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Don’t (Dash from a ) Dish and Dash

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He has the right to criticize, who has the heart to help.

I’ve always loved those words of Lincoln.* He knew the sting that criticism brings. Abraham Lincoln lived-and died-a target. He had more enemies than all of us combined, I’d bet. And he knew how to dish: stand-by-me friendship style.

In a “Temperance Address” he said, It is an old and true maxim, that a ‘drop of honey catches more flies than a gallon of gall.’ So with men. If you would win a man to your cause, first convince him that you are his sincere friend. And a soft tongue will break a bone.

When Criticism Comes Without a Heart to Help

I totally did not see it coming. I was broadsided, then they stung. Her words were very personal, strongly worded, and cut me to the core.

Not that those are bad, by the way. But it was dish and dash. The words were served up and she was gone.

In days and weeks that followed, I stretched and asked if we could talk, and try to work things out. But she didn’t reach back. Bitterness tempted me.

I did pray a lot. For me, for her, for pure hearts, for God to get glory out of this mess. And for power to practice what I preach about not being so thin-skinned that we crumble- or lash out-when criticism comes.

And I looked for the kernel.

Look for the Kernel of Truth

Since most criticism has a kernel of truth and we’d best sift to find it, not write it off or explain it away. So I sat and prayed on that a while.

And I sought out a kernel and found it. I asked a few friends if they’d seen what she’d seen. Now that you mention it, one said.

Around then, Marshall Segal’s “Guilty Until Proven Innocent” challenged me big. Try this, he said,

Assume you are guilty when a fellow believer confronts you about your life. I’m not saying respond as if you’re guilty. Don’t immediately plead guilty. But put on a posture of faith-filled, no-condemnation deference, and be willing to test whatever questions or accusations they bring to or against you. 

The Bible tells us to consistently test ourselves anyway, regardless of what others think or say (2 Corinthians 13:5). Don’t assume you are in the right. Ask yourself serious, probing questions about your faith and life. “[God] leads the humble in what is right, and teaches the humble his way” (Psalm 25:9). Why not, then, also use others’ critical comments as an opportunity to truly search yourself for anything out of step with the gospel? “Test [every potentially prophetic word against you]; hold fast what is good” (1 Thessalonians 5:21). With your Bible open, and your heart humble, try their words on, and see if they fit after all.

Best Practice: Serve it up with Love

If dish you must, be sure to serve it up with love.

Priscilla and Aquila didn’t dish and dash on Apollos when he was preaching wrong (Acts 18:18-28).

Paul didn’t dish and dash on the Corinthians. He wrote hard things (1 Corinthians 3, 2 Corinthians 2, 13), then came to be with them (Acts 20:2-3).

Jesus didn’t dish and dash on Peter. He said, “Get behind me, Satan,” then six days later he was one of three Jesus called up to see him transfigured (Mark 8:33-9:8).

God doesn’t discipline and convict and dish then dash on us. God the Father, God the Son, God the Holy Spirit promise to be with us, never to leave us (2 Corinthians 13:11, Matthew. 28:20, John 14:16, respectively).

So let’s don’t dish and dash. Because, says Christopher Abel, criticism is best tethered to a helpful heart. 

Criticism alone is distasteful at best. It’s lazy. It’s an easy way to make you feel better about your own life. But criticism tethered to a helpful heart is how the world is changed. 

Critique the world. Challenge the status quo. Hold people to a higher standard. But don’t stop there. Have a heart to help.

A heart like Jan’s. She has a heart to help. She’s the friend who confirmed, when I asked, an hard truth in the criticism. And Jan stuck around. Her presence beside me is a tribute to God’s grace and a reminder to apply that kernel I found.

The Least Defensive People on the Planet 

And if it’s all true about God never never leaving and no condemnation for us in Christ Jesus, then we should, as Segal says, be the least defensive people on the planet, because the gavel has fallen once for all and we are free. 

Instead of being defensive or angry we should test every criticism offered, whether it’s served dish and dash or stand-by-me friendship style. Because, as Marshall Segal concludes,

Ultimately, there’s only one judgment that matters, and it’s not the courtroom of your friends’ opinion. Through Christ, God has already ruled decisively and eternally on your behalf and in your favor.

*   *   *

One hundred fifty years ago Lincoln saw the “storm coming.” He was bitterly attacked for his stance on slavery. In the face of critics on the right and left, Lincoln said

If He has a place and a work for me- and I think He has- I believe I am ready. I am nothing, but truth is everything.

He has the right to criticize, who has the heart to help, is great. But, I am nothing, truth is everything, that might be better. At least when you’re the receiver.

