Businesses spend great amounts of money to hire efficiency experts to suggest ways the business can improve. Coaches constantly look for ways to correct athletes and make them better. Artists will benefit from critics and teachers to see ways to perfect their work.
Each of these examples involves people or companies benefiting greatly from the input of outsiders. But consider that these outsiders must begin by seeing and pointing out flaws in the people or companies they are evaluating.
Of course, these people welcome the critique and even pay hard earned money to get it. If the advice is wise, they benefit greatly from it.
How well do you receive critism personally? Do you invite and welcome it, knowing it can have outstanding long term benefits in your life? Or do you hate it and get defensive, and end up hating the person who tried to reprove you?
How you receive criticism is a bench mark on where you are on the path of wisdom.
Dawson Trotman, founder of the Navigators, had a personal discipline. He took all the criticisms he received to God in prayer and laid them before God and asked him to show him the kernels of truth.
John MacArthur, the pastor of Grace Community Church in Los Angeles, California, says to be very gracious when criticized because if the critic knew all that there was to know about you, he’d have many more legitimate things to say!
One definition of pride is boiling up; it is the arrogance of those who have to have everything their own way; a stubborn know it all. A classic example in the Bible is Pharaoh in his almost insane stubbornness against Moses and ultimately God himself (Nehemiah 9:9-10). Proverbs 29:23 gives these wise words, “A man’s pride will bring him low but a humble spirit will obtain honor.” Humility equals wisdom.
The term for humble (or lowly) is used here and in Micah 6:8, which says, “He has told you, O man, what is good; and what does the Lord require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?”
There are severe limits to your strength, your knowledge (of God’s Word and even to your experiences in life). Do you acknowledge that? Do you ask and receive necessary help, input, comfort and support from godly teachers and friends and from God?
We must not be marked by proud insubordination, being stubborn in our opinions, being unwilling to ask questions and ask for help. God’s wisdom is free and available but sometimes it is hard to get and often painfully humbling to receive, BUT it is vital and it is life so we must receive it.
There is a series of three Proverbs that highlight humility’s near kinship with wisdom. The main application is receiving correction.
Whoever corrects a scoffer gets himself abuse,
and he who reproves a wicked man incurs injury.
Do not reprove a scoffer, or he will hate you;
reprove a wise man, and he will love you.
Give instruction to a wise man, and he will be still wiser;
teach a righteous man, and he will increase in learning. Prov 9:7-9
Suppose (just suppose) that you get onto I-285 around Atlanta and encounter a “driving fool.” Perhaps you try to offer the honk of reproof. How is that kind of input often received on the highway? You usually get abuse back for your helpful intentions.
Notice that in Proverbs 9:8b-9 that there is an opportunity to become “still wiser.” The wise realize they will never arrive. No one has maxed out on life-skillfulness. The wise person is humble enough to know this fact and openly receive instruction.
Reproof is an argument to prove someone wrong. It is refuting error and misconduct with biblical argument. You tell them, “I think you did wrong here because of 1, 2, 3, 4.” You are seeking to correct wrong behavior.
It is NOT fun to be reproved or to offer reproof. It is hard, humiliating, and tough to act on it, and you don’t really want to put yourself or your friend in a position to deal with those kinds of temptations.
But listen carefully. These Proverbs, and many others throughout God’s book of wisdom, insist that you are wise if you listen and a faithful friend if you offer helpful critics, but you are completely a fool if you fight back or fail to help your friends when they need a word of correction (which we all do from time to time).
If you are working on your golf swing in your front yard and Bubba Watson stops by to coach you up on the way to The Master’s. Don’t be a “golf fool” and assume your swing is good enough. Humble yourself, listen, learn, and change for the better. When your friends try to coach you up in life skills, also be humble and wisely listen and learn. Often behind your friend is a loving God trying to get your attention.