How to Take a Rebuke

I'm a competitive guy. I hate to lose, hate to fail, and hate to miss the mark. 

Recently, I lost, failed, and missed the mark. So, you can imagine that was a great day for me. Upon receiving the email containing this news, my stomach churned. I did not want to believe, much less receive, the news that I had not achieved my goal. Even though the email was lovingly worded, came from a friend, and was oriented toward my good, I bristled. But, after a moment of prayer, I re-read the email. I thanked God for putting someone in my life who loved me enough to rebuke me, for the chance to embrace humility, and for the opportunity to grow. 

A Generation of Over-affirmation

In the world where everyone gets a trophy, teachers aren't allowed to challenge students, and the norms of authority have been all but obliterated, it's no wonder that few know how to receive a rebuke. If we've been told all our lives that all of our flaws and mistakes are intrinsically a good part of our nature, then we'll never receive correction. Correction will be confused with confrontation, or worse—hatred. So, my generation (and the generation behind me) is filled with men and women who are convinced of their individual deservedness for respect, but without the troublesome process of learning—even through rebuke—to become respectable.

Yet, I'm convinced that if you can't receive a rebuke, you don't deserve to lead. So, here are three ways I'm learning to receive rebukes better.

Love the Rebuker

If someone takes the time to bring good correction, that's a sign of love, not hate. I'm not talking about some just throwing shade, but someone who speaks a hard truth that you don't want to hear. Do you know how hard it is to do that—to deliver a loving rebuke? I find it an act of profound love when someone I respect has the courage to tell me that I blew it. Love speaks the truth (1 Cor. 13:6), and loves those who speak it. 

Lean in to the Rebuke

In his book on leadership, Billy Graham gave the simple advice of letting his critics become his coaches. When someone would confront him about his mistakes (even if they did so with a bad attitude), he listened, and tried to learn from them. When someone comes to me with a hard truth, I must resist the temptation to write them off. I want to push away, but I must lean in. 

Embrace Holy Humiliation

No one likes to be humiliated. But Christianity is a religion centered on the cross — an instrument of public humiliation. When we pick up our crosses and follow Jesus, we're signing up for the humbling work of God in our lives, and that work may very often be done through others. When God humbles you, let him. Don't buck against it. Don't stiffen, soften. The work of humiliation will, if embraced, lead to your sanctification.

How do you react when you fail and someone lets you know? What's your response when you miss the mark and there are few emails waiting to tell you as much? Friend, learn to take the rebuke. On the other side is a better version of yourself that God is forming and world is longing to meet. Take the rebuke to get to the reward.