(Note: A downloadable PDF copy of this lesson is available on the last page.)
What is your reaction when a friend confides, “I’m going to be very frank. There’s something about you that I wish were not true”?
Do you grasp his hand and pull him to a chair so he can sit down and tell you your shortcoming? Do you fairly shout for joy that here is another glimpse of your true nature, that you are about to take the first step toward peace: self-discovery?
If he has a compliment, you are only too glad to have him say it; you don’t even draw him apart from the crowd to hear it. But how hard it is to have your faults pointed out.
Much study has been given to the best ways of dealing with a person’s faults. An often-used approach is to first give the person realistic praise in order to soften the criticism that follows. Dale Carnegie taught that if you want to win friends and influence people you should not criticize at all. He had a point. The average person resists facing up to his faults. Quite likely he will reject the person who points out his error.
Jesus Christ gave the precise explanation for this when He said: “For everyone practicing evil hates the light and does not come to the light, lest his deeds should be exposed” (John 3:20). Man possesses a natural dislike for rebuke. He has a built-in resistance to seeing his shortcomings.
We react to reproof as we react to pain. The tendency is to shrink away, to protect ourselves from what we wish were not so. James bluntly described our sinful nature in his epistle:
But what about the feuds and struggles that exist among you–where do you suppose they come from? Can’t you see that they arise from conflicting passions within yourselves? You crave for something and don’t get it; you are murderously jealous of what others have got and which you can’t possess yourselves; you struggle and fight with one another. You don’t get what you want because you don’t ask God for it. And when you do ask He doesn’t give it to you, for you ask in quite the wrong spirit–you only want to satisfy your own desires (James 4:1-3, PH).
The Necessity of Reproof
Reproof, however, is good–like the surgeon’s scalpel or the dentist’s drill. The process is painful, but the result is health.
A man in our town suffered ill health for a year. He was one who didn’t like to go to doctors; he was afraid they might tell him something he did not want to hear. When the man could no longer stand the pain, he visited a physician who informed him he suffered from a malignancy that would kill him within a few months.
“There might have been good hope for your recovery if you had come sooner,” the doctor said.
This man had hated to face the truth. He believed that by denying he suffered or by ignoring the pain, he somehow would get by. But he died–right on schedule.
In human relations, it appears more sensible–at least easier–to ignore one’s own fault or that of another. But the results are strained relations, strife, discord, and personal misery. A simple, effective alternative is, “If we walk in the light as He [God] is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus Christ His Son cleanses us from all sin” (1 John 1:7).
A variety of sources will shed light on your pathway, primarily the Bible. King David said: “Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path” (Ps. 119:105). The Apostle Paul wrote that “by the law is the knowledge of sin” (Rom. 3:20). Humanly speaking, when you step from darkness into light, your first impulse is to close your eyes or turn away. I have found that when we approach the Bible and it reproves us, the response is similar. One wants to turn away because the feeling is unpleasant. It was Jesus who commented about His own words:
Heaven and earth will pass away, but My words will by no means pass away (Matt. 24:35). Blessed are those who hear the word of God and keep it (Luke 11:28). It is the Spirit who gives life; the flesh profits nothing. The words that I speak to you are spirit, and they are life (John 6:63). Sanctify them by Your truth. Your word is truth (John 17:17).
Studying the Bible is a sure way to get at the truth about yourself, but it takes some effort and no one can force you to study it.
The daily requirements of marriage, or the give-and-take situations that arise between college roommates, or the necessity for members of a committee or an athletic team to work in harmony, can likewise be immensely helpful to the individual who would get at the bottom of his problem.