Look, real relationships do require moments of honest critique, confrontation and constructive criticism.  However, too much of it, at the wrong time or for the wrong reasons is infinitely worse than no criticism at all.

There is a difference between condemnation and nagging versus the healthier, even holy, version we’ll call rebuke.

In Hebrew the healthier variety is called “tochecha” – a hard word to pronounce and even harder to carry out.  Tochecha, constructive rebuke, can’t be done when one is angry or jealous, when one has ulterior motives or even when the rebuke simply cannot be heard.  Still, as delicate as it needs to be, as careful as one should approach it, nevertheless there are times when it is appropriate and needs to be done.

“Do not hate your brother/sister in your heart,” says the Torah. “You shall surely rebuke him/her and not enable them to bring sin upon themselves.”

If we keep our resentments pent up, if we constantly bury injustices in our hearts then our relationship is not real, not sustainable and sooner or later will fall apart.  Yes, there’s a time to refrain from rebuking our friend or lover, our brother, sister, parent, child or spouse.  But there’s also a time to speak up, to speak gentle, compassionate rebuke – but rebuke nonetheless.  We need to open ourselves up to being rebuked, which is never an easy thing to do.  And we need to commit ourselves to giving it at the right time and in the right way.

In the words of Napoleon Hill, “Seek the counsel of those who will tell you the truth about yourself, even if it hurts you to hear it.  Mere commendation will not bring the improvement you need.  Neither will refraining to hear it or give it.”

Rabbi B

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