Volume 12, Issue 3: Femina
No one I know really enjoys correction and reproof, and yet Scripture teaches that we are to receive it as a good thing. Proverbs 3:11-12 tells us not to despise the Lord's chastening "nor detest His correction" because it is a sign of His Fatherly love for us. Proverbs also tells us that "he who refuses correction goes astray" (10:17b) and "he who hates correction is stupid" (12:1b). 2 Timothy 3:16 clearly states that Scripture "is profitable for reproof, for correction" and God uses this to complete us, equipping us "for every good work." In other words, without correction we are ill equipped to do the good works God has prepared for us to walk in.
Most of us would agree that we are happy to take reproof from God; it's just when we receive it from fellow believers that we squawk. However, God seldom (if ever) directly corrects us (unless we see it ourselves in the Scriptures), but He does use His people as a means to admonish and instruct each other. This is the biblical pattern, whether it comes from our pastors and teachers or from our fellow Christians. The correction can come by means of a sermon, an article, a tape, a book, or directly from a person in a private conversation.
Women often react to correction in one of several, prickly, negative ways instead of receiving it as from the Lord for their good. (Now, of course, men can be just as resistant to correction, but this column is for women.) Let me give some examples.
One negative way to react is by automatically getting defensive without even hearing the conclusion of the matter or finishing the article. Proverbs 18:13 says, "He who answers a matter before he hears it, it is folly and shame to him." If you react in such a way, you may be the one who really needs to hear it. If you hear a sermon about shop-lifting and you have never shop lifted in your life, then chances are you won't be defensive about it at all. But if the topic is about anger, and you know you are sharp with your children on a regular basis, the temptation will be to start defending yourself instead of hearing the correction and finding help for your problem. Be sure to take note of your reactions, and remember that those corrections that annoy you the most may be the ones you most need to hear. Someone has said that if you throw a rock into a pack of dogs, the one that yelps is the one that got hit.
Another negative reaction is to be quick to criticize or blame the one bringing the correction. If you dismiss the speaker as pompous (Who does he think he is? Does He think he's perfect or something?) or as a crumby speaker simply because he has stepped on your toes, you may be rejecting some necessary correction that would be good for your soul. Again, check your reactions. Do you attribute bad motives to the one who brings a correction? This is a way of changing the subject so you do not have to deal with the correction.
Here's an example. Suppose someone comes to correct you about your tongue. Instead of listening and hearing the criticism out, you jump in and point out that it was really the people you told who were the talebearers, and that they should not have been carrying the gossip to the person now correcting you, or if you blame it on the people who told you in the first place. This is an old, old habit. Adam used it in the garden (She gave it to me); and Eve used it in the garden (It was the serpent).
Often if we react to a correction, we say or do things we later regret. We dismiss the person by bringing up their own (unrelated) faults; we get on the phone before we have gotten a right attitude; we fire off a letter that we should have sat on for two or three days; or we justify ourselves and assume a self-righteous attitude on the part of the person bringing the correction. Remember what Proverbs says: "He who hates correction is stupid."
One of the dangers of e-mail is that it can be written hastily and fired off with no way of retrieval. Writing something on paper takes more deliberation and care. It has to be addressed and stamped and mailed, all great delayers in the process. All these reactions to correction and reproof seem to really point to the fact that the correction must really be needed. If it wasn't needed, it would not have gotten such spectacular results!
When correction and reproof come, Christian women ought to determine to always hear it out. Pray for grace to sit still through it. Then thank the person bringing it and tell them you will certainly think about what they have said. If they are dead wrong, there is no reason for you to be defensive. This goes back to the sermon on shop-lifting. If you haven't done it, why get angry and defensive? If the correction is dead center, you only compound your fault by lashing out at the one bringing it.
If God's Word is true, correction and reproof are helpful in our growth and sanctification. A humble and meek Christian receives correction and carefully examines it before automatically rejecting it. Correction and reproof offend our pride. We do not mind seeing and correcting faults in others, but we do not want others to see or correct faults in us. This is being double-minded. Though we should be quick to overlook faults in others, we should not be so quick to overlook our own. And if we don't want others to have to correct us, we should be quick to correct ourselves.