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Responding to Correction

“He who ignores discipline despises himself, but whoever heeds correction gains understanding.” – Proverbs 15:32

I don’t know of a single person who enjoys being corrected or criticized. But, no matter how good we are, we’re not always right, and sometimes we need to be taught, guided, or corrected to stay on the path God has designed for us to walk. So, let’s talk about this sensitive topic.

The sources of the correction

Who out there is commissioned by God to help keep us in line?

Government: The first, as we might imagine, is the government and the law enforcement officials that represent the laws of our land. Listen to what Peter, living under Roman Emperor Nero, says about obeying the law: Submit yourselves for the Lord’s sake to every human authority: whether to the emperor, as the supreme authority, or to governors, who are sent by him to punish those who do wrong and to commend those who do right. (1 Peter 2:13-14)

People: Second, we need to learn to value the loving critics in our lives, those who will be honest with us because they care enough to risk our anger or our defensiveness. Trusting the motives of our friends who hold us accountable, we take the correction to heart and figure out what we have to do to change our ways.

God: The ultimate source of correction for us, of course, is God. “My son, do not despise the Lord’s discipline and do not resent his rebuke, because the Lord disciplines those he loves, as a father the son he delights in” (Proverbs 3:11-12). In what ways does God discipline or correct us?

· The first is through the Bible. “All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the man of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work” (2 Timothy 3:16). The Bible sets the standard by which we are to live, correcting and instructing us. When we read something in the Bible and find that we are falling short of the standard (and we will!), we need to adjust our attitudes and our lives to fit the standard set out in the Bible.

· Another means that God uses for our correction is the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit will convict us of sin and will, in general, make us miserable until we come back in repentance to God’s will for us and to unencumbered relationship with him. The goal of the Spirit’s conviction is to make us holy, to make us like Christ, and to empower us to live up to the standards of life that have been revealed in scripture. “God disciplines us for our good that we may share in his holiness” (Hebrews 12:10b).

The right attitude toward correction

“Flog a mocker, and the simple will learn prudence; rebuke a discerning man, and he will gain knowledge” (Proverbs 19:25). This verse teaches about three kinds of people: The first is the mocker, who will not learn except the hard way. The second is the simple person who sees the results of the behavior of the mocker and decides to be smarter than that. The third is a wise person who needs to be corrected only by words. Thus, our more modern-day proverb, “A word to the wise is sufficient.”

No matter where the correction comes from, if we accept it with true humility and allow God to apply his truth to our lives through it, we will learn, we will grow, and we will benefit. We can learn from anyone – a child, a fellow worker, a parent, a neighbor – sometimes it is from the mouth of the unlikely that God can teach us the most. We simply have to have a humble and teachable spirit to receive it.

After we hear, really hear, what the critic has to say, and if we find validity to the correction, we apply it with sincerity. “Apply your heart to instruction and your ears to words of knowledge” (Proverbs 23:12). If we want to learn and develop our full potential, we must take instruction to heart.

“It is indeed a comfort to know that there is always abiding with me a divine, all-seeing Comforter, who will reprove me for all my faults, and will not let me go on in a fatal unconsciousness of them."

Hannah Whitall Smith


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