I had the most unusual encouragement recently. Part of my job, at the time, I was not doing so well in. When two people approached me, and had the courage and love to come and confront me about it (speaking the truth in love), I was brought face to face with a humiliating reality. They weren’t there to seek my help, for me to minister with them, as most people did. They were there to rebuke me.
And I was soon to learn that I deserved this rebuke.
The experience, within that moment itself, was horrible. I had this whole body hot flush that I had not experienced in some time. Yet, this was such a clean pain; a sort of pain I (ironically) encourage people to bear and to journey with. As a result of my admittance that I had let people down (there was no good hiding from it or getting angry) they offered to help me. But for a moment there I was staring my demise in the face, and I couldn’t even reconcile what possibly I had done wrong.
The courage and love that was shown to me was pure and God-led; a biblically obedient act – for which I am truly thankful. As I committed to learning much more in this area that they highlighted that I was deficient in I knew I would get the chance to work on making amends. God always makes those opportunities available to the willing recipient of his empowering grace.
The main point in receiving bad news well – and a rebuke is bad news so far as human beings experience it – is to hold the moment by resisting pride, which is about making excuses and finding scapegoats with which to handle the responsibility for outcomes we do not wish to own.
I don’t think anybody likes to hear what we call negative feedback. It sticks in our throat. It elicits a physical aversion, which is a powerful physiological reaction of flight, freeze, or fight. And that hot flush reaction!
I wanted to defend myself, because I was the last person who wanted to be found culpable. Yet when the truth is presented there is no need and nowhere to hide. One thing we must love about God’s truth is that once the light has shone upon the darkness that darkness cannot continue to exist as darkness.
The pain involved in bearing the moment of truth – a horrible revelation – that will force us into transformation if we surrender to it (and how could we not?) – is excruciating. But such excruciating pain does not kill us. On the contrary, what seems harsh is intended for good.
When truth is spoken in love, and loving light is shed upon the darkness, there is nowhere and no need to hide. Growth is on the cusp of experience. The truth reveals the way. And love makes palatable the journey.
© 2014 S. J. Wickham.