“So what do you think I should do?” 

That was the question I asked as I sat across the table from a confidant whose opinion I valued greatly. We were in a Thai restaurant. I had been there long enough to finish both my orange chicken and the long personal story I wanted to him to hear.

He listened patiently as I described how my wife and I had been accused of hurtful things by people who were close to us. At the time, it was the deepest cut and most painful wound I had endured in my life.  

But I was in a new season. I was in a new place. And I had new friends. Including this guy across the table who, in my opinion, needed to hear this part of my story so he could better know who I was.

I felt my family had been treated wrongly, lied about, and unjustly characterized by people I trusted. I concluded my retelling of the saga with the important question.

“So what do you think I should do?” 

His answer stunned me.

“Well, even if they lied about you,” he said with an answer containing more fire than a level 5 King’s Curry, “there are worse things that are true about you that they don’t even know.”

His answer stung. At first, it seemed unsympathetic and cold. But it only took a few moments for me to recognize it was true.

His words set me on a course of healing and forgiveness that made much room for joy in my life.

His answer hurt. But it healed. 

The author of Proverbs puts it this way: “The sweetness of a friend comes from his earnest counsel.” (Proverbs 27:9)

However, it’s difficult to find friends who will tell the truth when that truth is hard to hear. 

The reason is simple: We don’t like to hear difficult realities. So we shoot the messenger. We turn on them. We get angry with them. We shut them out of our life and block them on social media.

In business, it can even be financially risky to give critical feedback.  Within a company setting, a speaker of difficult truth may get fired, demoted, removed from a team, or have raises and bonuses withheld.  

However, if you switch your perspective from the speaker to the hearer, this lesson will give you valuable insight into true leadership.

A wise leader will receive harsh words with kindness and wisdom. A wise leader knows critical and challenging feedback may be what pushes her to the next level of success.

The upside down business idea is this: If you are only getting positive feedback, you have probably pushed your best people away from you.

The pattern of a wise leader is to embrace, promote, and value the advice of those that challenge her. 

The pattern of a foolish executive is to welcome into his inner circle only those unwilling or unable to put the hard questions to his strategies.

Petty and immature managers create kingdoms of consensus that are merely self-pleasing mirages. And they will take drastic measures to keep their delicate castles from burning. 

The foolish manager will demand agreement because he cannot bear the pain of pushback.

But the wise king tells us, “Faithful are the wounds of a friend.”  (v. 6) 

Do you welcome criticism even if it’s delivered imperfectly? Or have you intimidated your team where the thought of pushback is too risky of a proposition?

Discover the value of the earnest counsel and learn to appreciate humbling feedback. 

You will be a better leader and your team will be better equipped for success.

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