Our ability to consistently and graciously receive correction, admonishment and rebuke from others is a quality essential to our making enduring progress in our spiritual lives. There are no two ways around this truth: either we will readily receive correction and enjoy the fruits of godly wisdom, or we will entrench ourselves against reproof and gradually, but most assuredly, harden our hearts to our soul’s peril.
Yet nothing seems to be more difficult and more contrary to our nature than gladly taking pointed words about our sin and failure and then using those words as a means to sincere repentance. Instead, it seems as though we are wired to do anything other than willingly and thankfully receive correction: defend ourselves with complex and even biblical arguments, blame others for their negative influence, compare ourselves with our neighbor, or douse the confrontation altogether by simply pointing to the hypocrisy in the one delivering the rebuke. If we are really clever, we may even attempt to hastily agree with the accusations, hurriedly end the conversation, and move on to another subject so the rebuke does not have time to burrow itself deep into our hearts. Our sin will do whatever it can to be left in the dark.
It is no wonder, then, that the Proverbs speak repeatedly and forcefully to the importance of receiving and profiting from the rebuke and correction of others. This rich collection of God-breathed instruction for fruitful living links growth in real wisdom with our consistency in receiving reproof; at the same time — and often in the following phrase — the reader is reminded of the inevitable folly which attends one’s rejection of the admonishments of others. There are only two options: receive correction and become wise, or reject words of rebuke and become a fool. Just a few selections from the book of Proverbs illustrate this truth:
Proverbs 12:1 — “Whoever loves discipline loves knowledge, whoever hates reproof is stupid.”
Proverbs 13:1 — “A wise son hears his father’s instruction, but a scoffer does not listen to rebuke.”
Proverbs 13:8 — “Poverty and disgrace come to him who ignores instruction, but whoever heeds reproof is honored.”
Proverbs 15:31-32 — “The ear that listens to life-giving reproof will dwell among the wise. Whoever ignores instruction despises himself, but he who listens to reproof gains intelligence”
Proverbs 19:27 — “Cease to hear instruction, my son, and you will stray from words of knowledge.”
Rejecting reproof can also lead to personal calamity (1:26), sexual sin (5:12), deceiving of others (10:17) and death (15:10). On the other hand, absorbing and profiting from hard words of rebuke and correction brings precious wisdom (8:18-19) and life (6:23).
Seeing how important it is for us to be able to regularly take and benefit from the rebukes of others, the question becomes, “How?” If experience teaches us our tendency to deflect reproof from other people, how can we take steps forward in our growth in this area for the good of our souls? I see five essential actions we must take in order to cultivate a heart ready to receive correction and reproof. We will consider these important steps on Friday.