Authentic Responsibilities #13: I am responsible for expressing myself without disrespecting the other and, when I do, to seek forgiveness and make plans to avoid repeating the disrespect.
I needed to have a difficult conversation, and I was ready to express myself. I pulled my friend aside to speak to her privately. I told her the truth with no sugar-coating: that in our ministry, no one liked her; that she was bossy; and that she needed to step back from taking over everything and allow more creativity in our group. However, I stressed that—in Christian love—she could still be a part of the group if she would just stop trying to take over. She burst into tears. I hugged her and told her I hated to bear this bad news, but since it was true, someone needed to tell her.
This situation happened in college, and obviously during that time, I was emotionally immature and didn’t handle this well. Authentic responsibility #13 focuses on expressing ourselves without disrespecting others, and apologizing when we do. However, I know better now and want to share with you three ways to conquer this authentic responsibility with ease:
- Express your feelings only. Many of our feelings are based on ideas and thoughts that we have assumed about another person/people, not on what is reality. In my situation, I should’ve started out with, “I felt very hurt that you took over, like the established leadership was not good enough.” Notice I named the feeling and the assumption that I had made about her: that I was hurt and that my leadership wasn’t good enough. This communicates what I was feeling and gives an idea about where I stand and why. In addition, I shouldn’t have said what I thought other people thought! Focus on your own feelings and not the other person’s personality, feelings, or assumed thoughts.
- Express yourself respectfully. I gave an example of expressing your own feelings. Some call this using “I” statements, but “I think you are dumb” and “I hate it when you…” are also “I” statements—albeit inflammatory, insensitive, and rude ones. The things I said to my friend were disrespectful and hurtful—they did not build her up or strengthen our friendship just because I was “honest.” Ephesians 4:29 says, “Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear.” When you are expressing yourself, choose your words wisely and build others up—don’t tear them down.
- Express your sincere apology. There will be times when we express ourselves in a way that is not respectful to others. I thought about doing it (purposefully) to someone this morning! We may not to WANT to express ourselves in a respectful and loving way, and sometimes, that desire is going to become a reality. When it does, however, we need to sincerely apologize to the person we have offended for being rude, hurtful, and disrespectful. James 5:16 tells us to confess our sins to each other so that we can be healed, so go to your brother or sister and apologize! I apologized to my friend several years later, and she was gracious and loving—and I was able to move forward in healing.
We are not always going to be perfect in this authentic responsibility—it is a constant struggle for me! However, if we keep these three ideas in mind, we can begin to mature emotionally and be authentically responsible as we express ourselves to others.
How easy is it for you to express yourself to others respectfully?