Courageous Conversation

A Courageous Conversation is one of the first essential conversations in the Relationship Matters framework that requires you to blend two key elements of mercy and truth in order to resolve pressing issues and at the same time develop greater levels of trust in our relationships.

Proverbs 16:6 states "By mercy and truth iniquity is purged: and by the fear of the LORD men depart from evil." The iniquities of self-will, and our pride is what causes so much of the tension in our relationships. Our pride reveals itself in our conversations when we say to ourselves, “We will have had a good conversation when you listen to me and agree that I’m right.”

This form of conversation does not include God’s mercy and truth which sets us free, but it focuses on our own rights and expectations which cause wars among us as James 4:1-17 points out so clearly.

If, instead, you use the Courageous Conversation where you will be more interested in seeking to give mercy and truth rather than being right, you will see truly miraculous reconciliation take place. God has said “And having made peace through the blood of His cross, by Him to reconcile all things unto Himself; by Him, I say, whether they be things in earth, or things in heaven.”

God has already done His part, the question is will you receive the grace He has already provided by humbling yourself and allowing your iniquities to be purged by His mercy and truth. When your sins are pointed out and you humble yourself and confess them, God cleanses us.

In this process, you may become so free that you have a fresh fear of God come upon you as you see His power made manifest in your lives and relationships. You will depart from further evil so you can experience a greater level of intimacy and freedom in Christ.

The three goals of a Courageous Conversation are:

  • Wisdom to see from a bigger perspective. When we see as God sees we will want to do as God does. The counsel of others will broaden our perspective. God can even use a donkey to help us see our blind spots. He will test our humility by sending us the most unlikely messengers.
  • Understanding that will establish trust in the relationship. When we see from another’s perspective we begin to understand why they do what they do. When you seek to understand a person, it doesn’t mean you have to agree with them. When you provide them a safe environment of mercy, it will allow them to see their own false beliefs and begin to question their perspective if it is based on lies. A man convinced against his own will is of the same opinion still. Our goal is to look with another person at their own thoughts and beliefs so they consider the trustworthiness of their perspective.
  • Knowledge so we can take the next step. When people gain wisdom and understanding by allowing the beatitudes of Christ to control their spirit, soul and body, then God will grant them the knowledge of His will to resolve any issue.


I agree to hear you until you are satisfied that I have considered your trouble and known your soul in adversity.

I agree to…

  • Listen from your perspective
  • Show respect by staying in the conversation
  • Not complain, explain, or blame
  • Restate the meaning of the message to your satisfaction
  • Gain wisdom and develop understanding to establish a relationship of trust, and to use the knowledge to resolve our issues for good, not for evil

I agree to seek God’s will for our lives and our relationship.


I agree to…

  • Speak the truth in love
  • Provide a safe environment for listening
  • State the facts I am basing my feeling on instead of making my feelings the facts
  • Allow you, the listener, to summarize the meaning of my statements
  • Be willing to clarify my statements until you have understood the message to my satisfaction

I agree to seek God’s will for our lives and our relationship.

Listener's Prayer


I am willing to be made willing by Your grace. Give me the ear of the wise. Help me to understand my wife/husband and live with them in understanding, that our prayers would not be hindered, and that we would be able to resolve every issue that comes up. Enable us to cast all these burdens on You. So Lord, I choose to be a willing man/woman. I don’t know what I am going to face in this conversation. But Lord, give me the grace to be strong in the power of Your might.


Speaker's Prayer


I give you myself, and ask that You would give me the words to speak to my husband/wife, that I would not tear him/her down, but that we would be able to walk through this issue together. Give me gentle words, but also let me express what is going on in my heart, so that I can sense that he/she knows me, and that You know me. I want to be able to glorify You, Father, and at the end of this conversation to be able to say, “I praise You, Lord, for You have heard my voice.” So, I receive now the wisdom to speak the words that we need to talk about right now.


Questions 1 & 2 deal with the Pressing Issues. Very rarely will you ask someone if they would like to have a Courageous Conversation directly. You will most likely realize that there is a problem because someone is either acting hurt or trying to get you to understand their viewpoint. When you see that a conversation is turning combustible because you don’t feel understood or the other person is frustrated, it should dawn on you that you need to humble yourself and esteem the other's need to be heard as greater than your own.

This is the third beatitude of Jesus: God blesses the humble, for they will inherit the whole earth.

You can say, “What I hear you saying is that your most pressing issue is…” or if they have brought out multiple issues, “What I hear you saying is…, which of these is the most pressing issue?”

The goal in this question is to get to the real issue. Most people may not be aware of how to describe their most pressing needs. Listen to what they say and try to see where one of two root issues may be causing the intense feelings.

