A few weeks ago I was on the Twitter and a tweet from Beth Moore caught my eye. It was titled “An Open Letter to LifeWay” and I was immediately intrigued. Everyone knows anything titled “An Open Letter” is going to get all sorts of trouble stirred up.
(Sort of like Martin Luther hanging his 95 Theses on the door to the church– Luther posted the first open letter and BOOM got excommunicated from the Catholic Church and was then treated like an outlaw. See what I mean? All sorts of trouble.)
But Beth Moore is no Martin Luther, what with her being a Southern Lady and all, and she’s not the kind of person to poke a bee hive in public just to watch the swarm. I was doubly intrigued. And because the Christian publishing world is sort of my arena of business, I was thrice interested to see what kind of things this Southern Lady was about pronounce about this publishing house.
If you clicked on the link above you know the letter has zero conflict or negativity in it, and in fact Beth used the post to thank LifeWay for their commitment to Christ and their desire to spread the Gospel to the world. She was headed to a dinner to recognize their partnership of twenty years and she was afraid she’d start crying when speaking, so she typed it all out in advance so we could all know how highly she thinks of them. No nastiness, no ugliness.
I don’t know why I get so intrigued by possible public displays of conflict. Maybe it’s the passive-agressive in me who likes to see the little guy take a swing at the big dogs, I don’t know. But heaven knows I wouldn’t want an open letter written by anyone with grievances against me. I’m pretty much an anxious, whiney, sarcastic, judgmental old goat held loosely together by God’s love, Christ’s blood, the Holy Spirit’s hourly intervention, and my husband’s stubborn, loyal kindness.
There is no open letter against me I’d want to read, in other words.
And besides, all these open letters go directly against how the Bible teaches us to deal with conflict. As humans, we’re pretty much all a mess. Dealing with other messed-up humans is aggravating at best, horribly painful at worst. There are going to be times when we have to deal with one another in less than pleasant situations.
Typing out open letters of grievance and then posting them on the world wide web is tempting and fun for a minute, but there’s a better way. In Matthew 18:15-17, Jesus said this:
If another believer sins against you, go privately and point out the offense. If the other person listens and confesses it, you have won that person back. But if you are unsuccessful, take one or two others with you and go back again, so that everything you say may be confirmed by two or three witnesses. If the person still refuses to listen, take your case to the church. Then if he or she won’t accept the church’s decision, treat that person as a pagan or a corrupt tax collector. (NLT)
Notice that Jesus didn’t tell us to start with open letters or even gossip. Conflict resolution starts quietly, between the two involved parties. If needed, it can escalate to the point where you avoid them in public and remove them from your Christmas card list, but there are quite a few steps in between the problem and the public shaming.
I haven’t always handled these situations well, honestly. Because I’m terrible in any kind of conflict, I tend to avoid the actual person and then my emotions build until I can’t take it anymore and then words burst out in the form of gossip. It’s not pretty. It might not be an open letter posted on the web, but it’s still wrong.
What do you think? How do you handle conflict in your daily life, and is there a way you could do it better? Have you ever seen it handled well? I’d love to hear your story.