ESV - 5 Better is open rebuke than hidden love.
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I would say that the thought being expressed in this verse is that those who criticize you publicly or to your face (even if you do not perceive of them as being friendly to you) are actually doing you a service, both by giving a clear or honest indication of their perception (and perhaps also the perception of others) about you (that is, "where you stand" with them), and also providing you a basis for possible corrective actions that you might not have previously realized or considered, and that it would be to your benefit to implement. By contrast, even if people are lovingly disposed toward you, if they keep their feelings to themselves and do not disclose them to you either by words or actions (or even by offering constructive criticism of you when warranted), it benefits neither you nor them, nor does it allow the relationship between you to grow and mature.
The writer of these Proverbs is using the literary technique of contrast and opposites to give us wisdom for our relationships. Open is the opposite of hidden. Rebuke is contrasted with love. We can’t love other people if we hide our true feelings. We can’t love other people when we refuse to give them hard counsel (ie rebuke) when they really need it. Jesus commanded us to open our hearts before God and before people. Stop hiding who we really are but be authentic and vulnerable. Speak the truth with love and respect. As Christians, we can’t say we really love other people if we are hiding the gospel from them. As Christians we can’t say we really hate sin if we refuse to rebuke other Christians who are caught up in sin and don’t realize it or are unwilling to admit it.
It means that a friend's criticism is better than kisses from the enemy. It is sweeter than kisses (Proverbs 27:5-9). “Secret” or “hidden love” does not rebuke a friend, nor speak the truth in love (Ephesians 4:15), when there is a good reason for such frankness, transparency, and accountability.
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