battle, we need to consider: Is this a personal preference of mine, or is this a true character or spiritual issue? It's boggling to me when I see women fighting with their spouses or friends or siblings over drinking coffee, spending $20 from the budget on a leisure item, or not dusting properly when other women are dealing with major relationship issues, like abuse, betrayal, or lying.
Ladies, let's not make mountains out of molehills. Be very cautious about your true motivations when you make an issue a point of disagreement.
If you can't change it, accept it.
There are people in my life who have failed over and over in the same ways. There are times when I genuinely dislike Jesus' answer to Peter.
But I've decided on a particular course of action. If something consistently bothers me, I will bring my concern or complaint to the other person. If the other person does not change over a reasonable time (since I'm practicing patience, I try to give it a few months), I will renew my request up to two more times. After the third time, if the situation doesn't change, it's my decision to accept it. Why? Because I see it as more hurtful to fume in the background and hold grudges than to simply let it go.
An exception is when an ongoing situation is clearly Biblically wrong, dangerous, or harmful. In that case, I believe that person should have an accountability partner. For example, if a depressed woman is cutting or doing other self-harm practices, she needs firm, loving Biblical counsel and supervision.
That said, there are still some times when accountability by itself won't work. The person must admit his or her fault, and desire help. I know it is super frustrating, but sometimes all we can do is make our feelings clear, then simply pray.
Don't expect change overnight.
Sometimes we become so sensitive to someone's repeated failure in an area that we do not notice improvement. We see only the failure. We need to be active in looking for signs of change, praising it, and reinforcing it actively.
For example, I have a tendency to volunteer myself and my siblings for activities without fully checking their availability first. After years of repeatedly being told that I was causing problems--and years of struggling to button my troublesome mouth--my sisters sat me down and very clearly spelled out how my thoughtlessness affected them. A few weeks later, a volunteer opportunity arose. Remembering the recent uncomfortable confrontation, I told the person that I would need to run the idea by my family before giving a final answer. I was so gratified when one of my sisters exclaimed, "Thank you checking with me first! I really appreciate it!" I still struggle with this area, but my sister's praise was so valuable in encouraging my (slow) improvement.
Ultimately, change is God's department, and sometimes He chooses to teach us patience, even while He teaches the other person his or her own lesson. Behave honorably and respectfully in your relationship, and leave the results up to God. Sometimes that means that you must bear a lot. Isn't that what love is about?
1 Corinthians 13:7
What has been your experience with this issue? What criteria do you use to distinguish between a preference and a moral issue? How do you deal with repeated failure? What are some good ways to encourage improvement?
None of my life has gone the way it was "supposed to go," but I don't love my life any less because of the hardships and new directions. I see so much unexpected good in it, and I want others to see the good in theirs.