I’ve been thinking a lot about encouragement and rebuke. As I progress more in the missional community I’m a part of, here in Chorrillos, Peru, I’m learning more and more about different ways of training disciples and growing the Body of Christ. We use a lot of methods put out by Mike Breen.
One of the phrases I’ve caught onto very fast is “invitation vs. challenge.” Meaning, how you encourage and invite people and let them know they ‘can do it’ in whatever area of their lives they need that encouragement in. Challenge, however defined as inclusive of things like correcting someone, rebuking them, telling them how off they are and so forth.
Constant rebuke without encouragement will only make people think they can’t do anything right. On the other hand, encouragement without rebuke is just ear tickling, and will make people think they don’t do anything sinful. That’s a road that leads straight to Hell. Both encouragement and rebuke–invitation and challenge–are needed, don’t get me wrong. A balance is needed.
I asked this in the form of a question on Facebook and Google+, and got some interesting feedback that’s reflecting some of the thoughts I’m putting in this post. My friend Asha said:
I feel like folks can’t say anything to anybody ESPECIALLY fellow Christians without someone getting all offended. Like it has to be all sugary sweet lest the relationship will cool off. I wish we could love people, be frank with each other and it not cause awkward moments or cooled off friendship.
Generally I’d agree with her–some people you can’t say anything negative to. But on the other hand, what made me think of this, is that some circles I was a part of in the past, I could never seem to develop any relationship with many of the people in it, but the instant I did something wrong, I’d get an e-mail out of thin air from one or two of its leaders, telling me what I’m doing wrong and need to change and what to do to rectify it. In my mind right now I’m desperately trying to recollect situations where I’ve been told anything positive or encouraged in what I’m doing correct, in the eyes of some of these people. One time, a leader in my life told me it’s his job to point out the things that need correction in my life, not just the positive. I agree, but I called him on it and asked him to name a few things I do right, which seemed to have flabbergasted him and leave him struggling to name more than a couple of things off the top of his head. Some of us are good at challenging and rebuking, but not inviting or encouraging.
Meanwhile, and not completely on the other end of the spectrum, but as an example of how to do this balance correctly, my friend Jason is a huge source of encouragement. He’s one of the friendliest most encouraging people I know, and when he has something to rebuke me for it cuts like heck because he has such a grace to him and normally is encouraging me along the way, so he’s earned a place through relationship to be able to ‘come out of left field’ when he sees something in me or my behaviour that needs to be addressed. He’s really one of the only people I know that probably doesn’t have any enemies too or “rub people the wrong way”. I truly want to be more like that. That being said, I’m hard pressed to really take some other people in my life seriously if I only ever hear criticism and correction.
So, one of the things I’m trying to implement in my life is to randomly encourage people. Like, comment on social media to them if I don’t see them in person (since I live in Peru and many of my friends don’t), or telling them something good they’ve said, done, written, or a way they bless me and I benefit in my relationship with them. I’m also trying to put into practice, if I do need to speak correction to someone, to do it in a private way and not a public comment for the whole world to see or in front of a lot of people in a crowded room. I’m working on the “praise sandwiches” which consists of praise, rebuke, and praise again, where, if I have something to say to someone it’s couched in praises to help swallow the pill I’m about to offer, but hopefully not force down the hearer’s throat.
Just some food for thought: If you don’t speak encouragement into someone’s life, what makes you think you can speak correction into it? Likewise, if you only encourage people but never correct them, are you doing them any favours either?
Questions To Ponder:
How do you feel when people only challenge you but don’t encourage you?
Is there a good balance of invitation and challenge in your life towards others?
When you think of offering correction and negative attribution to someone, can you say you are also offering an equal amount of encouragement and positive reinforcement into their life?