  • Fear of Rejection – This issue or person is making me feel like I am unacceptable and I don’t feel good about myself because of it.
  • Fear of Failure – This issue or person is making me feel inadequate.

Think about how the woman’s most important question is being answered. Frequently, a woman asks herself constantly “Am I worth being pursued?”, so when her husband is not initiating the conversation or showing interest in her issues, she feels rejection.

With men it seems the major question they are asking themselves is “Am I adequate, do I have what it takes to succeed?” When they feel like others view them as inadequate or their ability to succeed is hampered then they begin to experience tension.

Sometimes people don’t verbalize these root issues and you need to sense if they are willing to acknowledge that this fear is present, otherwise let them determine their most pressing issue and agree to pursue this course with them.

It is important that you write down the most pressing issue in a concise sentence because all the other questions will refer to this issue. You can only deal effectively with one issue at a time.

Questions 3 & 4 deal with the painful consequences of an issue. The beatitude of mourning can be displayed by the listener as they show empathy for the other person. When a person feels heard and cared about they can begin to move on to resolving their issues. It is a rare experience for most people to feel safe enough to talk about anything because there are so few people who can listen from another’s perspective. One definition of intimacy I like is “In To Me See.” When we look through another person’s eyes and see as they see we can begin to understand why they are behaving the way they are.

When you take the brunt of their intense emotions and don’t defend yourself, but mourn over what you may have caused or what others have contributed to, you are following the command “to rejoice with those who rejoice and mourn with those who mourn.” It also allows you to see just how serious of an issue this is and what the cause and effects are for yourself and the organization.

Rephrase what you heard the person say to their satisfaction. This is a part of engaging in the conversation and helping the person feel understood.

The second part of this question allows you to see how that person acts when they feel a certain way. They may get angry, they may withdraw, they may get busy. It's a clue for you for the future as to how they might be feeling when you see that action taking place.

This question is a real motivator because you begin to see the high cost of doing nothing. You really need to consider just what the future could be and not gloss over this one. It helps everyone to be more committed to resolving the issue.

Rephrase what you heard the person say to their satisfaction. If they are not satisfied that you understand, allow them to rephrase their statement, don’t try to guess, but be patient until they can verbalize their own thoughts. A right answer is like a kiss on the lips, and in this case it is a answer that shows you understand them.

Questions 5 & 6 deal with the personal responsibilities of those involved in the issue. When you ask this question you are showing a noble willingness to yield your rights and become meek and lowly, a servant like Christ, one who lays down his life for a brother. It also reveals a hunger and thirst for Christ’s righteousness rather than defending your own. This is the question most people fear to ask. It takes grace to die and lose your life, but God promises you will find it if you willingly lay it down. This question opens up the opportunity to really understand the heart of another, they want to share with you their real needs. If you begin to explain, complain or blame them in response to this question then you will have failed and turned a courageous conversation into a combustible one due to cowardice in not laying down your life.

Rephrase what you heard the person say to their satisfaction. The goal of rephrasing their statement is to try and understand their heart. If they verbalized it well enough you can simply restate their comments, if God gives you further insight then be willing to wait until later to share this with them. Do not try to make up new statements because you don’t want to use their words, it will change the meaning. Our goal is to reveal that we do understand their heart.

This question is one the speaker is totally unprepared for because they have probably taken on the role of a victim. With this question you help them begin to move out of being a victim into a response-able person. They can begin to share in the responsibility of resolving this issue. The turning point of the whole conversation starts with this question.

People who are speaking begin to show mercy to the listener if they have demonstrated humility, mourning, meekness and a hunger and thirst for righteousness. Some people will maintain a victim mindset. It is easier for a mediator to deal with this issue than a person who is part of the issue. If I am part of the issue I simply say “What I hear you saying is...“

Questions 7 & 8 are about the preferable future. This question turns the focus on what has been to what could and should be. It creates hope in the people because they begin to share a vision that both can agree on. When they realize how much they agree on their desired future they begin to walk together in agreement. This question begins to restore a sense of partnership and enthusiasm for what could and should be in their relationship and organization. God begins to give them a pure heart to see the future as he sees it, full of plans for good and not for evil.

Restate what you heard them say the preferable future could be.

The second part of this question allows you to create a plan for when you fail and how you will recover. It's a way for your spouse to let you become consciously competent by having them (gently) point out your error. It might be a memorable sentence or code word that you do not find offensive. What can your spouse safely do and say to help course correct and connect with them? What can you safely do and say to acknowledge your failure?

