19 July 2012

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 seem to echoingly magnify the background noises of all the other conversations taking place in the restaurant.

Or my littlest munchkin smashing her nose and forehead against my nose and forehead, her preferred mode of snuggling as she falls asleep - sometimes suffocating, but always sweet. (It's really hard to snap a picture of that, but trust me... it happens at some point, every single day.)

How then could it be? That this word defined as the "action of bringing two parties face to face" strikes dread in the hearts of so many. 

That most of us avoid it at all costs.


that we avoid those people who just won't...

...avoid it, 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 - on both the giving and receiving ends.

Biblical confrontation has been our topic of conversation the last several Bible studies.
Check out these links above if you want to see how our chats have gone so far. Each one has included some very interesting and insightful implications, almost all of which have been provided by the ladies from our church. 

At our previous study, after talking about what both Nathan (as confronter) and David (as confrontee) did well in 2 Samuel 12, we read through 2 Samuel 13, an even more difficult account in the Biblical record. In chapter 13, we read a horrific story of several additional confrontations... or ones that should have taken place... none of which were handled correctly by both participants, if they were handled at all.

Like the time before, I did not tell the ladies in our group my understanding first and then ask them questions... I've found that to be a conversation killer. Instead, we reviewed the story and I then asked them to identify the confrontations that did occur (or places where they could have/should have occurred) so that as a group we could discuss what went well (if anything) and and particularly, what didn't go well between the confronter and the confrontee in each situation.

I'd like to share with you the gist of what these women noticed as we worked our way through the first half of this chapter.

The first identified confrontation was between Jonadab and Amnon. The two were cousins and apparently close friends. And 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, however, is the point where this encounter went wrong. Instead of encouraging Amnon to seek counsel, or instead of giving good advice himself, Jonadab recommends deceit and selfish pursuit of what Amnon thinks will make him happy. Jonadab suggests immediate and temporary alleviation of Amnon's discontent, rather than digging deeper to find out why Amnon was feeling as he was and seeking lasting answers and a changed heart. Jonadab also recommended what would appear to be a deceitful ruse.

Because in the Nigerin culture direct confrontation rarely happens, the ladies were quick to point out that it is impossible to completely and accurately judge Jonadab and his  suggestion, for what he advised actually may not have been wrong. His strategy did provoke a visit from King David, Amnon's father, who would be able to confront Amnon from a position of wisdom, experience and also with authority. Jonadab, on the other hand, could only address the issues as a peer. Perhaps, culturally, Jonadab could not directly confront his friend, but he could help his friend set up a scenario where one who legitimately could authoritatively engage in this tricky situation is 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."  In the original Hebrew, the word simply 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 the Bible has to say about this person, Jonadab. He is only mentioned in one other place - later, as the one who 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 with 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. It would also appear that each one could stand alone, or actually be combined in some way, too.

Thus, what did we learn through this example of "two parties coming together, face to face?" We concluded that confrontation can be done in many different ways. We had already seen the example of an indirect confrontation by two who might be considered equals - King David and God's spokesman, the prophet Nathan. Now we were looking at another confrontation between two unequals - the king's son and the king's nephew. These ladies tended to see Jonadab's actions as wise - indirectly bringing another into position who would better be able to confront Amnon's inappropriate desires for his sister.

As for me? I'm more at a loss than ever as to what I think... which is a big part of the reason I'm looking forward to continuing this study with these women.

And this post is already long enough, so I'll have to continue with the next confrontation described in the first part of this chapter another day. But, before you poof away to some other place on the internet, I'd love to hear your responses to at least one of the following questions.

What do you think?

Which of these interpretations seems most plausible to you?

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

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