Would You Let A Friend Punch You?
By Fin Sheridan
I grew up in a household of 5 boys. Whilst we’re all unique, with different personalities, preferences and characters, there is something you have to be able to do when you’re in a house full of testosterone: wrestle. Don’t get me wrong, we weren’t brought up to solve things with violence, quite the opposite. It was just inevitable that, at certain points, it just made the most sense to wrestle/scuffle/fight things out. If you have brothers or sons, you know exactly what I’m talking about.
These scuffles didn’t last long though, honestly, because none of us had a particularly high pain threshold and, if someone got too hurt, then you would all get in trouble. The best wrestles were those where no-one got hurt but the problem was clearly solved. You’d catch your breath, grab some water and get on with life, decision made. No-one got punched, nothing got broken, and Mum wasn’t cross. Perfect.
Avoiding punches is one of our natural human reflexes. That’s why boxing requires so much training; you have to master the impulse to duck and run. In fact, some self defence training recommend that, if you can’t avoid being hit, stepping into a punch is actually the way to avoid the most damage. It takes some of the momentum and can minimise the impact of a blow.
“When we allow friends to speak into our lives, even in ways that feel painful or difficult, we are ultimately opening ourselves up to a path of healing and wholeness.”
“Let a righteous man strike me—it is a kindness; let him rebuke me—it is oil for my head; let my head not refuse it.”
Today’s Psalm is a step further. Beyond avoiding or absorbing the punch, David actually asks for it. Clearly, he isn’t talking physical punches here but instead welcoming what the book of Proverbs called “the wounds of a friend”. When someone who is righteous rebukes, challenges or corrects us, it can feel like a punch but it is actually one of the ways that God disciplines and changes us. After all, he disciplines those he loves.
Why does David call it oil? Well, oil in the Bible has several meanings but in this context, it represents healing. Like a surgeon who has to cut in order to mend, the rebukes of godly friends will heal us in unique ways. Our tendency can be to dodge or avoid these conversations which is why David says “Let my head not refuse it”. When we allow friends to speak into our lives, even in ways that feel painful or difficult, we are ultimately opening ourselves up to a path of healing and wholeness.