I’ve never met a single person who has maturely handled rebuke. Not a single one. Including me.
I don’t blame them. It’s hard to hear the awful truth about yourself.
When we give rebuke, we can expect melt-downs, flip-outs, childish tantrums, tons of backpedaling, and an ugly look into the self-justifying human heart. It’s not pretty. We think we’re okay with saying “I’m wrong” until we really have to say it, without excuses, and then we’re desperately clawing to protect our ego-fortresses because being wrong feels like death.
But we need this. We need to push past the initial hostility of our overreactions. Some of us need to die to this. It is a good death.
Once in a while after a messy rebuke, you get surprised when the mature person comes back. They want to hear you again. After the inevitable awkward weirdness when there’s silence for a week, your friend returns: because maybe there was truth to what you were saying after all.
Maybe your motives were to restore this person and not tear them down. Maybe they discovered you were brave enough to put the friendship on the line to say the hard thing, and that you yourself didn’t get any benefit from telling the truth. Maybe not everything you said was correct: but there was even 1% there that needed to be heard with full conviction.
Maybe they’ll see you’re a real friend, and all these other flattering yes-men are just fakes who were too afraid.
We occasionally surprise each other and learn that friendships are not fun little fantasies built on the shoddy scaffolding of entertainment and hormonal highs: but there is a deeper wellspring, a furious love that cares about the future of the other person and will push you out of the way of a bus, even if it’s a hard shove to the head. It’s a love that knows when enough is enough and it’s time to stop the shallow games and quit the fake laughter and maybe grow the hell up a little bit.
We need rebuke. Without rebuke, we’re left sauntering in an unseen cloud of darkness that threatens to destroy us by a gradual downhill fade. The most dangerous way to die is slowly, unaware, in descent.
We need grace. Without grace, we have no hope of an undeserved love, and we’d be chained to our trophies and crushed by our failures. Without grace, there is no honest space to be rebuked and corrected and bettered. The only way to truly live is to be free to fail, so that we no longer fear the loss of connection, and we retain a dignity for who-we-are apart from what we do. Grace allows every victory to be a bonus, and every misstep a chance to go again.
I hope you have a friend who will do this: or that you’ll find one. Someone who with tears in their eyes and a trembling voice can simply tell you graciously: “You were wrong. The way you handled this, what you’re doing to yourself, how you treated that guy, the choices you’re making: I can’t pretend this is okay. I love you and I would die for you and you mean everything to me, but you’re wrong.”
Please be willing to hear this. Go ahead and flip out and shake a fist and rationalize and pity-cry and melt down: but come back around, because this rebuke could save your life. Come back to the truth, because it hurts them more than it hurts you to hear it, and the only thing you risk is the comfort that is killing you.