Criticism is one of God’s gifts to conform us to Christ, and this gift won’t always come sweetly. But being conformed to the image of the Truth Himself is way more important than how the criticism was served.

Because I-my image, ego, I- am nothing. And Truth, who loves me and will never leave me, is everything.

Finally, brothers, rejoice.

Aim for restoration, comfort one another, agree with one another, live in peace;

And the God of love and peace will be with you.

2 Corinthians 13:11

Abraham Lincoln

*The quote is, however, “spurious.” Still I love it. And Lincoln.

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Taking Wounds

Faithful are the wounds of a friend; profuse are the kisses of an enemy.  Proverbs 27:6


You wore that? To work, Hon? Those stripes with that plaid? 
I did, he said, calm as a clam. And no one said a thing. None of my patients. None of the staff. 
But, Honey, they’re not married to you, I reasoned. They’re not vested. I would never tell my doctor or my boss that his clothes clashed. Not my place.

*   *   *   *   *

Some faithful, friendly readers have told me, Get to the point. Sooner. And, A bit long-winded.

So, here she is: The rare times a trusted friend is gutsy enough to confront you in love, take it. Don’t rationalize and rebuff or get hyper-sensitive and turn to mush. Hard as it is to do, if it came from a faithful friend, you’d best listen.

(Back to the point. Sooner.)
The point here is not how to confront, when to confront or why to confront. The point is when you are the one confronted-wounded-as it were, by a faithful friend, to take it as God’s gift to you .

But I cringe, too. When my lovingly bold friends have cared enough to ask, “Can I talk to you for a minute?” I cringe. I dread. I admit I worry a while, too, because nobody wants wounds. 

(But keep this simple, to the point.)

Let’s assume the “confronter” has already done his hard work before he comes. He’s overlooked what he could (Proverbs 19:11), covered more in love (1 Peter 4:8) and then removed the log from his own eye (Matthew 7:5). And he’s gotten over his cowardice.

Now he comes. Bearing a precious gift that only a friend can rightly bring. He tells you what some others see, but don’t care enough to say. He tells you that tie, that plaid-they clash. The Christ you claim, those words you say-they clash. The disciple thing, the greedy weed he sees-they clash. 


Faithful are the wounds of a friend. It’s enemies, like Judas, that multiply kisses. And Peter was one of Jesus’ three besties. How much do you think “Get behind me, Satan” cut?  The penultimate Faithful Friend delivered that blow.  
(Short-winded. To the point.)

Now he comes to you. A trusted friend has said it. He’s said your fly’s down and there’s spinach between your teeth. He’s wounded you in love. He’s bucked the system where so many, 

[S]link away from the confrontation entirely, either because they fear it or because they have bought into our society’s hedonistic, relativistic view that places a premium on letting people do their own thing, regardless of how sinful that ‘thing’ is. (Ken Sande, Peacemaking For Families, p. 38)

Dawson Trotman said, “There is a kernel of truth in every criticism. Look for it, and when you find it, rejoice in its value.” We’d best spend our energy seeking kernels, not explaining criticism away.

And let’s not get all groveling-sensitive. Let’s have thicker skin, and softer hearts. Not vice versa. Let’s look the nugget of truth in that thar’ criticism and when we find it, let’s take it and get back up.

I do not agree that when all is said and done, friendship is but, “the giving and taking of wounds.” No way, no how. But friendship will include some wounding, this side of heaven, when faithful friends are lovingly bold. It’s part of the deal. It’s modeled by God and it’s for our good. He wounds and his hands bind up (Isaiah 30:26, Job 5:18, Deuteronomy 32:39).

(To the point, to the point. Not too long and windy.)

The point: Find the kernel in the criticism and take it as God’s gift for you. Humbly take the wound. Die that little death. Adjust, correct or repent where you ought.

Then get right back up and press right on toward the goal. And go with joy and with rest assured, since you’re alive. Your response to the wound proved it. Because, like C.S. Lewis* said,

A live body is not one that never gets hurt, but one that can to some extent repair itself. In the same way, a Christian is not a man who never goes wrong, but a man who is enabled to repent and pick himself up and begin over again after each stumble-because the Christ-life is inside him, repairing him all the time, enabling him to repeat (in some degree) the kind of voluntary death which Christ Himself carried out. 

Baptized into his death. Repaired by faithful wounds. Alive to God in Christ.

For if we have been united with him in a death like his, we shall certainly be united with him in a resurrection like his. So you must also consider yourselves dead to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus.

Romans 6:5,10

*Mere Christianity, Book II, Ch. 5