A comment on my 5th grade report card still strikes me when I think of it today:
“Lea does not take correction well.”
Well that was embarrassing to admit!
Surprisingly, it was my English teacher who had written the comment. It caught me off guard, as I never suspected that I had made her feel this way. I had thought she was kind and might have even liked me – until that report card. Everything changed when I read her remark for I knew that there would be consequences to those remarks when my parents read them. Her correction stung. I felt criticized and angry. From that day forward I vowed to be perfect in class, to prove her wrong, but I wouldn’t forget how she wounded me.
As time went by, my participation (as I had vowed) was perfect. I worked hard, never interrupted and even began to draw praise from her. The following report was glowing on how I had improved. My parents’ praise lifted my spirits and I changed from wanting to prove her wrong to wanting to please her.
Psalm 141:5 NKJV “Let the righteous strike me; it shall be a kindness. And let him rebuke me; it shall be as excellent oil; let me not refuse it…”
NCV “If a good person punished me, that would be kind. If he corrected me, that would be like perfumed oil on my head. I shouldn’t refuse it…”
Correction. What a word. We use it primarily when referring to children, school, education, but rarely when referring to adults. Mentally I suppose this is because correction is meant for the immature, not those who have grown into adulthood. For some reason, there comes a time in life when we seem to “outgrow” the need for correction (or rebuke) and are expected to make it through life on our own with no help at all; no correction of how our sails are set if the winds are contrary.
Kindness. Another great word; it is not a word we would put into the same sentence or phrase with correction. Normally, I would think a kindness would be expressed in a way that makes me feel good, not in a way that challenged me to change. My feelings are to be soothed and reinforced – they need to be told how wonderful I always am or how unfortunate it was for someone to be unkind to me. If words or actions aren’t brought in this way, they are not kind.
Refuse. This is a word used very often when correction is involved. Children who are corrected often refuse to receive correction internally and only follow through with prescribed consequences because they, as children, have no choice. We’ve all heard the story of the child who is told to sit down but replies, “I may be sitting down on the outside, but I’m standing up on the inside.” When we grow into adults, the inner refusal we suppressed all those years as children is free to be released and expressed. We are capable adults after all, aren’t we? We are going to stand up for everyone to see.
Most of us can see ourselves in the descriptions of children above yet we fail to recognize that while we are grown adults physically, we remain children of God eternally. The physical realm easily translates for us into the only reality to embrace, as it is the most “real” reality we can feel.
During the years of war in the Central Africa region (early 1990s-early 2000s) we went through and heard of many atrocities too horrible to describe. While war, the slaughter of innocent civilians, and economic hardship all took their toll on us, I think it was the callous disregard to what was really important that would strike me the hardest. A situation comes to mind when a friend, whose Bible school compound had been looted of tens of thousands of dollars of books, furnishings, and equipment, went to visit one of her acquaintances in a nearby village. As she entered the home, she recognized some of things in the home as items from the Bible school and she said those belong to the school. The reply to her statement was amazing, “Sister, that is church, but this is life.”
Correction, had this lady received it instead of hardening her heart, could have been a catalyst in the village for everyone who had stolen items in their homes to return them to the school. How very sad to think that she placed more value on the temporary rather than the eternal. Life, as we experienced in the time of war, is but a breath, here one moment and gone the next. While this may seem like an extreme example, its truth is universal and timeless.
How often have we been guilty of the same kind of thinking when it comes to correction that God brings to us through friends, family, His Word, sermons, worship or other avenues? Is it so wrong to be wrong? Isn’t it better to be corrected? Why do we prefer the consequences of a hard heart?
Pride is a terrible and unforgiving master and when pride rules our lives, it brings us eternal and far-reaching consequences. How long will we stand up when God has said to sit down? How long will we refuse correction before we understand that correction is actually kindness and not criticism?
There is a big difference between criticism and kindness. We primarily associate criticism negatively (although it can be used in a positive sense, it is rarely meant to be positive) as disapproval by someone. They perceive something we have said/done negatively and express their disapproval. This can make us wonder, how can a correction possibly be kind? The answer is simple for a correction is not a criticism, as we understand criticism. Correction’s motive is different from that of a criticism. A criticism is meant to wound while a correction is meant to bring positive change. What is to be gained in the correction by the one giving the correction? If the benefit of the correction will come directly to us, then it is a kindness.
If pride is our master, we find it difficult to bend our knees and sit down (for we have been standing up this whole time) and allow the correction to change us. This is a true kindness as it changes us and enhances who we are and what we do. But pride will refuse to change because pride can’t be wrong. The goal of pride is self-preservation and self-exaltation. How has that helped us so far? Where has that gotten us except far from where God wants to bring us?
I have read many books and articles in recent years on the need for mentors, teachers, leaders, and spiritual fathers in the church today. People, on one hand, cry out for fathers but do not allow fathers to speak into their lives. It is a conundrum of sorts. I don’t believe that there is a shortage of fathers as much as there is a shortage of children who are looking for them.
It’s a kindness when God corrects us and gets our sails set straight. He is the Captain and He sees the map, He knows the destination; may we allow Him to correct our sails. If we open our hearts to His kindness (His correction), He will give us those people we need in our lives to help us to get to our destinations.