Wounds from a friend can be trusted,
But an enemy multiplies kisses."
I think this is a concept that we all get and agree with on the surface especially with the obvious stuff. Just think about the last time you had something stuck in your teeth or had a problem with a piece of your wardrobe and went for hours before either someone rudely pointed it out or you finally stole a glance in a mirror and discovered it yourself. Aren't we all just a little perturbed that our "friends" hadn't bothered to let us know that there was something wrong? After all, we could have fixed the problem in a matter of seconds and spared the humiliating thoughts about how many people saw it and were secretly laughing at us. Those situations are easy. In those cases we wholeheartedly agree with this proverb and want our friends to apply it to us. But what about those things that are a little less obvious?
What about when our parents give us an attitude check or tell us to "watch your tone of voice"? What about when our spouses let us know in no uncertain terms that we are behaving or acting childishly? Are we willing to take the criticism of a friend when they confront us with having a smug attitude, secret prejudice, or hidden agenda? I would imagine if any of us thought long enough, we could each think back to past "hurts" that we have received at the hands or mouths of friends. Some of us may even think of a relationship that no longer exists because of a word that was interpreted as an insult. Those times, unfortunately, are not quite so easy to recognize as good "open rebuke" and "wounds from a friend" instead of as lashes from an enemy.
So how do we remind ourselves that someone is looking out for our good and not our bad when it feels like we are taking a beating?
Let me say, first of all, that I am no counselor or therapist and my thoughts on this are nowhere near expert advice; they are simply my thoughts and you are free to use them or dismiss them as you see best. But maybe there are at least a few things we can do to take the sting out of a perceived insult and help us to see the good intended instead of just the pain inflicted.
- Memorize this verse. I am convinced that one of the ways the Spirit works in our lives is through the word of God hidden in our hearts. If this nugget of God's wisdom is such a part of your being that you can quote it at the drop of a hat, then there is a good chance that the Spirit will help you remember it at the moment when you need it the most...like when someone says, "we need to talk" and it doesn't appear the topic is sports.
- While talking to the friend, quote the verse silently. If your blood pressure is rising, there is a pretty good chance you're not going to be able to hear their words anyway. Why not just take a breath and spend a fraction of a second even while they are talking to remind yourself of this truth if for not other reason than to help you stay calm so that you can evaluate whether what they are saying is truth or simply meanness.
- After the conversation, but before evaluating the criticism , evaluate the friendship. I'm not talking about picking apart the friend and all of their faults. That's pointless. I am talking about evaluating the history of the relationship. Have they tried to hurt you in the past? Have they ever sacrificed for you? Have they been a loyal friend? Do they add to your life or do they usually take from you? Do they typically act selfishly or selflessly? If the relationship is not a new one, you should be able to decide rather quickly if they are in fact a friend or an enemy.
- If they are an enemy, then who cares what they said? It's as likely to be untrue as it is to be true even if they were flattering you! However, if the enemy was really trying to get to you, they would probably use something they knew hit close to home. If that's the case, find a real friend and ask them for an honest evaluation of the subject at hand.
- If you're not entirely sure of the relationship, then maybe whatever the criticism, it is worth your time to do some self-evaluation and also to ask a trusted friend.
- If you know they are a friend...then the absolute worst thing any of us could do would be to throw up defenses and start insulting them so we don't have to face an ugly truth in ourselves. Not only will we lose a friend, we will also miss a chance for self-improvement, and even go backward because we have allowed our pride to take another foothold in our lives.
And by the way, before we end, I think the comparison of an open rebuke to hidden love is worth noting. At that point, he hadn't said where the "open rebuke" is coming from. It might be from a friend or an enemy. Either way, it doesn't matter...it's better than hidden love- i.e. love that never results in action. If that's the case...we need to take note of any love that we feel that we conceal by tamping it down or by ignoring it's plea to help someone. How sad to think that a deceitful enemy "multiplying kisses" could win someone else because of their abundance of false love only because the object of their "kisses" hasn't experienced the sometimes "hidden love" of God that we have for them.