19 July 2016

that "action of bringing two parties face to face"

So... that doesn't sound so bad, does it?

I mean, there are lots of times I really like being face to face - with my hubby, for one.

Or sitting across the table from a good friend, sipping tea or coffee and having to lean forward... in close... to actually hear what my friend is saying because the concrete walls echo, magnifying the background noises of all the other conversations taking place in the restaurant.

Or my littlest munchkin smashing her nose and forehead against my cheek, her preferred mode of snuggling as she falls asleep. It IS sometimes suffocating, but always sweet. It's also really hard to snap a picture of that, but trust me... it happens at some point, every single day... still. She's not always falling asleep, but at 7.5 years, she still needs a snuggle cuddle every day.

How, then, could it be? 

That a word defined as the "action of bringing two parties face to face" strikes dread in the hearts of so many. 

That it is something most of us (siblings don't count) avoid it at all costs. 


we simply strive to avoid those people who don't choose to...

...avoid [this word], I mean.

Have you figured out what "it" I'm talking about yet?



Conflict, altercation, disagreement, and argument are all common synonyms.

Or, more idiomatically,

"going nose to nose"
"butting heads!"

The etymology of the word confrontation, 

     which originates in the Latin and probably made its way into English via French, 

           looks something like this:

Essentially, it means the act of (according to dictionary.com)
  1. standing or coming in front of; 
  2. standing or meeting, facing; 
  3. presenting for acknowledgment, contradiction, etc.; 
  4. setting face to face; 
  5. bringing together for examination or comparison; 
  6. facing in hostility or defiance, opposing; and/or 
  7. being in one's way. 
Some of those have clear negative connotations... but they don't all have to, especially if we'd take the time to learn how to "do" well this thing we are calling confrontation: first how to receive criticism/confrontation... and then why, when and how to actually confront another.

Biblical confrontation was a topic I studied in depth with the women in our church in Niger. The pastor's wife asked me to lead a study on this topic because the younger women were intimidated by the older women, particularly when the older women let the younger gals know they hadn't met "some" expectation set by the older ones.

Here's what we looked at ~
Check out these links above if you want to see how our conversations/studies went. Personally, I felt I learned a lot more than I taught, and in those posts, tried to include the very interesting and insightful implications, as well as the conclusions drawn and applications suggested - all by the ladies in that church. One thing I think is important to remember - most of these women were, at that point in time, illiterate. Thus, it was quite likely their first exposure to some of the different Bible passages, in any way, shape or form.

I love the example of Nathan (as confronter) and David (as confrontee), in 2 Samuel 12. Nathan confronted gently and well, as well as for the right reasons. David received that confrontation humbly and brokenly. But then...

But then, we read 2 Samuel 13, a horrifyingly difficult account in the Biblical record. 

In chapter 13, we also read a story of several additional confrontations... or ones that should have taken place... 

Sadly, none of which were handled correctly by both participants, if they were handled at all.

As was my typical strategy when leading a Bible study, we read/reviewed the story. Then I asked them to identify any confrontations that did occur... and then to think about and identify where confrontations might have/should have occurred. The goals was to consider and then discuss:
  1. what went well (if anything), and particularly,
  2. what didn't go well 
between the confronter and the confrontee in each situation.

Here's what the ladies notices as we worked our way through the first half of the chapter.

A confrontation between Jonadab and Amnon

The two were cousins and apparently close friends. This confrontation actually started off okay. Jonadab showed himself to be an attentive and observant friend. He clued in to Amnon's distress and went to him, confronting him, saying "It's obvious something isn't right. Tell me what's going on." 

Amnon's initial response was also good. He very transparently answered his cousin and told him the whole truth of what was bothering him: Amnon desired his half sister. 

This was the point where I, from my perspective and with my cultural baggage, felt this encounter went wrong. Instead of encouraging Amnon to seek counsel, or instead of giving good advice himself, Jonadab recommends deceit and a selfish pursuit of what Amnon thinks will make him happy. Jonadab suggests an immediate and temporary alleviation of Amnon's discontent, rather than digging deeper to find out why Amnon was feeling as he was, instead of seeking lasting answers and a changed heart. Jonadab also recommended what could appear to be a deceitful ruse.

Thankfully, I held my tongue and allowed the ladies to speak first, because in the Nigerien culture direct confrontation rarely happens.

Instead, the women quickly pointed out a difficulty in judging with knowledge - completely and accurately determining Jonadab's motivations behind his counsel.

Here's what the ladies thought:

Jonadab's counsel provoked a visit from King David, Amnon's father. David clearly had the authority to confront Amnon - from a position of wisdom and personal experience (Temember the previous few chapters?). Whereas Jonadab could only address Ammnon's issues as a peer, David could speak as a father. Culturally, Jonadab could not directly confront his friend, but he could suggest a scenario where one, David, who legitimately and authoritatively engage would be made aware of the issue.

Out of curiosity, when I got home I looked up the meaning of the key word used to describe Jonadab: "shrewd" or "crafty." Hearing those words, I can quickly conclude deceitful.

However, the original Hebrew word meant wise and was often used in conjunction with prophets and those who had good discernment. It was also frequently used to describe sorcerers and false prophets.

My next step was to see what else, if anything else, the Bible says about Jonadab. He is mentioned in one other place - he accurately informs David of Absalom's revenge upon Amnon.

Thus, at least at a cursory glance, it appears that there are three plausible interpretations of Jonadab's actions: 1) he immaturely counseled his friend to use deception to get what he wanted; 2) he wisely set up a scenario where a more qualified person could potentially confront Amnon regarding his foolish desires; or 3) he was no true friend to Amnon, engaging in, for whatever reason, a sophisticated subterfuge, using royal court liaisons to remove a potential successor to David's throne.

Thus, what did we learn through this example of "two parties coming together, face to face?"

Confrontation can be done in many different ways, and probably should be, depending on the circumstances and need. 

We had already seen the example of an indirect confrontation by two who might be considered equals - King David and Nathan.

That day, we had looked at another confrontation - perhaps between equals (two friends) or perhaps between two unequals - the king's son/potential successor to the throne and the king's nephew. That day, the ladies tended to see Jonadab's actions as wise - indirectly confronting by bringing Amnon into a position where his father would better be able to confront his inappropriate, sinful desires.

What do you think?

Does one of these interpretations seems most plausible to you? Which one?

What is your reaction to women from a different culture understanding a Biblical passage differently than what you may have traditionally been taught, simply because they come from a different cultural context?

Trying to give credit where credit is due:
from whence came that title 
here's where I found that picture of the rams-butting-heads-statue
originally posted here on July 19, 2012

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