It’s on everyone’s mind. No one wants to say it. Everyone knows it’s true. And then the one person who prayed up, built the courage, and practiced it over a hundred times comes up to you and says, Can we talk about something?
Slowly it unfolds. You’ve been doing something that you pushed into the basement of rationalization, and this person is now calling you out. You’ve been hurting people. You’ve been the center of much worried conversation. The person says, “I’m telling you this because no one else will, and because I love you.” Specific examples are mentioned. Remember the time you beat up that kid for fun? There are some offered solutions. Maybe you shouldn’t fight small children. Then the silence.
How do you respond?
A) Lift tables, punch the walls, and throw your shoes.
B) Beat up the person, or if they’re bigger, hire someone to do it.
C) Tell the person about their problems. Insert snooty comments.
D) Come up with a list of defensive justifications for your behavior.
E) Graciously receive and consider the rebuke.
Most people choose A through D. Very few will receive the humble rebuke because very few are humble. And many people don’t know how to rebuke so it comes off too sharp and confrontational. Advice turns into arguments turns into conflict turns into a streetfight. There is, after all, an art to all this. But no matter how hard someone may criticize you, the response is everything.
Ask yourself some things:
- If the truth-teller is a close friend, wouldn’t they be looking out for the best for you?
- Even if not, shouldn’t we consider it anyway?
- Is it possible they’re right about the whole thing? Or at least right about the big points?
- Isn’t it worse to throw a fit? Doesn’t that support their point even more?
- Don’t you think knowing the truth about yourself will actually help you?
- If you had a big fat piece of chicken on your lip, wouldn’t you want someone to tell you about it?
- Can you consider that other people think differently than you and can be hurt by what you think is harmless?
- Do you think it’s possible, God forbid, that you’re not actually perfect?
And still we react in bizarre ways. We run, hide, fight, shoot back, get depressed, pull out hair, lose sleep, talk trash: anything and everything except consider the freaking rebuke. You know, your friend put the friendship on the line to tell you this stuff. Even if they’re saying it all wrong, forget the delivery and focus on the content.
I’m thankful to have friends that aren’t afraid to say what’s what. They’ll call it out in a second. That can get abused too, but I always remember that my friends say it in love. Truth without love is legalism, and love without truth is flattery. We need both. God, help us to humble ourselves.