The truth is really freaking uncomfortable. Close your eyes and remember the last time you got really upset and defensive because of something that someone said to you. It could have been an attack on your character or maybe a statement that contradicted your beliefs. That feeling that wells up somewhere between your stomach and your heart that you need to protect yourself is easily identifiable. For me what usually follows is an immediate declaration that they are wrong and a stubbornness that refuses to consider their assertion as even partial truth. My pride-o-meter goes straight up to a 10 and suddenly I am innocent and right and they are jerks and wrong.
In month 6 of the World Race one of my teammates gave me feedback about my work ethic… and I was pissed! She told me that I wasn’t doing my best, that I was being lazy. Wow did my pride take over. How dare she? She doesn’t even like me, who is she to say that about me? In my heart I knew there was truth to what she was saying, but honestly I wasn’t even trying to hear her. Her words hurt and she didn’t understand where I was coming from. From my point of view she didn’t care about me and was trying to hurt me not make me a better person. In my eyes that invalidated everything she was saying.
It took a minute (ok… two months…) for me to really break down the truth of what happened there. The truth is I wasn’t doing my best. I wasn’t working my hardest. At times I was being lazy. And I knew it before she even told me. I also was hurt and broken and fallen. I was using that hurt as an excuse to not do my best because I didn’t want to care about anything. Caring hurt and I was just done.
The worst part of the story is that while I worked to correct my actions for the next four months of the race, I know that I lost out on a lot because I wasn’t initially willing to accept her truth. I wasn’t willing to examine what she had said to me and find the wisdom in it and because of that there are people who I didn’t serve to the best of my ability. I also wasn’t able to sit in that uncomfortable spot where I was wrong and admit it to the people around me – which would have brought much more flourishing relationships than my approach which lead to shallow relationships because they couldn’t trust my reactions.
Proverbs talks a lot about reproof which is a fancy Bible word for a reprimand or admonishment. In Proverbs 9:8 it says “Do not reprove a scoffer, or he will hate you, Reprove a wise man and he will love you.” In Proverbs 15:31 it says “He whose ear listens to the life-giving reproof will dwell among the wise.” I don’t know anyone who likes to be corrected or be told they are wrong, but the difference between a wise man and a fool is how we approach that truth we are given.
Are we able to take that correction to Jesus? Are we able to sit in the really uncomfortable moment where we might be wrong? Are we able to set our pride aside for a minute and accept the assertion that we are wrong or will we allow our pride to get the better of us?
I wish I had known that the actions I had in that moment would lead to the consequences that they did. Hindsight is always 20/20, and I find that I usually learn things way after the fact, even if the Bible has the answers right in front of me. The Bible has many stories that show that not being willing to take correction can have terrible consequences. In Proverbs 10:17 it says that by being unteachable we will even lead others astray. It can affect my family, friends, neighbors, and church when I refuse to accept feedback and I definitely don’t want that. I want to be the person who leads with wisdom and grace instead of defensiveness.
I challenge you to do the same. Next time that feeling of hurt and defensiveness and pride swells up breathe, take a minute, and pray. Ask God what he could be teaching you about yourself or about the world around you. Don’t waste the opportunity to grow in the wisdom that you could gain from the situation in front of you.