I first heard the phrase, "Praise in public, confront in private," years ago. I was with a group of leaders from my church, and we were at a conference in Rochester, NY. The speaker talked about how this was one of the policies that they had in their church.
I first heard the phrase, "Praise in public, confront in private," years ago...
Conflict is one of the things which tears churches apart. It is what often ends many relationships between groups or individuals. Let's be honest – conflict is everywhere. Especially as Americans, we like to debate and disagree on everything. Maybe it's our competitive nature, but often we talk about things that divide us more than things that unite us. It's not whether or not we will have conflict, but how we will handle it that is important to understand. In some ways, conflict can be good. Conflict comes from being conflicted. Our discussion being conflicted is the opposite of complacency. Most likely, they are complacent if a marriage, church, or business never has any disputes to speak of.
Have you ever felt conflicted within yourself? If you have, it's because you were mentally agonizing through a set of options you were considering but of which you were unsure. When a church has conflict from the beginning, it could be good because it could mean some people are thinking and not just being lemmings diving off a cliff in alphabetical order.
There are extensive ways in which conflict can be handled. But if you could live by the phrase, "Praise in public, confront in private," this simple rule would minimize significant conflicts.
Let's break down the simple phrase. The first thing it does is talk about where conflict should not take place. If you look at Matthew 18:15-20, you would say that someone who has an issue with someone else should do so with that person in private first.
Confronting someone in private does not only address not shouting your problem with another individual in the public square. It also means you won't discuss the conflict with your best friend or two or three people at a small dinner party. The intent is to handle your problem with the individual you have the issue with in private.
It's easy to tell the world your problem with someone, but rarely does reconciliation make the news.
This allows a problem between you and another individual to stay confidential. It gives the other person some time and respect to enable them to work through repentance and forgiveness if they have truly wronged you. It also allows the other person to clarify something you misunderstood. It's easy to tell the world your problem with someone, but rarely does reconciliation make the news.
The first part of this says that we are to praise in public. Now some Christians have misunderstood the idea of only praising God and not one another. We are told in scripture to honor our mothers, for example. Proverbs 31:29-31 says, "Many women have done excellently, but you surpass them all. Charm is deceitful, and beauty is vain, but a woman who fears the LORD is to be praised. Give her the fruit of her hands, and let her works praise her in the gates."
We are also told to give honor to whom honor is due. Romans 13:7 says, "Pay to all what is owed to them: taxes to whom taxes are owed, revenue to whom revenue is owed, respect to whom respect is owed, honor to whom honor is owed." We can recognize the accomplishments of others. However, we are not supposed to praise people for what God has accomplished.
What do you do if someone tries to pull you into confrontation in public? In other words, what if someone has a conflict with somebody else and wants to talk to you about it? Their goal in talking to you is not because you were some wise sage but because they are mad at another individual and want you to know they are angry at that individual.
I heard a phrase at the same conference: "That doesn't sound like Joe (or whomever)." Now maybe this is the 20th time this person has burned you. Or perhaps this is this person's reputation. So we are not asking people to lie if this sounds incorrect. But if this is the person's first offense against someone in this way, we can give grace.
What would a church, marriage, workplace, neighborhood, or any relationship look like if we live by the phrase, "Praise in public, confront in private?
Many times when there is conflict, it comes in a small dose. Meaning that a dispute can strike up between two individuals, and it is a one-time event. So if someone comes to you and says, "Can you believe that my friend Joe said this to me? "You simply can say, "That doesn't sound like Joe." What this does is calm tensions between people. It reminds them that Joe, who may have been offensive, typically is not someone who means ill intent toward others. Using this phrase, "That doesn't sound like Joe," reminds them of who Joe really is and that he's probably a great guy.
What would a church, marriage, workplace, neighborhood, or any relationship look like if we live by the phrase, "Praise in public, confront in private? "You should anticipate conflict within your church or any relationship. We're not all wired the same way as individuals. We will have differing opinions and thoughts at times. We will make mistakes and sin against each other. It's inevitable.
How will you handle conflict when it comes? Is your goal to be united with people or divided against them? If you are part of a church, are you helping to build it up or tear it down? How do you personally handle conflict with others? Is there anyone that you need reconciliation with again? In some cases, professional counseling can help you navigate these questions. Check out our resources page as well!
- Tim Madden, Board of Directors