The Ugly Intervention of Rebuke

wherethecherryblossomsdance asked a question:

Hello! I’ve been re-reading some of your posts on rebuking, and I was wondering if you had any more tips? A friend and I are going to be staging an intervention for a mutual friend of ours because we’re tired of seeing her in pain and hurting. I know she’s probably going to be angry with us for this, hence why I was looking for tips on how to rebuke as Jesus would, and how to deal with the aftermath.

Hey dear friend, I know that’s incredibly hard to do and I’m thankful for friends like you who are willing to get in the mess.  I’m not sure I can give you formulas or an outline, because every person and situation is so different.

The one thing I can tell you is that I have never met a single person in the world who can properly handle rebuke.  It’s tough to hear the truth about yourself.  I’m talking about me too.  Even the most mature people I’ve ever known have melted down or flipped out when I calmly explained what I thought they could do better.  It’s a natural part of us to protect ourselves.  Even “suggestions” or “ideas” can threaten other people, because we’re all about self-preservation.  The worst church experience I ever had was making a suggestion to a celebrity pastor, which resulted in a 3am phone call full of f-bombs.

So there are two stages to prepare for.  The first is the initial pushback, when your friend will get emotional about what you’re saying.  They might cuss you out, defend themselves, do ugly cry-face, or shut down.  Let them have this.  Hear them out.  Don’t be too quick to say “You’re just butt-hurt,” whatever that means.  Their defense could be totally legitimate and you can end the conversation on the spot.

The second stage is after the rebuke.  No matter how cool your friend is, things will be awkward for a while.  Maybe two days, or two weeks, or in the case of a pastor I knew, it was almost two months.  Let it ride out.

If you can expect these things, then preparation is at least half the battle.  It won’t go perfectly.  Maybe your friend will surprise you and be the very rare person who takes it well and changes.  But be ready for messiness, and keep on loving like Jesus does.

— J.S.

Also check out:

– What Breaks My Heart Is When You Don’t Hear Mine

– Say Everything

– Please Do Not Rebuke With Self-Satisfying Relish

– Approaching a Leader About Their Attitude

– If You Haven’t Been Told “You’re Wrong” In A While — You Have No Real Friends and You’re Not One Either

6 thoughts on “The Ugly Intervention of Rebuke

    1. Yes, Heather, presentation is key. What I have seen in most instances is either a soft pedal presentation, in which case most people won’t hear or see what you need them to, or an all out assault (my default mode I admit) in which everything is understood…except the part about really caring for them. I think knowing the person you’re confronting should lead you to determine which way the pendulum needs to swing between the two extremes.

      There is indeed a fine balance between direct and loving, confronting and compassion. I’m still learning this.

      Liked by 1 person

  1. Oh boy, am I familiar with this. Trying to lovingly intervene for my friend was the hardest decision I’ve ever had to make in this friendship, and I was aware that she wouldn’t take it well. We’ve known each other since first grade. Things still aren’t the same now, and it’s been a good 6 months. We’re pretty much cool, but (at least for me), there’s a tension that can’t really be undone. But I’m still convinced that what I did was for the better.
    It’s easy for an intervention to come out as “you’re doing all these things wrong”, and there’s gonna be inevitable backlash there. I think the way I did it wasn’t the best way to do it– I tend to lose my train of thought when I get caught up in emotions during real-life conversations, so I pretty much poured my heart into a 3-page letter, made sure it was crystal clear that I cared about her and would be praying for her, printed it out and handed it to her.
    A few months later, I’d found out that the day I gave her the letter she’d skimmed through it, shoved it in her pocket, and got together with some mutual friends explicitly stating that she didn’t want to see me.

    I’m hurt just thinking about it, but I know it’s not the end of things. I’ve had to distance myself because the friendship was toxic the way it was. But I choose to continue loving from a distance. I still feel like it had to be done, and in the end this was a helpful thought: I loved my friend more than I loved our friendship.


    1. I’m sure it was a tough decision that you must’ve second-guessed a million times. I hope your friend did eventually find a space where she could hear the hard truth about herself. I’ve seen the long-term effect when someone can only be around yes-men and groupies, and it’s not so pretty.


  2. Nothing worth doing is ever easy. And sharing concerns, helping one another, and a soft rebuke is always healthy and needed. WIthout these the Church body will be stagnant. This is a great article.


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