I don't know about you, but I hate calling someone out when they've screwed up. I often think to myself, "I can't believe they're doing that" or "Somebody needs to tell them they're night quite right", but I rarely want to say something to someone in person. Online is a different story. Online I need to pump the breaks. I often want to correct some mistake or misunderstanding that someone has and I really shouldn't do that over Facebook.
In the book of Colossians the Apostle Paul had to combat some errors in the church at Colosse and I think Paul gives an incredible example of how to go about calling someone out.
I want to first say that the point of Colossians chapter 1 is not primarily to teach us how to call someone out. There is some home-run, shout amen theology in this chapter, but I do think there is a principle, not THE principle, but a principle for how to call someone out on an error.
Paul did not start the church at Colosse and he may have never even met the people of that church. Paul was alerted to some harmful errors that existed in the church and threatened to undermine the Gospel within the church and the entire community. So, Paul began his letter very tactfully because this body of believers did not know him personally.
Paul started by announcing his authority in the church. Paul was an Apostle and that office in the early church granted him authority to instruct and correct within the church at Colosse. Paul wanted, in the first sentence of his letter, to let his readers know that he had the credentials to offer instruction and correction.
Notice, though, that Paul didn't begin his letter with corrections for his readers. Paul pened a beautiful introduction full of grace, peace, thanksgiving and love. He realized that if his instructions and corrections were going to be taken he must let the church know how much he loved them.
"Grace and peace to you from God our Father. We always thank God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, when we pray for you, because we have heard of your faith in Christ Jesus and of the love you have for all the saints... the faith and love that spring from hope that is stored up for you in heaven and that you have already heard about in the word of truth, the Gospel that has come to you." Colossians 1:2-6a
And soon after that he said,
"For this reason, since the day we heard about you, we have not stopped praying for you and asking God to fill you with the knowledge of his will through all spiritual wisdom and understanding." Colossians 1:9
Paul loved the church at Colosse and want them to know that. He prayed fervently for the church at Colosse and wanted them to know that, too. He knew that many in Colosse wouldn't care what Paul had to say if he started his letter with corrections.
When you call someone out do you first let them know that care for them? Do you let them know that you are proud of the good they're doing? Or do you just jump right in with a "You know what you're doing wrong is..."?
The old expression says people won't care how much you know until they know how much you care. Many times this is true. So, before you correct or criticize someone think about what they're doing right. Before you offer constructive criticism, let them know how much you love them.
I'm a stubborn person who hates to be told I'm doing something sub-par or flat out wrong. If you're addressing me you'll want to start with a kind word. I'm guessing many of you are the same and I'm guessing some of the people that are irritating you or that are missing the mark in your eyes are like me, too.
Calling people out is important. Calling people out can be loving. Let's make sure when we call each other out we do it in a loving, gentle way. So, before you send that critical e-mail to your co-worker think of his or her positives and start your message with a gentle, loving tone today.