How easy it is to be defensive. How easy it is to turn away from reproof. How easy it is to fight back or switch off or excuse away the words we do not want to hear. But, if we desire to live godly in this hard and fallen world, we must prepare ourselves to receive reproof graciously.
Let a righteous man strike me—it is a kindness;
let him rebuke me—it is oil for my head;
let my head not refuse it.
Remember that psalms are songs and prayers. The words above are the words of a worshipful prayer. The psalmist wants the Lord to bring into his life righteous people who will reprove him. Even more, he wants to receive it well.
Why is this necessary? We are blind to our blind spots. Though that should be obvious, you’d be amazed how often it is that we do not see our own failings. Just consider how often you see someone do something or hear someone say something and then you think to yourself, “How can they not see that is wrong?” If that happens to people around you all the time, why would you think that you do not do the same? When you walk into a room, you see everyone except yourself. When you evaluate lives, you often evaluate everyone except yourself. And this is why you need others to speak into your life.
How can you be ready for reproof? First, like the psalmist, ask God to give you righteous friends who will be daring enough to speak into your life. Pray, asking the Lord who loves you to bring such people into your church and your circle of friends.
Second, be open with your friends. Do not hide who you are. No, do not revel in your folly either. Just be real. And ask honest questions. Give the godly and mature around you the right to speak into your life.
Third, be wise enough to keep your mouth shut when someone risks speaking into your life. It is so easy, so very easy, to find a way to nitpick the reproof you receive. You might get mad at them for how they say it, for when they say it, or for a minor error they make as they try to make their point. But if you do this, you will keep them from speaking into your life in the future as you miss the point that you need to learn in the present. Listen. Be humble. Be gracious. Assume that your friends who are risking much to speak into your life are wanting the best for you.
Finally, act. Be kind and thankful to friends who will speak into your life and to the Lord who would give you such friends. Then, when the heat of emotion has died down, honestly take a look at what they said. Your friends could be evaluating you wrongly. But if they are, there is probably still something wrong in your life or personality that led them to that conclusion. Be humble. Be godly. Repent when you need to repent. Perhaps even follow up with your friend after a while to see if they see a change.
It is hard to hear hard truth. But it is good. May we pray as the psalmist prayed that God would give us righteous people to speak into our lives. May we respond in a right way to honest reproof. May we prepare for it, receive it well, and react to it wisely for our good and God’s glory.