Who are your truth-speakers?

By Duncan Todd  |  January 28th

He who listens to a life-giving rebuke will be at home among the wise.

He who ignores discipline despises himself, but whoever heeds correction gains understanding.

The fear of the LORD teaches a man wisdom, and humility comes before honour. (Proverbs 15:31-33)

I prefer praise and affirmation to correction and rebuke, but if I fail to acknowledge my need for the latter, I foolishly deny my participation in the human condition. It has been said that the higher one’s position, the less truth one hears. The thought seems to be that people are unwilling to speak hard truths to leaders who they think will not appreciate hearing it! As for me, I don’t like to hear it, but I must. I don’t like being wrong, but someone must tell me! So where can I go to be nudged back on track—to be corrected when I am going astray or rebuked when I need it?

James (1:23-25) speaks of the scriptures as a mirror, and Paul writes that scripture is “useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness,” (2 Timothy 3:16). If I look in the mirror before I leave home, I may be spared the embarrassment of having someone else eventually point out the large piece of spinach wedged between my front teeth after who knows how many smiles. Spending time reflecting in the scriptures, allowing the Spirit to shine a light on those areas of my thinking and behaviour that need correction, may save me the shame of having them publicly exposed. If I have the humility to accept the loving, private correction of God’s word, I will avoid the inevitable humiliation of an unloving, public correction. “My son, do not despise the Lord’s discipline, and do not resent his rebuke, because the Lord disciplines those he loves, as a father the son he delights in. When pride comes, then comes disgrace, but with humility comes wisdom.” (Proverbs 3:11-12; 11:2).

But even if I ignore the mirror and set aside the quiet correction of the Holy Spirit, God has also provided truth-speakers—the trusted “wounds from a friend” (Proverbs 27:6). I need to seek out and surround myself with those who will speak truth and will give correction fearlessly and faithfully. “Walk with the wise and become wise, for a companion of fools suffers harm. Whoever heeds life-giving correction will be at home among the wise.” (Proverbs 13:20; 15:31) Our truth-speakers can be friends, colleagues, parents, spouses, children, students, and many others—if we are only humble enough to hear the truth from wherever it comes. It speaks volumes for the character and humility of David that Nathan, the truth-speaker who brought him his harshest rebuke (see 2 Samuel 12), remained in his service as a trusted lifelong friend.

Whoever corrects a mocker invites insults; whoever rebukes the wicked incurs abuse.

Do not rebuke mockers or they will hate you; rebuke the wise and they will love you.

Instruct the wise and they will be wiser still; teach the righteous and they will add to their learning.

(Proverbs 9:8-9)

It is not the earning of a rebuke that indicates whether I am wise or foolish, but how I respond to a rebuke.

So, I ask myself and you:

  • Who are your truth speakers?
  • How do you respond to their advice, admonitions, corrections, and even rebukes?
  • And on the other hand, for whom are you a truth speaker? Are you willing to care enough to speak even the difficult truths?