Leaders have a difficult time with rebukes. It is not that we have a special problem of pride. No, not that (though we certainly face this temptation maybe more than others). Rather, the difficulty stems from our high visibility and the fact that we make decisions which affect the lives of others. We often face unfair criticism from those who disagree with our viewpoint and actions and therefore we may develop a protective filter.
Yet it is critically important that we be open to genuine rebuke, both for our own sakes and for the sake of those who depend on us. You see, rebuke is God's safety net.
The preferred way of gaining knowledge, understanding, and eventually wisdom, is to be instructed. I do not know about you, but my tendency starting from childhood has been to do the foolish thing in new situations. Instruction prepares us to act with discernment and is the least painful way to learn how to act wisely.
In cases where we have missed instruction, God graciously supplies the safety net of rebuke, lest we fall through to the most painful way of learning our lesson. Though rebuke is uncomfortable, it is not an insult. Wise people themselves are rebuked and it is their response which proves them to be wise (Prov. 9:8b,9). In fact one of the most prominent ways of becoming wise is heeding rebuke. Genuine rebuke springs from anticipation that you are perceptive enough to learn and from the conviction that you are valuable enough to expend the energy on (see Prov. 3:11,12) and to take a risk for. A true friend will rebuke you if you need it, rather than tell you what you want to hear or just remain silent (Prov. 28:23).
For those who miss the twin opportunities of instruction and rebuke, there is one other way to learn a lesson: Consequences are the logical end of foolish actions, and the most painful way to gain knowledge. Many of us have had to learn the hard way the value of heeding instruction and rebuke. Quite frankly, it hurts.
Sometimes people blame others for the consequences of what they themselves do (Prov. 19:3). They refuse to learn the lesson. Some will respond with enmity to those who would dare give instruction or rebuke and it is usually best to not bother these particular folk with reality (Prov. 9:7,8a).
The best plan is to not just wait around for instruction and rebuke to find you. Instead you should be soliciting counsel, which may include both instruction and rebuke. Most people do not go out of their way to have others tell them they are wrong. But the Bible clearly teaches that this type of reality checking is an essential ingredient in successful planning (Prov 15:22; 20:18; 24:6).
While counselors should share your values (Prov. 12:5), they should have differing viewpoints so that critical issues are not overlooked. A potential counselor may fear disrupting his relationship with you if he says what needs to be said. Make particularly sure those you lead feel safe to tell you the truth. Counsel may need to be drawn out as a bucket of clear water is drawn up from a deep well (Prov. 20:5).
Is paying attention to rebuke important for the Christian leader? Proverbs sums the matter up quite simply:
Rodger Williams is an Oregon home school dad who regularly finds himself saying, "Daddy makes mistakes, doesn't he children. I was wrong."