There’s a time for overlooking a transgression (Proverbs 19:11) and a time for rebuke. Most of us are wired to be “either-or” — not both. We either consider it more loving to ‘absorb’ the offence (forgive and forget), or we believe in confronting people head-on, with little care for how our honest talk makes them feel, because what we’re saying is ‘for their good’.
Ephesians 4:15 does encourage us to speak the truth — but is clear that we are to do so in love. So, what does that look like?
- Rebuke in private, not public — Jesus recommends it as the first course of action (Matthew 18:15). Aquila and Priscilla also set a good example in Acts 18:26.
- Address the subject in question — Don’t dredge up an entire history of every flaw or wrong the person has ever committed.
- Consider what you will say in advance, and what words you will — and will not — use. Will they edify and build up, or will they crush and tear down? Paul exhorts us to ensure our words “give grace to those who hear” (Ephesians 4:29).
- Be intentional about the right time and place — not when one of you is in a huge hurry, or not in the right frame of mind.
- Listen to understand (Proverbs 18:13). If, while the other is speaking, you’re using the time to think of counterarguments to prove your point, you’re rejecting one of the most basic rules of effective communication.
- Do not speak in the heat of anger. It will cloud your judgment, and your harsh words will cause you to lose the person you’re trying to win in the first place (Proverbs 15:1).
Speaking truth is so important — but it must, without exception, be done in love. May the words of [our] mouths… be acceptable in Thy sight, O God (Psalm 19:14).