When you keep your thoughts to yourself, nobody can tell you that you might be wrong.
I think we often trick ourselves into thinking it's humble to hold back - to be silent about our own thoughts, ideas, and potentially controversial opinions. Why? Well, it makes a lot of sense when we live in a cancel culture - where one false word could mean abandonment, being blocked, or losing influence. Most of all, it can mean the loss of relationships with people.
Because, in cancel culture, there is only confrontation.
Not loving confrontation, aka, rebuke.
OOOOOoooooo there's the scary Christian word...rebuke. Rebuke. REBUKE. Say it out loud. Let it sink in. What are your thoughts about rebuke?
Rebuke is a largely unacknowledged and unpracticed concept, at least in the Christian communities I've been a part of. We need it. We need a thorough understanding of rebuke. Here's why:
I'm going to go back to sharing for a moment. Do you share your ideas? With what audiences? What family members, friends, coworkers, or other people in your life are regularly hearing your thoughts about things?
Do they need to ask twice, "how are you?" and then again, after you say default, "good," asking, "no, how are you really?" Do they need to have some mind-reading power to know when you are not doing well, or do you openly share? Do you find yourself resentful that nobody is noticing that you're in pain? (all while doing your best performance of being completely okay...) (there's a whole other post I could share about the polar opposite of this - the person who is sharing so much of themselves that they are blind to the needs of others - but for now, let's stick with the person holding back)
What are you afraid will happen if you voice the things you're learning? The things you're struggling with? The ideas you have, the books you're reading, the videos you saw, the conversation you had, the dream, the hope, the wild crazy idea? The question nobody else is asking?
Listen: we need what you have to share. Your pain, questions, struggle, desires, and confusion are NOT an inconvenience. We're all here to sharpen each other and your lack of sharing is depriving all of us of an opportunity to learn and grow together.
And, really, when you don't share with others - you don't invite the sharpening that comes with people disagreeing with you, asking you questions, and potentially even rebuking you.
Uh-oh, there's that word again. Let's dig a little deeper, shall we?
Let's start with discipline. This is another potentially scary Christian word, but one that we're a bit more familiar with. Have you ever received discipline from your parents or another authority figure?
We need to make an important clarification. With parenting as an example, there are two ways of getting discipline very wrong:
1. No discipline. These kids can do whatever they want and get away with it, without any consequences - even if it might hurt themselves or other people. I will offer support and encouragement but will not try to stop their harmful behaviors to help them be better.
2. Harsh discipline (or unloving discipline). These kids are inherently bad and need to be punished for being so. Even if their badness is caused by confusion or misunderstanding, they do not deserve grace for that. I will discipline them but then not offer support or encouragement for how they can do better.
Both of these can be harmful to our growth. One presents too much support, without enough challenge (no growth). The other presents challenge, without enough support (can sometimes produce growth, but often leads to regression).
There is an alternative: loving discipline
Check out Proverbs 13:24, Deuteronomy 8:5, Proverbs 3:11-12, and Hebrews 12:5-11
God's discipline = LOVE
God disciplines us not to harm us, not to make our lives miserable, but because he is treating us as children. God is saying, "I love you and I know you can do better."
This is not based in shame, but in guilt.
SHAME has to do with who we are. Shame says, "I am a bad person," and leaves us trapped there, believing we are unable to change.
GUILT has to do with what we've done. Guilt says, "I did a bad thing," and leaves us open to the possibility of improvement, with genuine repentance (repent means "to turn" - so we can turn from our past, bad actions that make us guilty, into new and better actions).
So God says, "because you are my child, I know you can do better." He affirms our identity as His child in the moments when He disciplines us - Hebrews 12:5-11! God is always helping His children to grow, with loving discipline.
So what is loving discipline? A good way to get into this is to talk about self-love.
When you think about self-love, what comes to mind?
Often times, self-love is branded as a comforting form of self-indulgence, fueled by material things like pedicures, face masks, extravagant trips, golfing, or other ways of "getting away" from the daily grind to rest.
These are not all bad - and God commands us to Sabbath - but right now I'm asking about self-love, not Sabbath.
Self love = self discipline
My friend Jake shared this with me, and it blew my mind. Proverbs 15:32, "he who ignores discipline harms himself," oh boy. Ready for this?
Lack of self-discipline = self harm
OOoooooOOoooh snap hold on. Hold on. Wait a second. Hear me out.
When was the last time you watched something late into the night? "Just one more episode..." 10 episodes later...and found yourself meeting your morning alarm, and your entire next day, with complete anger or apathy?
Here's the thing: in the moment, the episodes were making you happy. They were! But love is not about making someone happy. Love is not about making someone happy. Love is not about making someone happy. Repeat it with me.
If you only ever do what makes you happy in the moment, you aren't loving yourself. You're avoiding short-term hurt, and building up long-term harm.
