One of the biggest “problems” I have had when dealing with people is that I am too straight-forward. I have a hard time being what some would call “tactful.” I call it “sugar-coating.”
Of course, it is easier to catch flies with honey than with vinegar, and over the years I have learned to think more about what I say before I say it. Maybe this book I read all the time (you know it) that tells me to treat others as I would want to be treated (actually, that is part of the problem- I would rather people just tell me what they think), how the tongue controls the entire body and it is full of evil, a well can’t give forth fresh and salt water at the same time, etc. is influencing me to be more compassionate in my treatment and dealings with others. I kind of hope so, but on the other hand (I’m Jewish, so there is always an ‘other hand’) I don’t want to get so nice and make everything so palatable that people want to hear what I have to say because it makes them feel good, and the point I am trying to make is lost in all the “sweetness.”
We need to tell the truth to each other, even if it may mean that their feelings get hurt or that they may not like us.
I’m not sure how to explain this correctly. Obviously, if we just tell people how we feel without any consideration for their feelings we won’t edify or help them. We’ll just piss them off and, since most people are more prideful than humble, the point will be missed, the relationship will be damaged (making any further help less likely) and the whole thing will have been a waste.
I pray that each time one of us feels led to ‘rebuke’ someone we are being led by the Ruach. The Bible does tell us, right where it says to love your neighbor as yourself (Lev. 19), to rebuke your neighbor. That seems to be an oxymoron, but I see the same message- don’t let them hurt themselves. God tells the prophets if they don’t warn the people to turn from their sins then the blood of the people will be on the head of the prophet! That’s a hard word to hear, and a heavy burden to bear. God says in Ezekiel that He is not happy with the death of a sinner; indeed, He wishes that every sinner would turn from his sin and live. Proverbs tells us that if we don’t discipline our children we condemn them to death, and Shaul talks about how a loving Father will always discipline his children and that is why God will discipline us. Throughout the Bible God, Himself, is telling each one of us that we must, for love’s sake, rebuke our neighbor when they are doing something that is harmful to themselves, physically or spiritually.
Just like many other things in the Bible, God tells us what we should do, but doesn’t always supply the instructions telling us how to do it. Like the animal sacrifice: He tells us which animals are acceptable, what condition they should be in, what to do with the blood and the body parts, but not how we should kill them. The Talmud is good for many things, and one of those is for filling in the blanks, so to speak. For instance, it describes the manner in which to kill the sacrificial animal (it’s called Shechita.) I am not a student of the Talmud so I am not sure if it goes into detail about how to rebuke people, but something tells me it does, somewhere.
For those of us who are not Talmudic Talmudim (students, or Disciples), we need to think about what we are saying so that the truth is made plain.If we ‘sugar-coat’ the truth so much that it is tasty to the person, the point will not be made. In other words, poison tastes bad as a warning, and if the words we tell to others are so sweet that they enjoy them, well, the warning is missed.
In nature God has very clear signs of warning with regards to poisons. Poison Ivy is very easy to recognize, it is always three leaves and one of the very few plants (botanists and horticulturists please be kind if I am off a little here) that is very waxy looking. Many bugs that are poisonous to animals are very brightly colored. Warnings that not only protect the bugs life, but by their very nature of being a warning, they protect the life of the predator, too.
We need to protect people’s life by rebuking them when they are doing wrong, and we need to make sure it is loving and compassionate, but still has the bad taste of poison so that they know this is serious stuff and they can recognize the deadliness of what they are doing.
My fear is that in today’s world we are more concerned about how we say something than what we are saying. I know that is how it is, and it frustrates me because I am not tactful, I am not always able to get through to someone who is more concerned about their precious little feelings than they are about their eternal soul. See? Don’t I sound frustrated? I can only imagine how Jeremiah, or Elijah must have felt. Of course, when you can call fire from heaven on people, it does tend to get their attention. All I seem to get is their dander up. I am not against talking to each other compassionately, but I wish that people who want to be talked to nicely would take some responsibility to listen as compassionately as they want to be talked to. It’s all about MY feelings, how you talk to ME, and what I feel. No one seems to listen with compassion enough to hear the “hurt” in the other person’s voice.
