rediscovering christianity's forgotten, organic ways amidst the modern industrial religious machine

From Kissing Ass To Kicking Ass

Better is open rebuke than hidden love.

Wounds from a friend can be trusted, but an enemy multiplies kisses. – Prov. 27:5-6


One of the worst sins you can commit in American culture is hurting someone’s feelings. The goal of not committing this grievous sin is made unattainable by the fact that we are a culture of fragile egos. Thus, it has become nearly impossible for one person to confront another about a sin or a blind spot without some major disruption to the relationship. Our cultural aversion to hurting feelings has lead to a culture-wide amnesia regarding the art of constructive confrontation. We scarcely have a category in our thinking that such a thing could even exist. Instead, we prefer avoid confrontation in favor of hollow compliments and “likes” on facebook. Or, if we do confront someone, we do it with venom and mudslinging and intent to destroy.

When I read the proverb quoted at the top of this page, it jumped off the page at me and burned itself into my mind. I had been growing increasingly dissatisfied with the lack of depth in many of my relationships and wondering what to do about that. As I meditated on this proverb, the answer became clear to me. I had adopted the American habit of speaking nice platitudes to people so as not to rock the boat or risk any hurt feelings. In the language of the proverb, I was multiplying kisses. But this is what an enemy does. In other words, being a “nice guy” by American standards is actually the same as being an enemy by the Bible’s standards. Conversely, the biblical idea of a friend is someone who can “wound” in a way that can be trusted. The reason I was troubled about my relationships is because I was acting as an enemy toward the people I called friends. To put it bluntly: I was kissing ass when I should be kicking ass.

A Story About Kicking Ass

And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds. – Heb 10:24

So, I decided to try a little experiment. I reached out to 6 other guys with whom I fellowship on a weekly basis. I told them that I was planning an event in which we would all go out in the wilderness and “get gnarly” together. This meant that we would be going camping for a weekend, and while camping, we would be spending focused time giving one another constructive feedback about how each person in the group could live more faithfully as a disciple of Jesus. I made it abundantly clear that this was not to be a time where we blow off some steam about our petty annoyances and frustrations with one another. Rather, we are trying to help our friends see their blind spots and offer them practical observations and advice that can draw them closer to God.

As iron sharpens iron, so one man sharpens another. – Prov 27:17

There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under the heavens: a time to kill and a time to heal, a time to tear down and a time to build. – Eccl 3:1-3

The vision for this weekend was to carve out some time that was dedicated to practicing this thing that the Bible calls “open rebuke” and “wounding” because we know that this is so rarely practiced in our day-to-day lives. There is a time when it is good and right for friends to wound one another and a time when they should build one another up. We did both things back-to-back by intentionally creating time for them to happen. The hope was that we could use a special event to initiate this practice so that it could become a more regular practice in “normal life.” (Note: See the appendix at the end of this article if you want more information on the specific method we used to do this.)

Wounds From A Friend Can Be Trusted

As the proverb says, “wounds from a friend can be trusted.” It takes a lot of trust to let someone wound you. You have to believe that they aren’t saying hard things to you just to get something off their chest and benefit themselves. You have to believe that your friends truly have your best interests in mind and that their input is motivated by a genuine desire to see you grow. The instinctual reaction in a culture of fragile egos is to get defensive when someone is saying something challenging to us. But you don’t need to defend yourself against someone who loves you and cares more about your sanctification than they care about their personal agenda. These are friends who are not trying to use you or take from you. These are friends who will watch your back and cover your blind spots. This kind of friend is rare these days. If you find a friend who can rebuke you and embrace you at the same time, then you have found something truly precious. If you can be that kind of friend to someone else, then you will never find yourself without friends.

When I think of the best friends I have ever had, the people that come to mind are not the ones that I see the most often or the ones that make me laugh the most. I think of the friends who have journeyed with me through many seasons of life. They have called out my shortcomings in my marriage, finances, parenting, business decisions, character, habits, and so forth. These are the friends I hold most dear because they are the friends who I can trust to wound me well. Of course those wounds did not feel good at the time that they were inflicted, but that doesn’t matter because they produced a harvest of repentance and righteousness. These friends did not kiss my ass, but kicked it!

I leave you with this epic quote from the great Charles Spurgeon:

We are one in Christ; let us be friends with one another; but let us never be friends with one another’s error. If I be wrong, rebuke me sternly; I can bear it, and bear it cheerfully; and if ye be wrong, expect the like measure from me, and neither peace nor parley with your mistakes. [source]

Adam Rust has some great friends who kick his ass on a regular basis, and he’s very thankful for that. Find out more about how God is kicking Adam’s ass about fatherhood at


Appendix: A Method For Getting Gnarly

Here are the specific steps and instructions I used for our weekend of getting gnarly:

1) Pick your group. Handpick some people who you would want to watch your back. They may not have your back presently, but part of the purpose of doing this is to call them into that. Likewise, you have to be willing to watch their back. I recommend a group size of 4 to 7 people. Bigger is not better for this kind of thing.

2) Pick a good place to camp. I prefer a rustic trail to walk and to do a few miles of backpacking and tent camping. The more disconnected from “normal life” and society people are the more focused they can be on other things, generally speaking. However, not everyone in our group was man

3) Each person spends time before the trip in prayer, asking God for wisdom and insight and revelation to share with every other person in the group. Any insights must be written down and we must be ready to share these things with the group during the trip.

4) Once you get your group out to your camp site, each person takes a turn in the “hot seat.” When you are in the hot seat, you are the focus of the time. The group will be talking about you, and only you. It is not a time for distraction or joking.

5) The person in the hot seat will begin their time by sharing their own thoughts about what God is teaching them and where they see him working to sanctify something in their life. The group may ask any followup questions. Nothing is off limits. All subjects are fair game.

6) The group will share any reflections they had written down for the hotseat person before the trip. This is where the hard words can be spoken. The more specific the words are, the better.

7) The group speaks what they see in the hot seat person at present (gifts, talents, liabilities, blind spots, etc.). Think of this as holding up the mirror.

8 ) The group speaks their vision for the hot seat person in the future (ministry, family, talents, marks of maturity, etc.).

9) The group prays for and blesses the hot seat person.

10) Take a break. Go have some fun for 15 or 20 minutes. Then, assemble the group again and put the next person in the hotseat. Repeat steps 4-9 until all people in your group have cycled through the hot seat.

Epilogue: Our weekend of man camping following this method went really well. We wounded and healed one another all in the same weekend, and came back home with deeper friendships than when we left. I hope to do this kind of thing once or twice a year with my close friends.

Disclaimer: I acknowledge that this article is written with a strong and unabashed male bias. When my friends and I returned from our weekend of getting gnarly, we told our wives all about our time together. They replied by saying, “I could never do that.” They said that they were glad that we could go out as a group of men and do what we did, but that approach would never work for them as women. I don’t have any suggestions for how ladies could go from kissing ass to kicking ass, though I am convinced that women are no more exempt from the instruction of the proverbs than men are, so they must do it in some manner or another. I’d love to see a woman write a followup post to this one in order to offer an approach that women could use to obey the principles of the Scriptures shared above.