This question is an acknowledgment of Psalm 55:22 We are to cast back on the Lord all our burdens that a conversation like this can create. We now know our responsibilities and the preferable future and we will either try to do it in the power of our flesh or we will cast our burdens on the Lord and acknowledge our weakness and dependence on Him to perform all things for us. When we agree in prayer right then we invite God's power to impact this issue. Psalm 133:1-3 says that God commands a blessing when brethren dwell together in unity.

Come together in prayer and ask God for this one thing.

If you are in a secular setting, use the question "What is the one thing that we can agree upon?"

Questions 8 & 9 have to do with making Powerful Plans. This question helps us focus on one thing that will make all the difference if we execute it with consistency and excellence. We are looking for one thing that will help us move towards the preferable future. It is an idea such as “We cannot fail to communicate.” It is an objective that is simply understood by everyone. For a doctor going into surgery, the one thing he cannot fail to do is wash his hands well or everything else he does will be rendered inconsequential. What is the one thing that you cannot fail to do or everything else will be rendered inconsequential? Understanding this one thing puts you on the path to making peace.

Andy Stanley wrote a book about the “Most Important Question” and he states it like this “What is the wisest step you should take based on past experience, present circumstances, and future hopes?” These are the steps you can put in your planner. It describes who will do what by when. These are highly leveraged steps that will yield the greatest results. They are the 20% activities that will yield 80% of your results.

May God grant you the knowledge of His will in all wisdom and spiritual understanding that you may walk worthy of His noble calling and produce fruit that will stand the test of eternity as you make noble plans and carry out noble deeds.

Stressed: Distressed, Puzzled, Annoyed, Amazed, Troubled, Miffed, In a Fog, Distant, Offended, Hurt, Inner Turmoil, Distracted, Stifled, Cornered, Unheard, Overwhelmed, Questioned, Agitated, Apprehensive, Desperate.

Alone: Left, Bereft, Destitute, Unprotected, Shut Up, Left to Fend for Myself, Misplaced, Displaced, Unclaimed, Left Out, Unsheltered, Exposed, Forsaken, Helpless.

: Unwanted, Undesirable, Unlovable, Unworthy of Pursuit, Unpleasing, Unlovely, Unattractive, Inadequate, Untapped, Unneeded, Not Cherished, Criticized, Trivial, Loathsome, Inferior.

Mistreated: Berated, Walked On, Run Over , Trampled, Pressured, Violated, Defiled, Spoiled, Desecrated, Degraded, Scattered, Shattered, Battered, Curtailed, Limited, Used, Oppressed, Ridiculed, Persecuted, Taunted, Hated, Despised, Crushed.

Needy: Waiting, Longing, Wilting, Vulnerable, Timid, Fearful, Impatient, Emotional, Possessive, Jealous.

Distrust: Leery, Wary, Distant, Resistant, Put Out, Angry, Perturbed, Aggravated, Turned Off, Unloving, Cold, Hopeless, Hardened, Bitter.

Heavy: Saddled, Burdened, Weary, Frail.

Dishonored: Put Down, Picked On, Patronized, Degraded, Despised, Rebuffed, Held in Contempt, Belittled, Disrespected, Not Appreciated, Not Considered, Unheard, Reprimanded.

Inadequate: Powerless, Inferior, Weak, Inconsequential, Unimportant, Impotent, Insufficient, Ignored, Like a Failure, Devalued, Can Never Please, Undesirable, Unloved, Marginalized, Excluded, Troublesome, Avoided, Useless, Incapable, Unsatisfactory, Insignificant.

Sad: Turmoil, Grief/Grieved, Upset, Discouraged, Disconnected, Despair, Shut Down, Unforgiven, Burdened, Hopeless, Confused, Devastated, Lost.

Angry: Disgusted, Concerned, Dissatisfied, Displeased, Frustrated, Rebellious, Enraged, Reactive, Resistant, Resentful, Out of Control.

Accused: Attacked, Misunderstood, Discredited, Defamed, Judged, Shamed, Guilty, Beat Up, Vilified, Crucified.

Unsafe: Uncomfortable, Threatened, Insecure, Unsure, Scared, Freaked Out, Panicked, On Edge, Unprotected, Defensive, Agitated, Embarrassed, Provoked, Tense, Controlled, Dominated.

Rejected: Unacceptable, Disconnected, Abandoned, Deserted, Bereft, Neglected, Repulsive, Betrayed, Hated, Loathed, Cut Off, Out of the Loop, Shut Out, Alone, On My Own.

Demoralized: Closed Off, Withdrawn, Isolated, Disinterested, Apathetic, Disloyal, Uncooperative.

Restricted: Manipulated, Denied, Curtailed, Confined, Unfulfilled, Imprisoned.

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