Accept correction

If you ignore criticism, you will end in poverty and disgrace; if you accept correction, you will be honored. ~Proverbs 13:18 NKJV

Accept CriticismHow do you handle criticism?

The Collins English Dictionary defines the word criticism as:

the act or an instance of making an unfavourable or severe judgment, comment, etc.

In the business world, many have taken to the euphemism “constructive feedback,” a term that attempts to soften and give purpose to criticism. It speaks to the intent of the correction, which is supposed to help you improve in some way. It takes a good measure of humility to receive such “feedback” and act upon it.

Have you ever rejected criticism or correction out of hand? In Jeremiah 5:2-4, the prophet records God’s reaction to the proud residents of Jerusalem who kept God far from their hearts:

O Lord, do not Your eyes look for truth? You have smitten them, But they did not weaken; You have consumed them, But they refused to take correction. They have made their faces harder than rock; They have refused to repent.

This passage seems to indicate that ignoring correction is probably not a great strategy. Proverbs 29:1 is a stern warning against a lifetime of ignoring correction:

A man who hardens his neck after much reproof Will suddenly be broken beyond remedy.

There is probably a reason why you’re being criticized or corrected. It may be prudent to invest time and thought as to what that is. Reflection may lead you to conclude that the criticism is baseless, unwarranted or unjustified. But perhaps there really is something about you that should change.

Serious contemplation can help you discern your best response. In 2 Timothy 3:16-17, the apostle Paul reminds you that the Bible contains the wisdom you need:

All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness; so that the man of God may be adequate, equipped for every good work.

Study God’s living, active word. It will teach you. It will critique you. It will correct you. It will train you. The more you allow the scriptures to mold your character, the less correction you’ll receive from others.

Choose to obey

A fool despises his father’s instruction, But he who receives correction is prudent. ~Proverbs 15:5 NKJV

Father SonPerhaps you are one of the many people who have grown up without an earthly father in your life. Or maybe your father wasn’t a godly man.

This verse says that only a foolish person rejects and hates the instruction of his or her father. So what are you to do if your father’s guidance was absent? Or worse, actually advice that is counter to what you read in the scriptures?

The more important question for you as a Christian is how you respond to God’s direction. The emphasis in Proverbs 15:5 is really on the listener, not the provider of counsel. How you respond to discipline reveals your character. The real contrast here is between the fool who spurns instruction and the prudent individual who heeds it.

Being corrected is rarely a pleasant experience. It means you did something wrong, or that you can – and should – improve. But readiness to be corrected is an important characteristic that distinguishes the wise from the foolish.

Consider these verses, which also address your preparedness to receive God’s correction:

Whoever loves discipline loves knowledge, but he who hates correction is stupid. ~Proverbs 12:1

A wise son heeds his father’s instruction, but a mocker does not listen to rebuke. ~Proverbs 13:1

Stern discipline awaits him who leaves the path; he who hates correction will die. ~Proverbs 15:10

Romans 8:29 explains that the Lord intends for you to be more and more like Jesus:

For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the likeness of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brothers.

Jesus followers aren’t perfect; we are forgiven. A Christian can only “conform to the likeness” of Jesus by seeking God’s forgiveness and correction daily. How do you handle the Lord’s instruction when you encounter it in the scriptures?

The Lord is keenly interested in your obedience. Choose, by God’s grace, to obey him today.

Don’t bother

Anyone who rebukes a mocker will get an insult in return. Anyone who corrects the wicked will get hurt. So don’t bother correcting mockers; they will only hate you. But correct the wise, and they will love you. Instruct the wise, and they will be even wiser. Teach the righteous, and they will learn even more. ~Proverbs 9:7-9 NLT

A mocker is a person who frequently resorts to scorn, ridicule, or derision to make fun of things he or she doesn’t understand or like. According to the Bible, a wise person is one who invests time reading and memorizing scripture, as well as sharing the scriptures with others. What a contrast.

By nature, mockers are rebellious, and are loath to accept the even most constructive of criticism. Try to correct a person like this, the passage says, and you can count on being insulted for your trouble. In fact, you can count on being hurt in the process.

But when you offer correction to a wise person, they will take it to heart, examine themselves and the scriptures, and become even wiser in the process.

In Matthew 7:6, Jesus offered a thought on this:

Do not give dogs what is sacred; do not throw your pearls to pigs. If you do, they may trample them under their feet, and turn and tear you to pieces.

The next time you’re tempted to correct a person, think for a moment. Ask youself whether the person is a mocker, or wise – in the Biblical sense. If they are wise, proceed. If, on the other hand, the person is a mocker, it may be better to keep your thoughts to yourself.