It is not an enemy who reviles me — I could bear that; it is not my foe who vaunts himself against me — I could hide from him; but it is you, my equal, my companion, my friend. (55:13-14)
The most stinging criticism comes from those closest to us.
We expect our foes to hate us. No matter what they say, we know that their words are tainted by their inherent bias against us, and therefore we don’t need to listen to them. But is is true that just because we know they they are unreasonable and twist the truth and that we don’t need to pay attention to them, that their words don’t hurt? No, it’s not true. It does hurt. There are people who hate me, and the thought that they hate me sometimes keeps me up at night. But at least I know that the criticism they have leveled against me is unreasonable.
When those who love us reprove us, it is painful, and because the words are coming from someone who cares, there is no way around the truth of the reproach. The criticism hurts precisely because it is reasonable. Criticism which is true is painful because it strikes at the heart of my personal identity. Those who are closest to us and know us the best know our weaknesses and know exactly where our faults lay.
The hardest thing to do is to really listen to our equals, our companions, our friends, as they share a difficult truth with us. But if we refrain from hiding from their words but rather really listen to them, we have the chance to learn and grow.