Proverbs 12:1 (NIV)
Whoever loves discipline loves knowledge,
but he who hates correction is stupid.
I recall laughing upon reading that verse as a young teenager. My pale pink NIV Student Bible, still shiny and nightly protected by the equally shiny cardboard box it came in, shed a comedic light on a serious subject. At least, in my youth I found the latter part of the verse funny. It was such a harsh dig that I envisioned it as a line in some teen movie like Clueless. Today, I read that verse and shudder a bit. 29 years old, and I still have difficulty dealing with criticism.
Not all criticism is healthy or constructive; that I acknowledge and must differentiate according to the circumstances. In the classroom or studio, I have received advice and teaching with a critical eye that has been given in love so that I may learn and advance. Mostly, I have appreciated and accepted this form of criticism. This form was expected. If I ask for assistance, then typically I realize my need and am more able to take the medicine.
It is the other forms that I struggle to accept or to discard. Sometimes I have difficulty discerning the heart of these other forms. I cannot tell you how many times I have created harsh subtext for simple conversations probably meant only to gently guide. Sometimes in those situations I am quick to explain my reasoning or viewpoint in efforts to defend. This is shameful, I know. That’s something I’ve been working to dissipate in my head. I’ve only recently begun to understand some of the root of the subtext and my quick impulse to defend.
Unrequested critical attitude causes me to well up unreasonably inside. It offends because I am found lacking in some way. I am so overly critical of myself that if someone catches something I have missed or haven’t thought through, I tear myself apart. I feel as though that person doesn’t trust me at all, that somehow he or she is discounting everything I have worked towards in my life. It is as though all of my efforts to educate and advance myself are of no worth. As I said, most of this is subtext I have imagined, but nevertheless the thoughts sweep through my heart.
God has worked diligently in my heart on these matters. This morning I caught myself feeling criticized when someone who loves me was only trying to give me wise perspective in a difficult situation. My response wasn’t defensive, yet I felt the urge to provide every angle of my heart. In fact, this week, more than most, I have felt the scorn of my surroundings for decisions I have made. And the truth is, when I get alone with God and remove all the voices of these surroundings, the peace that passes all understanding, well, passes all understanding.
The challenge will forever be distinguishing what to accept and what to discard. My pride must fall so that I may succeed more fully for Christ, so I must be willing to accept it. Yet I need to trust and REST in the peace God gives me amid any kind of criticism, whether imagined or real. The weight of the world is just too heavy and in the words of John this morning “is not mine to own.” That is advice I am more than happy to accept.
So do I hate correction? Nah. Is all “correction” correct? Absolutely not.