Stomach in knots, throat tightened, and holding back waves of nausea…you might think I was battling a virus. Not so. In my mind, it was something far worse: confrontation. My body was reacting to my emotional turmoil as I sat across the conference table from another woman in leadership. And it was not just the two of us. The conflict had escalated to the point where our husbands and pastors were involved. Uncomfortable, awkward, painful, yes. But the leadership lessons I gleaned that day were invaluable.
Inherent in leadership is the probability that you are going to tick someone off or offend someone to the point of confrontation. Sitting at the conference table, I knew the trajectory of this conversation would be determined by my willingness to humble myself. But how could I humble myself when I felt like jumping across the table and punching her lights out? Here are a few tips I used to prepare my heart and mind.
• I reminded myself that this woman was not my enemy. Ephesians 6:12 reminds us, "For we are not fighting against flesh-and-blood enemies, but against evil rulers and authorities of the unseen world, against mighty powers in this dark world, and against evil spirits in the heavenly places."
• I prayed that God would bless her family, her work, her ministry. Matthew 5:43-48 says, "You have heard the law that says, ‘Love your neighbor' and hate your enemy. But I say, love your enemies! Pray for those who persecute you! In that way, you will be acting as true children of your Father in heaven. For he gives his sunlight to both the evil and the good, and he sends rain on the just and the unjust alike. If you love only those who love you, what reward is there for that? Even corrupt tax collectors do that much. If you are kind only to your friends, how are you different from anyone else? Even pagans do that. But you are to be perfect, even as your Father in heaven is perfect." After reading this, I knew I would be no different from a nonbeliever if I didn't choose to love this woman. Love trumps everything.
• Remember, humility enables you to say, "Perhaps you are right" and keeps you from getting defensive.
I knew that if I didn't forgive this woman I would be stuck in a prison of bitterness, hatred, and unforgiveness. I had a choice to make. I could either stay stuck in a quagmire or break free and choose to forgive. I chose forgiveness. I wanted to go into the meeting with a heart ready to seek understanding and restore our relationship. The goal was not for us to be best friends, but to have mutual respect and understanding so we could work together. Here are a few steps to aid the process of forgiving.