The wounds of a friend

Proverbs 27:6 – Wounds from a friend can be trusted, but an enemy multiplies kisses.

A common refrain I have been hearing from older generations of workers is that younger employees require what feels like an unhealthy amount of affirmation and praise simply for doing their job. Whether this stems from helicopter parenting, the “everyone gets a trophy” mindset or from being used to getting “likes” and “follows” for everything you do online, it does feel like, more than ever, any criticism is seen as doing violence to another person. And that is a dangerous mindset to have.

Proverbs 27:6 tells us that “wounds from a friend can be trusted, but an enemy multiplies kisses.” In Proverbs 29:5, we read, “whoever flatters his neighbor is spreading a net for his feet.” And in Ephesians 4:15, Paul writes that it is “speaking the truth in love” that causes us to grow to maturity in Christ.” The truth is that we do not see ourselves clearly, and often those around us who observe us regularly can see things to which we are blind or refuse to admit to ourselves. For this reason, it is dangerous to surround ourselves with only people who affirm us and tell us what we want to hear. We all need friends who are willing to wound us, who are not afraid to speak the truth in love to us, for that is how we grow to maturity.

Of course, this sort of arrangement also requires humility on our part. If we believe that we know ourselves perfectly, or if we are too fragile to receive constructive criticism from people who know us, then we will be mired in immaturity. We will end up keeping at arm’s length people who truly do love us and have our best interest in mind, and we will miss out on the kind of conversations that have the potential to bring us to new levels of living.

It is a risky thing to open ourselves up to the honest feedback of others. But one of the best things we can do for our personal growth is to give people who know us the permission to speak into our lives whatever it is they are seeing, or to point out wherever they feel we are not living in line with our values or goals, and then to humbly consider whether there is any truth in what they have shared. And it also takes great courage to give honest feedback to people we know and love. But there is a way to speak the truth in love. It may take asking permission to share something that you’ve noticed, and then saying it in humility, admitting that you may be completely off-base. But if you let the other person know that you want the best for them, then you increase the likelihood that they will be able to hear what you have to say without becoming defensive or rejecting you.
 
Wounds from a friend can be trusted. May we all be that type of friend, and surround ourselves with friends who are not afraid to wound us in order to save us from a worse fate.

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