Whoever loves discipline loves knowledge, but whoever hates correction is stupid.
― Proverbs 12:1
Whoever disregards discipline comes to poverty and shame, but whoever heeds correction is honored.
― Proverbs 13:18
Being open to correction means making ourselves vulnerable, and many people are not willing to do that.
― Myles Munroe
To admonish is better than to reproach for admonition is mild and friendly, but reproach is harsh and insulting; and admonition corrects those who are doing wrong, but reproach only convicts them.
Because we’re all prideful and ego-defensive to some degree, we struggle with allowing others to correct us. As Nouman Ali Khan put it, “If someone corrects you, and you feel offended, then you have an ego problem.”
Our negative reaction to correction shows up in different forms. Let me offer three.
“How dare you correct me! You’re no better!” It may very well be the case that the person correcting you isn’t better, but, out of respect, we still need to hear what they have to say.
“You don’t know what you’re talking about!” It may very well be the case that the person correcting you doesn’t know much about you or your situation, but, out of respect, we still need to listen to what they have to say.
“I’m sorry, I didn’t know!” Sometimes, we hide behind the fact that we didn’t know that what we did was wrong, as if ignorance lets us off the hook. If you take a right turn on a red light in the Big Apple (which is illegal), please don’t tell the cop you didn’t know it was illegal – just let him or her hand you a ticket and be on your way.
Let me give you twelve tips on how to correct someone properly.
These tips apply to how you need to act when correcting others – and how they need to act when correcting you.
Tip #2: Don’t correct those over whom you have no authority. If you live in the Big Apple and see someone take a right turn on red, don’t correct them unless you’re a cop.
Tip #3: Question your motives. Are you correcting someone out of love (to help them grow), or are you correcting them out of ego (to make yourself look superior)?
Tip #4: Focus on their behavior, not their personhood. Don’t give someone corrective feedback about their character, just their behavior. Focus on the sin, not the sinner.
Tip #5: Watch your tone. A condescending, passive-aggressive tone takes us from kindly correcting someone to being critical, shaming, and abusive.
Tip #6: Correct someone publicly if their actions could hurt others. If someone says drinking bleach will cure cancer, correct them publicly so others won’t act on their idiocy.
Tip #7: Correct with evidence, not with opinion or feeling. Make sure you have your guns loaded with the proper data, evidence, and cultural norms to back up why you’re correcting someone. “I feel . . .” and “It’s just my opinion . . .” don’t cut it.
Tip #8: Admit that your correction reflects the way you see things. Even if you have all the data and evidence on your side, you want to be humble enough to acknowledge that you see things the way you do and could be wrong.
Tip #9: Start with the positive. Before you correct someone, start with what they are doing right. “You know, Jim, I see you treating people kindly all the time. I just want to bring it to your attention that it’s not okay to steal people’s lunch from the office refrigerator.”
Tip #10: Avoid sounding authoritative. Even if you’ve studied something thoroughly and have lots of data on your side, it doesn’t make you an infallible expert.
Tip #11: Ask questions to facilitate the conversation. Try to avoid passive-aggressive questions like, “Jim, do you ever look at the clock when you get to work, because you’re always late?” Ask something like, “Jim, you look exhausted when you get to work in the morning. Is everything okay?”
Tip #12: Offer help. When you correct someone, be ready to offer help if you can. If you’re about to correct someone for how they “don’t read the room” very well, be prepared to share with them what you’ve learned about emotional intelligence and where the resources are that could help them improve in that area.
Munchkins, I hope all this helps.
Try not to let your ego get in the way of receiving correction from others, and try not to let your fears get in the way of offering correction to others.
Proverbs rightly observes, “Wounds from a friend can be trusted, but an enemy multiplies kisses” (Proverbs 27:6).
Humbly receive and offer the wounds of correction, helping everyone to grow into the mature and loving people God meant us to be.