OBSERVATION: Do you have a friend in your life that is completely honest with you? Are you open to receive their criticism, even when it is not what you want to hear? Honestly, most of us would rather have someone simply agree with us, or tell us how great our idea is. The book of Proverbs has many things to say about false flattery that is quickly given with the wrong intent. Although criticism is never something we relish or enjoy, when it comes from a true friend it is invaluable!
So how do we judge if the criticism we are receiving is coming from a “true friend”? A true friend is someone who sticks by you through both good times and bad. They know all of your warts and imperfections – and yet they still love you. Their interest in bringing criticism is not to tear you down, but to build you up. They see a blind spot that you do not see, and they want to make sure that you are not hurt, and that you achieve that which is best for your life. This kind of friend does not come overnight. It comes through relationship over time. In fact, relationship is the currency of criticism. I think it can be safely said – do not accept flattery or criticism prematurely from someone who is not a true friend!
What are the benefits of the “wounds” made by a friend? Solomon goes on to write in this chapter several benefits of open criticism from a true friend.
It is a refreshing breath of fresh air to our troubled soul.
- “Perfume and incense make the heart glad, but the sweetness of a friend is a fragrant forest.” (Proverbs 27:9 GW)
A friend is someone who is close and has spent a lot of time with you. Many times they have a better perspective of our needs and our blind spots than our own family.
- “Do not abandon your friend or your father’s friend. Do not go to a relative’s home when you are in trouble. A neighbor living nearby is better than a relative far away.” (Proverbs 27:10 GW)
A friend makes us better, smarter, and more productive.
- “⌊As⌋ iron sharpens iron, so one person sharpens the wits of another.” (Proverbs 27:17 GW)
A friend both sees and draws out the “real you”!
- “As a face is reflected in water, so a person is reflected by his heart.” (Proverbs 27:19 GW)
A friend will compliment you when it is appropriate, but will warn you when things start going to your head.
- “The crucible is for refining silver and the smelter for gold, but a person ⌊is tested⌋ by the praise given to him.” (Proverbs 27:21 GW)
Recently I was editing the final draft of a book which had been on my heart for years. I sent it to a few trusted and wise friends to critique. I was a bit afraid of what they would say, but I knew I needed to hear the honest truth and receive it. Grammar was never my strong suit in school, so I am indebted to a dear friend who helped me clean up the manuscript with its many grammatical errors. And one of my closest friends challenged me on several points. I took these criticisms, prayed over them, and used them to make the necessary improvements. I also received encouragement from several other friends. Now, I have something that is of much more value than what I could have done on my own! I don’t know what I would have done without these “true friends”!
Do you have a friend like this? If not, ask the Lord to show you someone that you can begin to connect with and build a mutually accountable relationship. If you do, let them know how much you appreciate them and their godly counsel. I want to thank all my friends, and especially my closest friend of all – my wife Karen. She has kept me grounded and from making so many bad decisions throughout my life. She is the Lord’s true gift to me. Not to be trite in using a quote from a familiar movie – but she truly has made me a better man!
God Bless all my “true friends”!
In Jesus Name!