Do you ever wonder why your brain is so unfair to your heart? For example, if I were to tell my husband, hey, I appreciate you, but you’re loading the dishwasher incorrectly. I would expect him to understand that I was making a corrective suggestion about how to load the dishwasher most efficiently. Period. I’m not making any kind of statement about his self-worth or how much I love him. That is my brain being fair and rational.
But were he to say any kind of corrective suggestion to me, where does my brain instantly take my heart?
Oh my gosh, why do you hate me?
I fully recognize this is, obviously, quite unfair and irrational, and yet, any time I receive correction, I struggle not to tie that critique to my self-worth.
The word “rebuke” feels like a heavy one to me, and correction has always fallen hard on my heart, even if I know it’s perfectly rational in my head. But the reality is that rebuke and correction have a distinct place in our friendships, and if we can learn to handle them with grace and gratitude, we’ll be better for it on the other side.
So, next time a friend comes to you and says, I love you, and because I care about you, I need you to know I think you’re missing it in this area, let’s stop and assess before we fly off the handle at them.
Step 1: STOP the spiral by reminding yourself where your worth is found.
As used in Scripture, rebuke simply means, stop what you’re doing, and correction means, do this instead. When we think about that in abstract, it doesn’t sound so bad. But when someone you respect or really care about comes to you and says, stop what you’re doing and do this instead, it can feel so personal.
Our first step in this moment is to stop the spiral into feeling attacked or put down, or worrying that their love has been withdrawn because of what they’re saying. We can see from a more neutral perspective that correction, when it’s delivered well, means none of those things. A friend can correct a behavior without attacking us as a person. A friend is probably correcting because they want better for us, not because they’re trying to make us feel bad. And your friend is probably coming to you with correction because they love you, not because they suddenly don’t care or hate you.
But in the moment, my feelings are a different story. And the truth is, not everyone is good intentioned in these moments. Our feelings might tell us that’s the norm, but I think, more often, it’s the exception. Nevertheless, it is a possibility. So just assuming the best isn’t a real remedy to stop the spiral. What this comes down to is, who do you give authority in your life to determine your value and worth?
The only one worthy to do that is the Lord, your Creator. When we’re trying to stop the spiral in that moment when a friend is rebuking or correcting us, we can focus on finding our identity in Jesus. The Lord of all Creation saw fit to give his life for you, which means you have inherent value. Nothing anyone says to you changes that. The Lord has the final word on your worth, and he already made that determination when he went to the cross.
With this knowledge in mind, we can put down our emotional defenses and actually assess what our friend is saying in their rebuke.
Step 2: ASSESS the correction.
As we strive to actually listen to our friend’s correction or rebuke, rather than only reacting emotionally, we can ask ourselves these questions…
1. Who said this? What’s their heart for me?
The first important question to ask as we assess a rebuke or correction is who came to you with this correction and what is their heart for me? Is this someone who knows me well and fully? Do they know the real me, see and speak with me personally and often? Do they have a relationship with me, and do they have the right to speak into my life?
If the answer is no, carry this correction with care, and definitely work through the next three questions to determine if there’s truth there, even though this person may be speaking out of a single instance or with incorrect perception. But if the answer is yes, that this person does know the real me, we have a friendship, and she does have the right to speak into my life, even when it’s uncomfortable or hard to hear, then consider – what is her heart for me? If this is a true friendship, her heart for you is probably one full of love and affection. She probably wants abundant life for you, free from the weight of sin. If her heart for you is good and pure, she has probably entered this hard conversation out of love. Receiving a correction from that place, as opposed to a place of judgment or accusation, is much easier to receive.
2. Is this a concern of God or human concern?
Next, consider what kind of thing we’re talking about here. Jesus rebukes Peter in Matthew 16:23 with the well-known words, “Get behind me, Satan.” In this moment, Peter was criticizing Jesus for saying that he would go to the cross. Jesus rebukes Peter, telling him to stop saying such a thing, as it’s more in mind with the enemy than the Lord. To explain his rebuke, he says to Peter, “You do not have in mind the concerns of God, but merely human concerns.” And I think that can be a helpful self-check question for us as well when we are trying to discern if a rebuke is something we should accept. Is this a concern of God or a human concern? If it’s a concern of God, like a primary or salvation issue, then it should be a concern to us too. If it’s more of a human concern, like an issue of preference, the correction might be something we can take more with a grain of salt and evaluate for ourselves.
3. Is this accurate application of Biblical principles?
Perhaps most importantly, we must go to Scripture ourselves to assess a rebuke. 2 Timothy 3:16 says that “all Scripture is useful for rebuking and correcting.” When someone brings something to our attention through the use of Scripture, that should be very humbling to us…if it’s accurate interpretation and application of Biblical principles. Even if someone quotes Scripture to me, I should go to the Word myself and search for understanding.
1 Thessalonians 5:20-22 is helpful in this pursuit. It says, “Do not treat prophesies with contempt, but test them all; hold on to what is good; reject every kind of evil.” Although this passage is talking about prophesy, we can apply this principle to rebuke and correction, as well. We should not treat any rebuke or correction with contempt, just tossing it aside out of arrogance. But rather, test what they’ve said against Truth. Go to Scripture, pray about it, and seek wise council about Biblical interpretation if you’re not sure that what they’re saying is correct. If the rebuke turns out to be wise council, then, of course, hold on to what is good! If it’s off base, reject it as misguided.
4. Are they right about this applying to my life?
The reality is that someone could be correct about their interpretation of Scripture, but be wrong about what they think they’re seeing in your life. As we assess a rebuke, we must consider if the person bringing it is correct in their perception. Pray, asking the Lord to show you proper conviction, and talk to trusted friends about whether they see this in your life or not. Testing the rebuke in this way practices the humility of considering that you could be in the wrong, but also guards you against someone who is off base in their rebuke. When we test a rebuke, both for Biblical soundness and for relevance to my own life in particular, we seek the truth in the matter, and we can then either reject a rebuke that was off base, or hold on to what is a good correction that we do in fact need in our lives.
After walking through these four questions to assess a rebuke, if you come to a point where you feel the rebuke was misguided, even if it was delivered out of love, just let it go. A rebuke delivered with a proper heart posture isn’t responsible for enforcing your change, merely speaking truth as the person felt led. Letting something like this go can sound difficult, but we can hold the words of others more loosely when we know we have honestly brought them to the Lord, thoroughly tested them against Scripture, and humbly asked for those we trust to speak into our lives.
But if, as you assess through prayer, study, and council, you realize this friend has spoken a word of truth to you out of love and honesty, don’t push them away because they corrected you. Hold on to them tighter than ever. A friend who is brave enough to deliver an accurate word of correction to a friend is the kind of friend you want in your life, because they are more concerned about helping you draw closer to Jesus then they are about offending you. And that is a friendship worth the weight of a rebuke.
Love ya, friend.
Your Sister, Kimber
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