There are those friends in whom we expect to receive encouragement, and others from whom we expect to hear reproach. Both actions have their place, as both have the affect of improving a person. However, the latter is less accepted as people misunderstand its place and purpose; while the former is misused for the same reasons.
Reproach is now frowned upon as an intolerant and unkind word from a fiend, as opposed to a word of constructive criticism from a friend. Encouragement, on the other hand, is expected since it is easy and politically correct. More often than not morphing to flattery. While the act of encouragement has the goal to commend an individual’s actions, the act of criticism has the goal to change an unbecoming quality. Thus, the act of criticism should be encouraged and welcomed, as it befits a respectable individual to do so.
Although there is not a manual as to when or what to say in every circumstance of life, there are common principles found in both actions. Honestly and trust. In order for encouragement to avoid slipping into flattery, there must be honesty. In order for constructive criticism to be properly accepted, there must be trust. After all, constructive criticism, to some degree, demands a level of trust and respect towards that individual as it is evidence of their honesty.
Words have power. Thus, caution must be taken and wisdom applied whenever it comes to exalting or demoting an individual’s behavior, as there will be consequences. Proverbs 28:23 sums it up well, “He who rebukes a man will in the end gain more favor than he who has a flattering tongue.” In addition to the repercussions of reproach versus flattery, we must also keep in mind the principle of that which is beneficial. “Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen” (Ephesians 4:29). And so is our purpose and responsibility towards our fellow man.