We don't watch it as much anymore, but once upon a time, my wife and I loved to watch American Idol. For me, though, the first few weeks as they take you through the auditions was almost painful to watch. Sure, all of the people who actually made it to Hollywood came through the auditions, but there were also plenty of people who simply could not sing if their life depended on it. These horrible singers would come before the judges and wail something unintelligible and unrecognizable and then the judges would have to tell them that they simply weren't cut out for music. Part of the reason it was painful for me to watch, though, was that many of these people honestly thought they were excellent singers. Some of these singers were simply deluded. Others, however, thought they could sing because people all around them continually told them that they were good. People who meant well, who didn't want to hurt their feelings, who didn't want them to be embarrassed, who allowed them to go before a national television audience to discover the truth. I mean, don't get me wrong, I'm all about following your dreams. But if I am going to go make a fool of myself on national television, I would rather people hurt my feelings a little by telling me the truth before I embarrass myself in front of, literally, the whole world.
In 2 Corinthians, Paul discussed an instance where he apparently hurt the Corinthians' feelings a little bit. He had written something to them that made them sad, that hurt their feelings, but that needed to be said. In 2 Corinthians 7:8-9, Paul wrote, "Even if I caused you sorrow by my letter, I do not regret it. Though I did regret it-- I see that my letter hurt you, but only for a little while--yet now I am happy, not because you were made sorry, but because your sorrow led you to repentance. For you became sorrowful as God intended and so were not harmed in any way by us" (NIV). The Corinthians had been engaging in some kind of sinful activity and Paul had addressed it. His correspondence had made them sad and hurt their feelings, but their feelings had needed hurting, at least enough to get them to change their ways.
We live in a world where, not only do we never ever want to hurt anybody's feelings, but we never want anybody to hurt our feelings. We expect people to only tell us things that make us feel good about ourselves. And in the process, when all we ever hear is how good we are, we end up hurting ourselves far more than the truth would ever have hurt. Sometimes, we need people to hurt our feelings, not because hurting our feelings is good, but because we need to hear the truth and hurting our feelings is unavoidable. We never like to hear that we are wrong. We never like to hear that our behavior or our attitude has been less than perfect. But sometimes those harsh words are exactly what we need.
The author of Proverbs said it this way: "Wounds from a friend can be trusted, but an enemy multiplies kisses" (Proverbs 27:6, NIV). Sometimes, people can be cruel. But, sometimes, people are just trying to tell us the truth and the truth ends up hurting. Sometimes, we need someone to hurt our feelings so we don't make fools of ourselves on national television or, worse, get ourselves into real trouble.
When people hurt our feelings, do we immediately brush aside what they had to say because we don't like it? Or do we examine what they had to say to see if we needed to hear it? Sometimes, people are just mean. But sometimes, hurting our feelings is the best thing a friend can do for us.