In today’s daf (Yevamot 65b), Rabbi Abba quotes from Mishlei 9:8 which states, אַל תּוֹכַח לֵץ פֶּן יִשְׂנָאֶךָּ הוֹכַח לְחָכָם וְיֶאֱהָבֶךָּ – ‘do not rebuke a scoffer lest he hate you; rebuke a wise person and he will love you’, to teach that it is an obligation not to rebuke someone who will not listen to what has been said to them.
Clearly Rabbi Abba’s teaching is drawn from the first part of the verse. Yet while it is true that there are many who are unable or unprepared to receive constructive criticism (whom Shlomo HaMelech identifies as being like a ‘scoffer’), it is equally true that those who are wise are those who seek, and who are prepared to receive, constructive criticism.
The problem is that while we justifiably fear saying the wrong thing to someone in need of constructive criticism, all too often this fear can overcome us to the point that we simply choose to remain silent rather than to speak up. Instead of trusting the wisdom that we can share to help others grow, we become paralysed by worry and fear about what might come from what we may say to them.
Yes, as previously mentioned, there are those who are unable or unprepared to receive constructive criticism. However, the true mark of wisdom is about being prepared to receive such feedback – which is why each of us needs someone, or a collection of people, on whom we can rely to tell us what they think with our best interests in mind when we most need to hear them.