Rebuke is Better

Ecclesiastes 7: It is better to heed the rebuke of a wise person than to listen to the song of fools.

Harvey Dorfman (1935 to 2011) never played professional baseball, nor did he ever serve as a manager, hitting coach or batting coach, yet he earned himself World Series Rings, and the praise of many baseball superstars.  Harvey had no PhD, but went from Vermont teacher to mental skills coach for the 1989 Oakland A’s and the 1997 Florida Marlins – both teams which won the World Series in those respective years.

“At his home in North Carolina, and in his private office, he had dozens of framed photographs of players — many of them future Hall of Famers — and each was autographed with a sentiment like, ‘Harvey — I owe my career to you’ or ‘If you weren’t for you, Harv, I wouldn’t still be in the big leagues.’“[i]  They were names like Roy Halliday, Jim Abbott, Al Leiter, Greg Maddux, and many, many more.

One would think that Dorfman must have been one very encouraging guy, but that was not the consistent message given by the players.  “Pitcher Al Leiter, when asked about my approach, has said, ‘Most pro athletes don’t want to hear the truth about themselves…’ Los Angeles pitcher Kevin Brown summed up the rest of what Leiter had to say with a succinct statement: ‘Harvey doesn’t let you fool yourself’”[ii]

While Dorfman’s communications were reportedly often “profanity-laced” (which I don’t think is necessary to achieve the same outcome), the key was “Rather, he combined hard-core common sense with a mixture of tough-love confrontation and compassion.”[iii]

The writer of today’s key verse (likely King Solomon) understood the value of rebuke.  “It is better to heed the rebuke of a wise person than to listen to the song of fools.” (Eccles. 7:5).   He, better than most, understood that people in his position would receive flattering words all day long, but it would be rare for someone to have the guts to provide rebuke.  Successful athletes today, face a similar challenge, in that people may easily gush over them with praises, but few will be willing to risk by providing wise rebuke.  I’m not talking about faceless, anonymous trolls on social media who cowardly tear athletes apart; I’m speaking of those with personal relationships with the athlete, who speak with them face-to-face.

I have some friends with the uncanny ability to deliver very stinging rebuke and correction to me.  It feels like a punch in the gut.  My first reaction is always the same.  My mind races to prepare a defense or to point back to them, or to determine how I will display my hurt and indignation, but over the years I have learned to quickly put those thoughts aside, and begin to feverishly pray and ask the Holy Spirit to reveal if there is truth in the statements; and if there is, that I would be given the humility to accept it and change.  A key to this scripture, however, is “the rebuke of a wise person”.  I have chosen to surround myself with “wise people” who have demonstrated their love for me, and whom I have encouraged to provide correction into my life.  If you pray to God and ask him to bring such people into your life, and if you choose to heed the correction that comes through them, I can guarantee you pain, but also profound blessing as God can now transform you into a wise servant.  Choose the rebuke of a wise person, over the empty praise of fools!


[ii] Coaching the Mental Game, H.A. Dorfman.  P. 149



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