Surprisingly to some, I’m not very good at Scrabble. Many know that I’m an English major or at least that I like to read and write, so it’s usually assumed that I must be good at a spelling game like Scrabble. But I’m terrible. I’ve lost every time I’ve played. It’s not the spelling; it’s the strategic placing of letters that is a problem for me. I’m just not good at it.
I only bring this up because while I was going through Proverbs 27 a couple days ago, I came across verse 5; “Better is open rebuke than hidden love.” I immediately thought of one night about three years ago where several of my friends and I were all playing Scrabble on my new travel edition. It came to be my turn and I happened to notice a convenient little spot that would triple the points on my 8-point “x.” What was my word? “Rex.”
Many think of Tyrannosaurus Rex whenever “rex” is mentioned, which makes it a proper noun and therefore illegal in Scrabble. But it simply means “king” and was placed onto Tyrannosaurus Rex because it was believed to be the largest and most vicious carnivorous dinosaur out there. Whoever did the naming thought this dinosaur could be considered a “king” of sorts. Back during my game of Scrabble, I knew this. But after I placed my letters down, many immediately called it into question. And if you know me, I don’t like being told I’m wrong.
I argued my case and told the others to look it up in the dictionary. Well, the problem was that in all the dictionaries we had at hand, “rex” wasn’t listed. And since what I was saying about “rex” couldn’t be verified, it was decided that I couldn’t use this word. “Alright fine, I’ll just put another stupid word down,” was my response. It was a slightly-bitter, frustrated, and irrational thing to say and a good friend, Tony Williams, told me so.
“There’s no need to get bent out of shape over it, Cush.”
His tone of voice was much different than mine; gentle and yet encouraging whereas mine was harsh and somewhat demeaning. But what really gave me a gut-check wasn’t the fact that I was being rebuked, but rather the fact that it was in front of others. Initially I was still a little frustrated by it all, but by the end of the night, I apologized and moved on. I don’t forget that night because it was one night where I distinctly remember experientially learning what happens when you let your pride get in the way.
This is just one moment in my college life where I was caught tooting my horn a little too loudly and had someone (oddly enough, usually Tony) gently and openly rebuke me. It never feels good while it’s happening, but when you actually start to gain some control over your emotions and words, you begin to feel thankful that it did. If there is one recurring theme throughout Proverbs, it’s self-control and self-discipline. But what I think is hardly ever focused on in our American culture is how essential other people around us are in developing our “self”-control.
To get a little deeper into this verse (Prov. 27:5), I’d have to say it’s also about communicating a message. The first part is directly and openly addressing a problem that someone has; the second part reveals the flaw in hiding love. I don’t think it’s talking about secret admirers here, but it could apply. Having deep, intimate feelings for someone is one thing; sharing those feelings is entirely another. All of a sudden you’re no longer journeying through life alone; you’ve caused another to reflect on their own path and consider starting something with you. It’s scary, nerve-wracking, and if you’re like me, it probably makes you sweat, but no matter how things might turn out (i.e. if she says “yes” or “no” to a date), you feel glad that those feelings were addressed.
It’s one thing to be told you’re acting wrong, but another thing for you to realize it. Likewise, it’s one thing to have feelings for a girl, but another thing for her to share those feelings. It’s an alteration in your life’s path and it’s usually a good one. Like I said, it doesn’t always feel good; but whichever road you may end up on is probably the better one. If you tell a girl you like her and she doesn’t like you back, then it’s possible God wants you to look elsewhere (I go through this a lot). And if you say something angrily feeling justified in some way or another, but yet are proven wrong later, it by no means feels good, but it had to be done so you could begin to walk like God. None of this could ever happen, though, if we 1. Didn’t have community and 2. Weren’t actively engaging that community.
Like I’ve written about before, we need human interaction. We need the vocalization of our feelings, thoughts, and beliefs – we need to communicate. But while we desire to be heard, it’s even more essential for us to listen to others. James says “Be quick to listen, slow to speak,” (1:19). If we want to be heard, then it’s best to start with listening.
What I don’t mean for everyone to now do is go out and rebuke all those who are acting out of line or to tell their secret crush their deeper feelings. All I am merely saying here is that we ought to be ready – ready to be corrected as well as ready to correct and/or also be ready to hear what’s on someone else’s heart as well as be ready to share what’s on yours. God wants us to communicate with each other – especially about stuff that could alter our life’s paths. God wants us to be open.