“A single rebuke does more for a person of understanding than a hundred lashes on the back of a fool.” – Proverbs 17:10 NLT
How do you handle correction? When someone critiques your work or criticizes your efforts, do you get mad, upset, frustrated, lash out, throw it back at them, or simply clam up and turn away in hurt and disappointment? None of us actually like to be corrected, but how we handle it says a lot about the condition of our heart and the degree of our wisdom. You see, a wise person, one who sees things from God's perspective and attempts to live in obedience to and dependent upon God for all that he does – that person tends to see correction as beneficial and an opportunity to reflect on his life and learn from it. If correction makes us mad, it is usually due to pride and a reluctance to want to see any fault in our lives. We don't like to have our faults exposed. We don't like to have our shortcomings made known. We spend a lot of time erecting our facade of respectability and reliability, so when someone corrects or criticizes us, we can naturally react in anger and resentment. But the truly wise person is fully aware of his weaknesses, even when he can't see them. He knows he is not perfect, but is a work in process – he is constantly being transformed by God through a slow, steady process that requires the revealing of sin so that it might be confessed and forgiven, and the "putting on" of his new nature, the very nature of Christ Himself.
Here's a simple test. The next time someone critiques or criticizes you, watch your reaction. Do you get angry? Ask yourself why. Take time to determine the cause of your anger. Are you angry because they exposed a mistake and made you look bad? Are you upset because they made you look silly in front of your peers? The truth is, even if their criticism of you is unwarranted and undeserved, if you get angry, there is something being revealed in your life that you need to see and learn from. Criticism oftentimes reveals the condition of our heart. While the person may be exposing a flaw in something we said or did, our reaction to it is revealing a problem with the condition of our heart. Our anger, resentment, desire for revenge, or tendency to pull away in self-pity, all reflect a heart condition. A person of understanding has the capacity to learn from moments like this. He is able to assess and accept the criticism and learn from it. A fool simply gets mad gets even. In fact, this verse tells us that you could beat a fool or give him a whipping of a hundred lashes, and he still won't learn anything. But a person of understanding will learn from a single word of correction.
Wise people are always learning. They're always open to critique – in fact, they invite it. They know they are works in process and appreciate any help they can get that helps them see areas of weakness in their lives. They have the capacity to take even correction given in anger as potentially positive, because they view it as if from the very hand of God. This all reminds me of a an incident in the life of King David. His son, Absalom, had taken over his kingdom and David was escaping from Jerusalem in an attempt to save his own life. On his way, a man named Shimei, began throwing stones at David, cursing him and calling him a murderer. David's men wanted to kill him, but David's reaction was interesting. He said, "No! Leave him alone and let him curse, for the Lord has told him to do it. And perhaps the Lord will see that I am being wronged and will bless me because of these curses today" (2 Samuel 17:11-12 NLT). David took the words of this man as from the Lord Himself. He viewed the entire affair from a divine perspective. God was in control and God was fully aware of all that was going on. So David was content to let God teach him what he needed to learn through this situation.
How we handle criticism and correction reveals a lot about our relationship with the Lord. If the correction is accurate, we can learn from it. If it is wrong, and yet we still get angry, we can examine our reaction to it and see if there is something in our hearts that needs to be corrected. But either way, we can learn to correctly handle correction, and grow from it.
Father, help me learn to take correction well. Thank You that you are always exposing weaknesses in my life. I am always in need of correction. And I need to be open to critique. Otherwise, I can grow complacent or overly confident, seeing myself as better than I am. Amen.