I had a rough time titling this post…which is usually not the case. In fact, I’ve got dozens of witty titles rolling around my head at any given time with absolutely no content to back them up. This time though, the thought preceded the descriptor by quite a bit, and as it should be, because it’s the thought that matters.
I think it would do us well to see the corollary between correction and perfection, because personally, I often have the equation backwards. I sense that if I’m not perfect, I usually stand to get corrected. Maybe I’m a one-off, but I don’t like being corrected. It can be embarrassing, even if it’s done well. It points out my failure. It accentuates that others are doing it better than I am. Most of the time it’s far more comfortable to continue in my error than to have it pointed out.
Because of our aversion to correction, we’ve developed a couple of ways of dealing with it.
We confuse correction with criticism, which is far easier to dismiss as unfair or attack.
Glance through most any leadership books popular among Christian leaders and you’ll find a host of mantras for dealing with critics, most of them centered around dismissing the critic as unhelpful and unqualified.
- “There are no awards for critics.”
- “Critical people put an unhealthy drag on your ministry.”
- “Don’t listen to critics. They have never accomplished anything.”
These statements are in (as my friend Larry once said) “the vicinity of the truth”, but they ignore one important wild card: Sometimes critics are right. There are times that Godly correction is delivered to us by imperfect people in an imperfect way. Wisdom learns to separate the message from the messenger like shucking mental oysters. Keep the meat, toss the shell.
We ignore correction by diffusing the goal.
Nothing works so well to demotivate one to do better as to make the goal unclear. If I were to invite you on a five mile run, you’d start running in a certain way – slow and methodically. If I were to challenge you to a 100 yard dash, you’d adjust your approach and run flat out like a man being chased by a bear. But if I said “Let’s go for a run…” and refused to tell you how far we were going to run – would you really put your heart and mind into it? No, you’d sprint for a moment, then slow down, then wonder “why are we running at all?”
We have diffused the goal of perfection in our lives – telling ourselves ‘it’s unobtainable – no one is perfect.” Again, that’s in the vicinity of the truth, but there are a lot of pitfalls in the vicinity of the truth – it’s almost as if they area is surrounded by land minds. Land directly on truth and you’re safe; land near it and you’re blown to smithereens.
While perfection is unobtainable, the Apostle Paul still wrote to us “Aim for perfection….” (2 Corinthians 13:11). Maybe we’ll never get there, but Paul knew that unless we made it the goal, we wouldn’t get anywhere.
All that to say this – weigh carefully the correction you receive today.
Recognize that correction will be awkward and uncomfortable. Rare is the person who can correct another person in a way that is comfortable to all, so it’s going to sting a little. You will do well to give less thought to the messenger and more to the message. If necessary, make a sign for yourself and put it on your mirror. “I’m shucking mental oysters.” The oyster is a homely being, but there is meat in there. And occasionally, a pearl.
Read the Bible with the ever present question of “What adjustments do I need to make in my thoughts and behavior to reflect this truth”. It’s not just a series of stories – it’s a road map. To sit lost in the woods, far from the road, and sing of the glories of the map in your pocket is of the looniest of behavior. Here’s a great place to start – read Proverbs and stop every few verses asking yourself and the Holy Spirit “Am I doing this?”. It’s far better to be corrected in the private place of prayer than before people.
I don’t like correction any more than anyone else…but I am learning the place that it plays in my life and how to welcome it to some degree. Whether I like it or not, it makes me better, not unlike the medicine I give my children when they’re sick. They may twist and clench their mouth, but I know that they get better when they take it…and often think “if they only knew how good this was for them, they’d take it willingly.”
Correction. If we only knew how good it was for us, we’d take it willingly.
Correctus Addendum: Thanks to the Godly person who emailed me directly to point out a typo. The irony is not lost on us. 🙂 HA!
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