A teenager stands before her mother, head hanging and tongue bitten, as her mother corrects her for her recent show of foolishness with that tongue.
A toddler stares her sister down as big sis tells her that she isn’t supposed to touch that, and the toddler stoutly screams in response to this information.
A newlywed groom discovers his bride isn’t quite perfect, and tells her, “You could work on this….” The bride feels like saying, “If you didn’t love me as I was, why did you marry me anyways?”
A girl is late for the umpteenth time, and her inconvenienced friend gently reminds her to be on time the next time. The girl is mortified.
No matter how kindly meant, correction can feel like an onslaught of thumb tacks on bare skin. It can feel like a thousand throbbing stubbed toes at once or like a bees’ nest worth of burning stings. And taking that correction without getting your hackles up can feel like standing firm while a house-splintering tsunami wave brushes you aside.
I know well the posture of a person who is being criticized but is trying to take it sweetly, because I've been there too many times: clenched nails piercing into skin, jaw locked, muscles tense, speaking only in clipped words, thinking that’s better than launching into a tirade of, “You’re wrong for these one hundred reasons!”
It isn’t any better, though. You might as well launch the tirade, because you’ve already lost the battle. Pride has already mowed you down, and you’re already ignoring the people who love you the most when they tell you what they want to say the least.
Remember, Correction isn’t Criticism.
I used to think I had a problem with taking criticism well, and even made it a four year goal in my journal to become a master of receiving criticism with a teachable spirit. And then a dear lady reminded me that correction is not always criticism. Correction is what a ship’s captain does to the wheel of a ship when it’s headed the wrong way. It’s what white-out does to a mistake, it’s what I do when a student plays an “A” instead of a “F”, and it’s what those who love you the most care enough to do when you’ve just messed things up in a monumental way. Even if you haven’t noticed your ship heading in the wrong direction or the huge scrawling on your paper or the wrong note, those who love you probably have. If it’s in love, it’s not a critical attack to take personally, it’s a kind correction of direction.
You’re a precious, hand-painted china teacup: Be humble about it
Watchman Nee once said, “The lower we put something, the safer it is. It is safest to put a cup on the floor." Mikaela and I once collected miniature porcelain tea sets, and they were our prized possessions. We put them on a prominent shelf in our bedroom where the sunlight hit them just right, where guests couldn’t help but admire them as soon as they entered, and where we could lovingly fondle them when so inclined. We soon discovered, however, that the shelf was at just the wrong level so that if you walked past at just the wrong angle, your shoulder would brush the shelf and send it crashing all the way down to the floor.
A few handles were crushed off of teacups the first time that happened. But we picked up the pieces and put our prized possessions back on the high, precarious shelf, only to have the same thing happen several more times, with even more beautiful pieces crushed to smithereens in front of our heartbroken eyes. One particularly bad crash left us with only one complete set, and we finally realized that that shelf was not the safest place for the tea sets to be.
Nor is pride a safe shelf on which to place yourself. Be humble in the face of correction that brings you low and willingly take the low shelf, not because you are dirt, but because you are a precious child of the King of Kings. In fact, Jeremiah 30:11 promises,
“'For I am with you,' says the LORD, 'to save you; Though I make a full end of all nations where I have scattered you, Yet I will not make a complete end of you. But I will correct you in justice, And will not let you go altogether unpunished.'”
As such a precious child of God, ask Him to help you loosen those clenched muscles, defeat those defensive words, humble your pride, and smile at the better direction that awaits! I know it's something I'll be working on in the months ahead!
Scripture taken from the New King James Version. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.
Photo Credit: Abdulmajeed Al.mutawee