Thoughts on Being Corrected

The beginning of the spring semester always brings formal personal evaluations among the people I serve with.  “Formal” not in the sense that the conversations are cold and businesslike — they’re actually warm and friendly — but “formal” in the sense that we have set forms of questions that we answer as we reflect on the fall and adjust for the spring.  We then talk through the highlights and help each other see where we did well and where we need to grow.  I thought I would share what I think my partners in ministry need to work on.

Just kidding.  Here are some thoughts on my own experience of being evaluated:

  1. I’ve been an RD for longer than I ever was before (not a profound thought, I know), yet I was rightfully critiqued on more points than I’ve ever been before.  Experience doesn’t exempt you from correction.
  2. Friends correct.  Enemies flatter.  I think we usually reverse this, because we like to think that those who correct us are against us and those who flatter us are for us.  This view of things helps our pride.  But the reality is that those who correct us are the best friends we have.  Friends don’t only or mainly correct, but it’s certainly the mark of a true friend.
  3. Listen to corroboration.  Four guys all mentioned one particular weakness this year, which means it’s impossible to deny that it’s a weakness.  This happened several years ago, too, though it was a different issue.  Praise God for the clarity that comes in corporate critique.  Yes, I recognized this particular weakness years ago and wrestled with it a lot last semester as I tried to work it out, but I definitely failed.  How foolish would it be for me to deny what everyone sees?  Yet it’s actually possible to be this stupid.  Very frightening.
  4. I had believable reasons that could potentially justify every weak point that was identified, every poor decision that was reflected on, and every bad habit that was exposed.  I could’ve shifted the blame to any number of seemingly blameworthy circumstances.  But it would’ve been shifty, manipulative, and dishonest.  There are always reasons why a particular weakness may have been exacerbated or why a bad habit may have been spotlighted.  But the fact is, my weaknesses already existed before they were exacerbated and the problem is the bad habit, not the spotlight.  God is the one operating the spolight, and we should be thankful for the dirt He reveals.  In short:  Don’t make excuses by blaming circumstances.  There were plausible excuses for every negative thing I was evaluated about, but for me to use them as shields against the sword of the Spirit would have been incredibly subversive and self-deceptive.  The fact that a particular excuse seems plausible just means that it’s a smoother lie than the obvious ones.  I tried hard not to make excuses, but if I did, I hope someone will tell me.
  5. It can be very helpful to repeat someone’s concerns back to them so that both you and they can be sure that you know precisely what they’re saying.  I found it very beneficial to say, “So you’re saying that you’ve observed this attitude and this action in these situations, and that I need to work on x, y, and z?”  We usually ask questions like this as a form of defense mechanism and counter-attack where we try to make the other person’s concern sound extreme or accusatory so we can have warrant for rejecting it.  That’s not what I’m talking about.  I’m talking about an honest effort to understand someone’s critique so that you can consider it, pray through it, and repent with precision.  Until the person reproving or correcting or expressing concern can say, “That’s exactly what I’m talking about,” I don’t think you should move on in the conversation.  God has brought someone into your life to sanctify you.  It would be good to hear precisely what He’s saying through them.
  6. Some of the people evaluating me held positions lower than mine and were younger than me.  They were my institutional and chronological inferiors.  But that doesn’t matter.  They had good and right things to say, and things I needed to hear.  You can be helped by anyone.  Naturally we’ll put more stock in the words of those who are older and wiser than ourselves, but this doesn’t mean we should discount the insight of those who are positionally or chronologically below us (it also doesn’t mean that those with lower positions and later birthdays are necessarily less mature than us in some or even most areas).
  7. Constructive criticism from faithful friends is so much different than potshots from backstabbers, knee-whackers, and spiritual assassins.  This doesn’t mean we have nothing to learn from the nasty, biting critiques of those who use gossip, slander, and aggression to make their point — just that the difference is evident and extreme.
  8. I find it helpful to reply to others’ concerns by expressing concrete things I (honestly) plan to change and improve.  I want it to be clear, both to myself and to the other person, that I really will try to make changes.  This also provides accountability — now that I’ve committed to something specific, I’d better do it.
  9. Don’t turn the tables.  There’s a time and a place to offer counter-correction, but it usually comes from pride.  Unfortunately, though, it’s the first off-ramp we usually take when the Lord starts to take us down the highway of correction.
  10. It’s a sad reality that there were things I already knew I needed to do better but just didn’t change.  This shows the laziness of my heart and the deceitfulness of sin.  The battle does not end at self-awareness or even confession.  Repentance and perseverance are the key.  This also implies that responding to correction by saying, “I know, I’ve already thought about that” or “Yeah, I’ve known that for a long time” is pretty foolish.  If it’s true that you’ve known it for a long time and still haven’t made significant changes, it makes you more guilty, not less.  But somehow it’s easy to think that if we’ve already thought about the correction being offered, we must not really need to hear it.  The reality is that we need to hear it more and louder.
  11. Every person delivered their critiques with grace, balance, and a willingess to be corrected or clarified.  They also gave me the benefit of the doubt, recognizing that certain circumstances during the fall semester may have made particular choices harder or different than before.  This was very kind of them and set an example for me, even though I had to admit that none of the circumstances excused me from responsibility.
  12. Only time will tell — the test of whether or not I am a wise man who heeds correction is not just the listening ear I tried to offer but the changed life that can be seen at semester’s end.  If he who rejects reproof is stupid, I would assume that he who listens to reproof, says he’ll change, and then does nothing is even more stupid.  I hope I’m not that guy.
  13. If you don’t have people in your life who correct, exhort, challenge, confront, or rebuke you, or if you haven’t been personally challenged or evaluated in awhile, you’re in a dangerous situation.  There are a number of possible reasons why you may have avoided correction for a long time, but I doubt that flawlessness is one of them.  This is not to say that people who get confronted a lot must be more spiritual — that’s a pretty senseless view.  Only to say that a person who has (1) weaknesses, (2) a reputation for listening, and (3) healthy friendships will hear constructive criticism sooner than later.  #1 is a given and #2 and #3 are marks of maturity.  If you’re lacking correction, you may be lacking one of the latter two, and it would be good to consider why.

Feel free to let me know your own thoughts on being corrected.  I want to learn all I can through this recent process.

3 thoughts on “Thoughts on Being Corrected

  1. Gun,

    I think the logic in your 2nd point (which is so true) also results in people not offering correction. Even if they don’t flatter, they hold back on critique that could have been a blessing because they think it’s more loving to not “wound”. My point is simply that encouraging people to offer you correction and letting them know you value it can go a long way in developing healthier friendships in which these conversations are more commonplace.

    “Let a righteous man strike me—it is a kindness; let him rebuke me—it is oil on my head. My head will not refuse it.” ~ Psalm 141:5

    Thanks for the post. I love you, brother!

  2. i really, really needed this today. the Lord really used it. i’ve been corrected a lot this week – and rightly. encouraging to know that it is good – it means He is working on me, and it should be a given that i am sinful and i fail – not a shocker.

  3. whoa G. That’s a GREAT post…all of them pierce like an arrow, and 5 & 13 were really insightful and helpful!
    thanx for this post…PTL for semester reviews, eh!!


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