It is not easy for most of us to receive correction or reproof. Our natural response is to reject it. Often we respond poorly by getting upset, angry or defensive; or excusing ourselves and blaming others. Our negative reaction is mainly due to our depraved nature. We are proud and think well of ourselves: “Every way of a man is right in his own eyes: but the LORD pondereth the hearts” (Prov 21: 2); “Most men will proclaim every one his own goodness” (Prov 20: 6a).
Thinking that we are always right, we often resent anyone who tries to correct or counsel us. This is one reason why the Book of Proverbs is replete with warnings against responding negatively to reproof. Listed below are a few examples:
“He that reproveth a scorner getteth to himself shame: and he that rebuketh a wicked man getteth himself a blot. 8 Reprove not a scorner, lest he hate thee: rebuke a wise man, and he will love thee” (9: 7-8).
“Whoso loveth instruction loveth knowledge: but he that hateth reproof is brutish” (12: 1).
“A wise son heareth his father’s instruction: but a scorner heareth not rebuke” (13: 1).
“A scorner loveth not one that reproveth him: neither will he go unto the wise” (15: 12).
“He that refuseth instruction despiseth his own soul: but he that heareth reproof getteth understanding” (15: 32).
Though most of us do not welcome correction or counsel, it is needful. One reason is because of our blindness to our faults. We are quick to judge others and to magnify their faults, but we fail to see our own greater ones (Matt 7: 3-4). Those who are close to us are able to identify our blind spots. Let us be open to learn from their reproofs. Instead of defending ourselves or attacking the reprover, it is good to consider carefully their counsel to see how we can amend our ways.
What truths can we glean from Proverbs that will help us to be open to correction and counsel? (In this series of articles, we will be using the terms – “reproof”, “rebuke”, “instruction”, “admonition”, “counsel” “correction” and “discipline” interchangeably.)
o Giving and Receiving Reproof
Because of our struggles with pride, rebukes can be difficult to give as well as to receive graciously. But Proverbs 25: 11-12 speak of a wise reprover as well as an obedient hearer: “A word fitly spoken is like apples of gold in pictures of silver. 12 As an earring of gold, and an ornament of fine gold, so is a wise reprover upon an obedient ear.”
An admonition that is prudently spoken is like a picture that is pleasing to the eye. Like a beautiful golden ornament, gracious words are well-received by the humble hearer. Recognising the value of reproof, he gladly hearkens to it, and is instructed and reformed by it.
“Such was Eli’s word to Samuel; Abigail’s and Nathan’s to David; Isaiah’s to Hezekiah. We see the good fruit in Jehoshaphat, whom, instead of producing revulsion, it stimulated to higher service of God. The apostle’s probing reproof to the Corinthian Church worked so efficiently, that ‘in all things ye have approved yourselves to be clear in this matter’ (II Cor 7: 11). What a triumph of grace is it, when the kindness of reproof is acknowledged, and the motive of love appreciated. Faithful indeed is the blessing, when the gift of an obedient ear prepares the Lord’s children for a profitable hearing of his reproof” (Charles Bridges).
On the other hand, one who despises wisdom is considered a fool: “but fools despise wisdom and instruction” (Prov 1: 7b). He hates godly wisdom: “fools hate knowledge” (Prov 1: 22c).
Such a one “wittingly and willingly exposeth himself to temptation and wickedness, because he rejecteth that admonition which is a proper preservative from it” (Matthew Poole).
One proof of wisdom is our willingness to learn from others. By accepting correction, we gain wisdom and an awareness of our shortcomings: “Give instruction to a wise man, and he will be yet wiser: teach a just man, and he will increase in learning” (Prov 9: 9). Conscious of our own failings, we can, with much prayer and resolve, overcome our weaknesses. In this way, the Lord can mould our lives as we learn to yield to Him. (… to be continued)