Five Core Competencies of Conflict Resolution Part Three: Accept Reproof
by Rick Love
Whenever I teach on peacemaking I ask those at the seminar, “Which aspect of conflict resolution is most difficult for you?” Invariably, the most hands go up when I mention “accepting reproof.” People find it hard to lovingly reprove, but even harder to accept reproof!
In part three of this series on the five core competencies of conflict resolution (previous posts include Taking Responsibility and Lovingly Reprove), we will look at what it means to “accept reproof.”
Accept Reproof: the third core competency of conflict resolution
Jesus often talked about the importance of listening to rebuke:
"If your brother or sister sins, go and point out the fault, just between the two of you. If they listen to you, you have won them over. But if they will not listen, take one or two others along, so that ‘every matter may be established by the testimony of two or three witnesses.’ If they still refuse to listen, tell it to the church; and if they refuse to listen even to the church, treat them as you would a pagan or a tax collector" (Matthew 18:15-17).
Four times in this famous passage about conflict resolution in the church, the word “listen” was mentioned. The original sin may have been the cause for reproof in the first place, but Jesus taught that rejecting counsel was an even bigger sin! Learning to accept reproof is no minor issue.
The book of Proverbs says a person who rejects the advice or counsel of others is a fool. By contrast, the wise person receives reproof.
- Whoever loves discipline loves knowledge, but he who hates correction is stupid (Proverbs 12:1)
- The way of a fool seems right to him, but a wise man listens to advice (Proverbs 12:15)
- He who listens to a life-giving rebuke will be at home among the wise (Proverbs 15:31)
- Listen to advice and accept instruction, and in the end you will be wise (Proverbs 19:20)
My wife Fran has done a good job coaching me about how to accept reproof. She has often participated with me in leadership meetings and has taken careful note of my response to criticism or reproof. She has noticed that I tend to lean back in my chair and cross my arms when someone challenges or rebukes me.
Because of her exhortations, I am now much more sensitive to the dynamics of the rebuke, especially my body language. When someone starts reproving me, I say to myself, “Rick you are being confronted. Lean forward in your chair, listen with discernment, and do not cross your arms. Try to find the valid critiques in what you are hearing and get ready to repent.”
Accepting reproof requires humility. We need to learn to be soft-hearted and thick-skinned; that is, receptive to counsel but not easily offended. We must refrain from defending ourselves, and we have to take the time to honestly consider the other person’s words.
Here are two practical ways you can grow in accepting reproof:
- When you are being confronted by someone, ask God to give you ears to hear where you have contributed to the problem. You may be accused of 100 percent of the problem though you believe you are only 20% responsible. But take ownership of your part and repent of what you can honestly repent of. Even if this doesn’t fully satisfy the other person it is an important conciliatory gesture. It will often soften the heart of the one confronting you and make reconciliation more possible. Remember, the goal is not to fix blame, but to reconcile.
- A practical way to listen to reproof is to repeat back to the person what you heard him/her say to you: "So, what I hear you saying about me is ______. Is that right?"
Accepting reproof is hard, but the one who listens to life-giving reproof lives in peace with his or her community.