Maybe the best thing is to show by example. I always tell people to just let me know what they are saying, or what I did. I hate, hate, HATE it when I am told, third-party, that something I said was inappropriate or hurtful to someone. Then when I ask to know what I said, and to whom, so I can apologize (that is definitely the Ruach in me, and not me, myself, wanting to apologize) I am told that I can’t be allowed to know who it is or what I said (because then I might guess who it was) because the person is afraid or doesn’t want to have a ‘confrontation’ with me. Well, if I have done something wrong, and I am not told what it was, and I am not given the chance to make it better, then why tell me? Telling me I did something wrong doesn’t help if I don’t know what I did wrong! It doesn’t edify me to know I hurt someone then not be allowed to rectify the situation; it just makes me frustrated and frightened because now I don’t know who I offended and now I am afraid to talk to anyone. This is not helpful or in any way bringing people together. It is not working towards communication, it is creating division. And here’s the real kicker!: I see this all the time from Human Resources people. The very ones whose job it is to repair and inspire communication within the working environment, and what they are really doing in order to “protect” people is to foster division and discomfort between the employees. It’s come down to the first one to complain is the winner.
Hmmm…seems I am a little off topic. Obviously, I have some personal ‘issues’ with certain parts of the modern corporate environment, and I digress.
The Enemy loves it when people are more concerned about how others talk to them then with what they are saying. I am absolutely convinced that he is overjoyed at our current means of communicating to each other. Why? Because it is our obsession with how we talk and not what we say that gives him the opportunity to sweet-talk us all into apostasy and sin. He is a smooth talker, no doubt about that! As my wife would say, “He’s got the gift of the Blarney about him, he does, he does.” Actually, she’s Irish but doesn’t talk with a Brogue. I like to involve her now and then in these discussions because she does read them (Hello, Sweetheart!)
Back to Satan…if a rebuke is so sugar-coated that people actually like the taste, the message “You are taking poison and you need to stop taking it or it will kill you” is lost. A rebuke should sting, it should taste bad, and it should warn with the warnings poison has. The deadliest poison is the one you don’t know you’re taking, isn’t it? The one without odor or taste can be consumed over and over, and you won’t know you’ve been poisoned until you are dead. That’s what too much sweetness when rebuking will do- it will cover the bad taste of the poison so much that you don’t know you are killing yourself.
What are we left with? I hope you agree that there is a problem with how we communicate to each other today, that there is need to rebuke people that are killing themselves through sinfulness, and that we need to allow the Ruach to lead us in how we talk to each other when rebuking. If we are all on the same page here, I am sorry to confess that I don’t know what to tell you beyond that. I am the “don’t do as I do” type, not the “do as I do” kind. Shaul was able to tell many of the Messianic Congregations he helped to form that they should do as he does, because he did what we should be doing. I can’t say that because I am not doing what we should do. I guess we all need to look to the Ruach to help us to save the eternal souls of those we deal with that need a good rebuke. Each one of us will have to do this in our own way, and each situation is unique.
I, myself, will do what I can as best as I can to help those that need to be saved from themselves. I will try to let the Ruach lead me in knowing when to rebuke, and when it isn’t necessary; sometimes you just need to move on and let it go. Sometimes you need to stop it dead in it’s tracks. I believe that only with trusting faithfulness, knowing what God wants of us, and asking the Ruach to take charge can I be able to rebuke correctly so that the poison is recognized, the feelings not hurt, and the love that I must have to care enough for someone to risk my relationship with them just to save their soul, will be appreciated.
Whew! I’m asking for a lot, ain’t I? Well, with God all things are possible, even to the point of me being nice to people.