When to Confront, When to be Silent

At church this morning, the pastor was talking to his puppet, Jake, who was saying that he had a bad week.  The pastor asked the congregation what Jake should do to feel better, and someone said, “Talk to God about it.”

I was thinking of the show Family Ties during this part of the service.  I see a pattern when it comes to Mallory: she often makes a scene when something is bothering her.  I feel embarrassed for her, making a scene in front of all those people, many of whom she doesn’t even know.  I wonder: Why should one even express oneself when one is feeling badly?  Why not just go with the flow?  Well, that doesn’t always work.  On the episode that I watched last night, Mallory is upset that her friend from college and her Mom are becoming such good friends, due to their common interest in architecture.  Sure, Mallory can just say nothing and avoid conflict.  But her Mom and her college friends will then become closer, and Mallory will only get madder, as she feels left out.

Prayer is one way that people try to cope with an imperfect world.  That can be helpful.  It may be better to confront someone about his or her behavior that offends us, but that may work, or it may not: the person might become offended, and the relationship could be ruined.  Moreover, if I were to voice my frustrations on a continual basis, I would get annoying.  There are times when perhaps one should talk to God about one’s problems, rather than confronting the person who is bothering us.  But there may also be times when confrontation is important.  I often don’t have the courage for it, but I do believe that it may be better than continuing to sulk privately and becoming more alienated from people.

About jamesbradfordpate

My name is James Pate. This blog is about my journey. I read books. I watch movies and TV shows. I go to church. I try to find meaning. And, when I can’t do that, I just talk about stuff that I find interesting. I have degrees in fields of religious studies. I have an M.Phil. in the History of Biblical Interpretation from Hebrew Union College in Cincinnati, Ohio. I also have an M.A. in Hebrew Bible from Jewish Theological Seminary, an M.Div. from Harvard Divinity School, and a B.A. from DePauw University.
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3 Responses to When to Confront, When to be Silent

  1. Judy Redman says:

    I haven’t watched Family Ties for a long time, but I think that while there are times when it is better to say something than to remain silent or just pray about it, perhaps ‘confront’ is not quite the word you are looking for here. ‘Confront’ has the sense of being aggressive about what you are saying/doing and that often causes unnecessary problems. Saying something like “I would like to talk to you about how I feel when you do/say X”. Mallory could have said quite calmly to her mother and her friend: “I’m feeling conflicted at the moment. On the one hand, it’s great that you two get on so well. On the other, I am feeling left out because you’re talking about things I don’t know much about. I wonder if there’s anything we can do about this – or to offer a solution of her own.” Most people don’t knowingly try to make someone else feel bad, but they’re not mind-readers, either, and need us to tell them when we’re not happy in some way because of the way they’re acting (or not acting).


  2. jamesbradfordpate says:

    Good points, Judy.


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