“Wounds from a sincere friend are better than many kisses from an enemy.”
– King Solomon
If you’ve ever been in relationship (friendship, romantic, familial, etc.) for an extended period of time, chances are you already know that people hurt each other. It’s been said that the people we love the most will wound us the worst. But what if there’s an element of necessity to that?
The majority of us are probably willing to admit we are not perfect human beings. When you allow someone to get close enough, they are privileged to see more of you… both good and bad. Up close, we’re able to get a bigger and clearer picture of a person as a whole; masks down and gloves off. The people you let close are bound to see your imperfections. This is a hidden blessing. Unless we are made aware that something needs to change, it cannot or will not be changed.
Hopefully, the people you let near to you are people who truly love you and have good intentions toward you. Regardless, the responsibility of such intimate love is to be married to truth and devoted to the beloved’s well-being. Part of that responsibility is having the guts to call you out on things about yourself that need to change. That language may sound like, “I care about you… but this is not okay.” The Christianese equivalent to that is, “Love the sinner, but not the sin.”
It hurts when the people you love, wound you with their love. Our reaction to that hurt is vitally important.
Humans have this innate aversion to pain. When something feels bad, our instinct is to attack or avoid. When confronted with our own ugliness, we clench our fists and find solace in anonymity. We desire to hide in the safety of friends who don’t see. Protect ourselves in the flattery of those far enough away that they fail to perceive our flaws. We can wrap ourselves in words that cut less, but keep us at the same place, in the same situation. Thereby, making those “friends,” enemies to our soul who starve our spirits and stunt our growth.
The other option is to embrace painful words gifted to us by true friends. Those who have our betterment in mind, despite our embitterment at the sting of their words. We must understand that part of love is having the guts to say the tough stuff. This, of course, excludes people who are simply critical. There are some people in this world, even among those we love, who are critical beings. Their words should be taken with grace, and a grain of salt. But, in the same way it is of no benefit for your doctor to turn a blind eye to illness, it does us no good to hope our closest friends would close their eyes to things that will harm the health of our future.
Point being: If we exile every true friend for speaking the truth, we would be left with empty, comforting words that lull us to complacency. Rather, let us allow ourselves to be enveloped by the injury of love; with unclenched fists, being challenged to be changed.