Written By Debra Valley, Nigeria
I remember the day vividly. I was sitting in my brother’s room, cooling off after an argument with my best friend. I’ll never forget what my best friend said to me. She certainly hadn’t spared my feelings: the gist of her words had to do with me acting like a spoilt, selfish brat.
I was smarting badly and my first thought was to exact revenge in some way, or to just ignore what she had just said. But, like in several other times in the past, I took deep breaths to calm down, evaluated what she said, and reminded myself of this Bible verse: “Better is open rebuke than hidden love. And the wounds from a friend can be trusted, but an enemy multiplies kisses” (Proverbs 27:5-6).
Even though I was upset with the way my friend had delivered her opinion, I knew her words had some truth in them. So I swallowed my pride and took the initiative to greet her when she walked past my brother’s bedroom to the adjacent room we shared. You see, my best friend was—and still is—my sister.
My attempt at reconciliation stopped my sister mid-stride. She redirected her steps and walked towards me. What she said next struck me—till this day. She said: “I admire you for one great quality you have. No matter what and how someone points out something wrong about you, and no matter how you act in the heat of the moment, you always listen, sift through the words and accept correction. You are also always willing and often the first to make peace and reconcile after a fight. Those are godly character traits you should never lose.”
She may not know how much those words impacted me that day, but what she said to me then always comes to mind whenever I find myself in a situation where a friend or even an enemy rebukes or criticizes me. Whenever someone finds fault with my behavior, I will retreat to a quiet place and ask for the Holy Spirit’s counsel, comfort, and advice.
Sometimes, verses will spring to mind, pointing to the fact that I do indeed need to accept correction. Other times, it becomes clear that the rebuke or criticism—though well intentioned—was unfounded. For instance, Job’s friends believed they were giving righteous criticism of their friend Job, only to be rebuked by God in Job 42:7-17. Therefore, I will always go to God to check if the rebuke is indeed from Him.
As a leader, writer, but most importantly, as a Christian, I have grown to embrace rebuke and criticism. Constructive criticism—and sometimes, not so constructive criticism from true friends—helps us grow and keeps us on the right track. I also believe it is essential if we want to become better individuals in all areas of our lives. After all, the Bible states in Psalm 141:5: “Let a righteous man strike me—that is a kindness; let him rebuke me—that is oil on my head. My head will not refuse it”.
True friends will call us out; they won’t always be our cheerleaders. A person who really loves us and wants the best for us will let us know when we are taking the wrong path, because they want what’s best for us.
In my walk as a Christian, I have been blessed to have instances where I have been rebuked by genuine friends, whom the Bible describes as those who stick closer than a brother (Proverbs 18:24). Ultimately, I believe that rebuke from God—whether it is through His word or others, such as our friends—should be welcomed and celebrated. In Revelation 3:19, the Bible states that “as many as I love, I rebuke and chasten: be zealous therefore, and repent”.
Will we be willing to be pruned so that we bear the best fruit?