An open rebuke is better than hidden love! Wounds from a sincere friend are better than many kisses from an enemy. … As iron sharpens iron, so a friend sharpens a friend. [Proverbs 27:5-6,17 (NLT)]
When I was asked if I’d ever been hurt by a fellow believer, I had to reply that in my seventy plus years, I’ve been hurt (both intentionally and unintentionally) by all sorts of people, including the most devout of Christians. When asked if any Bible verse helped guide my response to the hurt, Ephesians 4:32 came to mind: “Be kind to each other, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, just as God through Christ has forgiven you.” I was then asked what I’d learned from my experiences. The first take-away, learned the hard way, was to immediately ask God to put His arm around my shoulder and His hand over my mouth before I said something stupid or nasty. The second was that, as tactless, unkind, petty, and rude that both Christians and non-Christians can be, they also can be right!
It’s been said that the truth hurts and, indeed, it often does. Every now and then, we’re on the receiving end of judgment, criticism, rejection, condemnation, or disdain. While words of correction should always come out of love, sometimes they’re delivered out of anger, jealousy, or spite. Nevertheless, we need to distance ourselves from the circumstances, personalities, and hurt feelings to ask ourselves a simple question. Is there any truth to what was said? No wiser or smarter than the next guy, we’re not always the ones who should be giving critiques, suggestions, or instruction. Sometimes (perhaps more often than not), we’re the ones who should be on the receiving end.
Occasionally, we get so committed to a plan that we fail to see there may be a better way or are so vested in being right that we ignore the possibility of being wrong. As a result, we become so tenacious in our defense that we fail to see the validity of any criticism or so determined to claim victory that we fail to see resolution or compromise. As unpleasant as it may be, we need to stop and prayerfully examine the message. The delivery doesn’t have to be pleasant or welcome for the criticism or comment to be valid.
God doesn’t want us living in error; He wants to turn our weakness into strength, our faults into attributes, our falseness into truth, our confusion into clarity, and our messes into messages. God’s correction is always good but it rarely appears printed on a sweet candy heart. Just because it doesn’t come wrapped in a polite loving package, however, doesn’t necessarily mean it shouldn’t be heeded. Although I would prefer correction from the comforting voice of someone who truly cares for me, some of the best advice I ever received came seasoned with a little spite and rancor. God used a talking donkey to give His message to Balaam and He will use both sensitive and thoughtless believers and unbelievers to send His correction to us. Just because the truth sometimes hurts doesn’t mean it isn’t true.