I have, over the years, received both my share of open rebuke. What I have observed is that Solomon is absolutely correct in his assessment. The open rebuke has always been better than love that is concealed.
Rebuke is challenging. Telling someone that they are wrong when we are angry is a simple thing. We will shout it from the rooftops at that point. But out anger is too often misdirected and our words, far from a truth spoken in love, become a truth spoken with the intent to wound.
The difficulty of this proverb is twofold.
First, it is difficult to bear open rebuke. We can more often gracefully receive correction in private than in public. Some years ago, I was teaching a high school youth group on Wednesday nights. The youth pastor always sat in on the messages and heard something one night that he investigated and told me I had interpreted wrong. He was correct, I had misunderstood what I was reading. The rebuke was in private, but my confession of the error and apology for it were not. Mistakes made in the open require an openness in being set right. In my case, the rebuke could be made in private, but the setting it right had to be done in the open. Sometimes, the rebuke must be made in the open.
Second, it is difficult to deliver open rebuke. It is far easier to love secretly and allow someone to go along their merry way than to call them to account for a wrong thing spoken or written or done. I am grateful to have friends and family who have not shirked from this and I hoped I have not shrunk away from doing the same for those I love. To speak the truth in love (Ephesians 4:15) is difficult, but it is imperative that every believer do so. Love sometimes involves rebuking someone. To love openly, we must sometimes rebuke openly. Neither of those is easy.
Let me both love and rebuke openly and speak the truth in love. And let me regard the rebuke of my friends and family; of those who love me as the kindness that it is.