From Criticism to Rebuke

Posted on October 22, 2010 · Posted in Communication, Parenting

Man began life on planet Earth as a perfect creature.  But as a creature, man still had one significant limitation—he was finite. He didn’t have all the answers; thus, at times he needed help. Before the Fall, help would have been asked for or received with grace and gratitude. The perfect man, Adam, would have immediately welcomed suggestions or better ways to accomplish things.

But this time of perfection within finite limitations did not last. Man sinned. He became a creature who was not only finite, he was also deeply flawed. Living in this new, harsh reality meant that suggestions were no longer  helpful when people worked together on a project.  Suggestions turned into biting criticism. Sarcasm was initiated.  Mocking followed.  Pride—new  to fallen man—reacted violently to any thought that one’s efforts were less than perfect. Being flawed and finite led to anger, bitterness and fights.

Thankfully, for the good of all of us, God’s grace came to the rescue. In this particular instance, grace came through the wonderful written Word of God.  God knew what was needed to address the relational stress and tension caused by being flawed and finite. To replace biting, nasty criticism, God provided the loving rebuke.  Notice the impact of a well-placed rebuke:

A wise son heeds his father’s instruction,
but a mocker does not listen to rebuke.

From the fruit of his lips a man enjoys good things,
but the unfaithful have a craving for violence.  Proverbs 13:1&2

Because of the ministry of the Holy Spirit through his Word, we know that we are both flawed and finite.  We know that we are born to argue and resist help from others (Galatians 5:19-21). As these two Proverbs teach, we need wise instruction, but pride will not listen to a needed rebuke. Instead of graciously embracing a rebuke given in love, our natural tendency is to respond with violent words or deeds.  At the same time, we know that we are sinful, and that the violent response is wrong.  We know that we can’t lean on our own understanding.  So, a rebuke is a good thing. As Proverbs 27:6 teaches, the wounds of a friend indicate true love for us.

Part of teaching our children to be wise is to teach them to see the value of a rebuke. It is not enough just to correct wrong behavior.  Rather, a wise son will eagerly embrace his father’s direction.  This is not a natural response.  Children are not born wise; wisdom must be taught.  One vital way to teach your children to welcome a rebuke is to model this for them. How well do you respond when you are rebuked?  Fathers, are you approachable?  Are you thankful for others who offer you feedback on your life and habits?  If you struggle with receiving a rebuke  don’t be surprised if your children do not eagerly embrace your words of rebuke.

Because of our sin and our human limitations, we need the rebukes of others.  Without the life-giving conviction of the Holy Spirit, we would be left to own understanding in caring for others.  Which of us is equal to that task?  None of us!  But If you teach your children to listen to correction and receive it gratefully, they will gain a life-skill that will serve them well.  Please leave a comment or question about this important issue.

Jay Younts
Jay Younts is the Shepherd Press blogger. He is the author of Everyday Talk and other materials on parenting. He has been teaching and speaking on parenting issues for 30 years. Jay and his wife, Ruth, live in Fountain Inn, South Carolina. He serves as a ruling elder at Redeemer Presbyterian Church in Moore, South Carolina. He and Ruth have five adult children.