“I have something I want to ask you,” my friend said. “How is your relationship with Paul?”
I felt uncomfortable. I’d recently lost my cool with Paul. I was wrong, and everyone knew it. I’d taken some superficial steps to put things right, but I still hadn’t owned my mistake — actually, my sin.
“I think we’re okay,” I mumbled, but I knew that my friend was right to ask the question. I needed a prompt to put things right.
When someone corrects me, I automatically feel a little defensive. I think of all the reasons why I’m right and why the situation is more complicated than it appears. I want to come out looking like I’m not so bad, and that others would understand if they were in my shoes.
I’m not alone. It’s not easy to receive correction from others. But being correctable is essential to our maturity and growth.
“Whoever loves discipline loves knowledge, but one who hates correction is stupid,” we read in Proverbs 12:1. “Anyone who ignores discipline despises himself, but whoever listens to correction acquires good sense” (Proverbs 15:32). And then there’s the verse that challenges me most: “The wounds of a friend are trustworthy, but the kisses of an enemy are excessive” (Proverbs 27:6).
Sometimes it’s better for us to hear a hard thing from a true friend than a flattering thing from someone who really doesn’t care about us.
I’m learning to appreciate being challenged by others. For one thing, I realize how much I need it. I’ve seen a few people who have made it clear that they don’t welcome correction. It’s ugly. When we don’t welcome feedback from others, we become blind to issues that are clear to everyone else. I don’t want to go there.
I still struggle sometimes to receive correction. But I’m learning. Here are some practices that I’ve found helpful.
Take a moment before reacting. Usually, I want to respond immediately, but my first response isn’t my best response. When I remember, I try to slow myself down, to breathe, and to listen carefully before I respond.
Assume good intentions. Sometimes I tend to hear criticism as a personal attack. Usually, it’s not. Often, correction comes not because someone dislikes me but because they care about me and want the best for me. When I assume the other person cares for me and has good intentions, it’s easier to receive correction.
Reframe. Charles Spurgeon, a preacher who lived in the 1800s, offered this advice: “Brother, if any man thinks ill of you, do not be angry with him; for you are worse than he thinks you to be. If he charges you falsely on some point, yet be satisfied, for if he knew you better he might change the accusation, and you would be no gainer by the correction. If you have your moral portrait painted, and it is ugly, be satisfied; for it only needs a few blacker touches, and it would be still nearer the truth.” Even when the correction is off base, it helps to remember that we all have faults, and we can all stand to be corrected.
Receiving correction is still hard. I don’t know if it ever gets easier. But I want to be a correctable person. I want everyone to know that I realize I have blind spots, and that I won’t attack them if they try to help me.
By God’s grace, I’m growing in my ability to be correctable.