Charles Lowery complained to his friend about lower back pain. He was seeking a sympathetic ear, but what he got was an honest assessment. His friend told him, “I don’t think your back pain is your problem; it’s your stomach. Your stomach is so big it’s pulling on your back.”
In his column for REV! Magazine, Charles shared that he resisted the temptation to be offended. He lost the weight and his back problem went away. Charles recognized that “Better is open rebuke than hidden love. Wounds from a friend can be trusted” (Prov. 27:5–6).
The trouble is that so often we would rather be ruined by praise than saved by criticism, for truth hurts. It bruises our ego, makes us uncomfortable, and calls for change.
True friends don’t find pleasure in hurting us. Rather, they love us too much to deceive us. They are people who, with loving courage, point out what we may already know but find hard to truly accept and live by. They tell us not only what we like to hear but also what we need to hear.
Solomon honored such friendship in his proverbs. Jesus went further—He endured the wounds of our rejection not only to tell us the truth about ourselves but to show us how much we are loved.
Think of a time when a friend said something honest that caused you pain. Did it benefit you? Is it wise to accept everything our friends tell us?
A friend is one who can tell you the truth in love.
Ephesians 4:15 is a New Testament counterpart of Proverbs 27:6. It refers to two virtues that we must learn to keep in balance—“speaking the truth” and “love.” The word “speaking” is actually not an explicit part of the original Greek text, but is translated from a single verb. Some translators have suggested that the verb might better be rendered “truthing it” or “truthifying it in love.” The verb, when joined with “in love,” implies a lifestyle of integrity where truth is united with love. If we emphasize truth without love, then we can brutally hurt another person. On the other hand, if we express love at the expense of truth, we can fail to caringly confront some sin or problem that genuinely needs to be faced.