Correctly Handling Correction.

Proverbs 17

“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.

Conflict Resolution.

Proverbs 17

“Love prospers when a fault is forgiven, but dwelling on it separates close friends.” – Proverbs 17:9 NLT

We've all seen it happen. Perhaps we've even had it happen to us. A close friendship dissolved over an unresolved issue. A disagreement that never was dealt with properly and which resulted in alienation, accusation, and acrimony. It happens to friendships and even the relationships between parents and children, brothers and sisters, and even Christ-followers. Many times these conflicts start with something fairly insignificant and small, but when left unresolved, they fester and grow, like an untreated wound. What began as a small things becomes a big thing because proper steps weren't taken to begin with. A hurtful word or a painful action causes a crack to develop in a relationship. And when it is not addressed in a godly and timely manner, the enemy takes advantage of the situation and begins to pry and press on that crack in an effort to widen and worsen it. Jesus told us that the enemy comes "to steal, kill and destroy" (John 10:10). He wants to destroy our relationships, kill our friendships, and steal the benefits available to us through community. Satan hates love. It's that simple. Yet Solomon reminds us that "love prospers when a fault is forgiven" (Proverbs 17:9 NLT). God is love and He desires that we live lives of love for Him and others. But it is impossible to love when we refuse to forgive. We are incapable of love if we demand our rights and hold on to all the bad things done to us. Our harboring of anger, resentment and bitterness to the other person does little to change or convict them, but it can end up destroying us – from the inside out. It produces a toxic blend of bitterness, anger, and resentment that becomes like a cancer in our system, eating us away internally and destroying us spiritually. Paul tells us, "Get rid of all bitterness, rage, anger, harsh words, and slander, as well as all types of evil behavior. Instead, be kind to each other, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, just as God through Christ has forgiven you" (Ephesians 4:31-32 NLT). We are to forgive in the same way we have been forgiven by God. No qualifications. No conditions. No grading on the curve. Just forgive. Is forgiving hard to do? You bet. Especially when someone refuses to admit that they were wrong or that they even hurt us. And even harder than forgiving is forgetting. We may feel like we've forgiven that person, but then the next time we see them we are reminded once again of all that they did to us. The memories resurface and the resentment bubbles to the surface once again. It's normal and natural. But that's when we need to turn it over to the Lord and ask for His help. Letting go of a wrong done to us is difficult, but no impossible. God would not have commanded us to forgive one another if was impossible. He has provided us with all the power we need to obey through the indwelling presence of His Holy Spirit. But we have to acknowledge our need for help and request His assistance. We have to confess our own anger, bitterness and unforgiving spirit and ask the Holy Spirit for the strength we need to give up and let go – whether the other party ever confesses their wrong or asks for our forgiveness. "Love prospers when a fault is forgiven" (Proverbs 17:9 NLT). It grows within us. It produces life instead of death. It thwarts the enemy's attempts to drive a wedge between us and others. It reminds us of how much we have been forgiven by God. Life is too short to spend it bitter, angry, and resentful. Listen to these words from The Message paraphrase of 1 Corinthians 13.

Love never gives up. Love cares more for others than for self. Love doesn’t want what it doesn’t have. Love doesn’t strut, Doesn’t have a swelled head, Doesn’t force itself on others, Isn’t always “me first,” Doesn’t fly off the handle, Doesn’t keep score of the sins of others, Doesn’t revel when others grovel, Takes pleasure in the flowering of truth, Puts up with anything, Trusts God always, Always looks for the best, Never looks back, But keeps going to the end.

Father, it is so easy to hold a grudge. It is so easy to get hurt and grow bitter by what others say or do to us. But You have called us to love. You have commanded us to forgive. And You have modeled it perfectly through the life of Your Son, Jesus Christ. Help me learn to let go of my grudges more quickly, forgive more readily, and love more willingly. Amen.