Here's an example from the book Boundaries on how hurt/harm works:
When you're eating candy, it makes you happy in the moment. But it can cause you long-term harm, by giving you cavities. Now, the painful process of a dentist removing that cavity may cause you short-term hurt...
But what if we could practice self-discipline as self-love, accepting the momentary "hurt" of saying no to what we immediately want, and leading to our long-term growth?
Alright. So. Self discipline is self love.
What about loving others?
What about discipline for others?
This is what rebuke is. Rebuke is not like the love of a parent for a child - where the parent is responsible for the child, and must discipline them - but rebuke is our responsibility to each other as family in Christ.
Rebuke: "to express sharp disapproval or criticism of someone because of their behavior or actions." There it is again: rebuke is about guilt, not shame. We rebuke someone for what they've done, not who they are.
Rebuke always comes out of love. Rebuke says, "I know this isn't what you want in this moment - but I love you, I know who you are, and I know you can do better."
Rebuke faces a problem head-on and brings darkness into light. My friend T once shared how many righteous rebukes become judgement and gossip when we hold them back out of fear.
When God compels us with a truth, we need to respond by rebuking our family! Otherwise these Spirit-given truths turn into judgements that harm us and the person we're afraid to lovingly confront.
Back to love: The ultimate goal of rebuke is to sustain and strengthen the relationship...*breathes in deeply*....THE ULTIMATE GOAL OF REBUKE IS TO SUSTAIN AND STRENGTHEN THE RELATIONSHIP.
Rebuke is not cancel culture. As Christians, when we rebuke someone, we are called to then walk with that person as they figure out how to do better. Rebuke is not a slap and dash. Rebuke is a pray and stay.
Luke 17:3-4 Jesus says, "If your bother sins, rebuke him, and if he repents, forgive him. If he sins against you seven times a day, and seven times comes back to you and says, 'I repent,' forgive him."
And you know how they responded to that?
Verse 5: "The apostles said to the Lord, 'increase our faith!'"
Rebuke is challenging. But we need to do it. We need to ask God to increase our faith in order to do it.
Because rebuke is our practical Christian response to sharing. Sharing and rebuke go hand-in-hand. We don't need to fear rebuke! We need to welcome rebuke, and welcome sharing. We need to disrupt comfortable Christianity.
Alright. I'll leave ya with one last thing - a practical guide for how to rebuke, and how to respond to rebuke:
1. PRAY. God changes hearts, ask Him for wisdom, patience, and boldness if rebuke is necessary. And gurl, sometimes if you just take the time to pray about something He's convict that person directly and you can celebrate that you don't need to rebuke after all.
2. But, if the Holy Spirit keeps pressing you, you gotta move forward.
3. Talk with a neutral and Christ-focused 3rd party. Sometimes it's helpful to talk with someone who has insight into the situation/person, and other times it's helpful to talk with someone completely outside the situation. Here is the thing: this is NOT gossip, as long as you plan to be a part of the solution. It is gossip if you just vent and then do nothing about it. Also, pray together about it.
4. Time & Place - make sure you are approaching this person at a good time (I would NOT handle an early-morning rebuke well, just like my mom would NOT handle an evening rebuke well) and in a good place (it should be private and neutral - possibly even a space where they feel more comfortable than you do!). Also, before you begin, simply ask them, "are you open to receiving some feedback right now?" Those are magic words. And they establish that you intend to bring up something important, and help the person to know they should be listening.
5. Just say it. It will never be perfect, and pray that God will shape your words in the moment.
Your goal: to sustain and strengthen the relationship.
You've done what you needed to do as this person's family in Christ, and you are not responsible for how they respond to your rebuke. You are only responsible to do it, as best you can.
But, here's the reality, responding to rebuke is challenging. People easily feel misunderstood and get defensive. If you are receiving rebuke, you have three things to do: accept, thank, and repent. Sometimes after accepting and thanking, you'll need some time alone to think & pray - then you'll be more ready to repent. Take heart, the person who lovingly confronted you is now spiritually obligated to help you get better :)
2 Corinthians 7:10-11
For the rebuker, thank the person for hearing you out. Give them the space and time they might need to reflect - and continue to pray for them. Forgive them.
Most of all, stay in relationship. Keep sharing. Because sharing and rebuke all come out of love. As Christians, we need to do so much better about this. Consider this my open rebuke to Christians - we gotta learn to rebuke. I love our family, and I know we can do better.
Let's fight this out. Let's boldly share. Let's stomp on some eggshells.
As we say to the Lord, "increase our faith!"
With peace and joy, many thanks and much love,
- big thanks for 9 days of rest
- that I'd actually live this out, listen to the Holy Spirit, and rebuke when necessary
- endurance to run (both the race of this life ala Hebrews 12:1) and literally to keep running because I started running in the mornings and haven't run in years and my whole body hurts.