"Let a righteous man strike me--it is a kindness; let him rebuke me--it is oil on my head. My head will not refuse it."
- Psalm 141:5 NIV
I don't know anyone who likes being criticized. I doubt very much that King David really enjoyed it, either. Yet in the above verse, David reveals how he had learned the benefits of being rebuked, especially by a righteous person. He calls being reproved "a kindness," and he says that he "will not refuse it." David knew that even if the rebuke was given with the wrong intent, he could still benefit from it. That's true humility, and that's one of the reasons why God called him "a man after My own heart.” (Acts 13:22) It’s also why the Lord was able to use David so mightily.
Proverbs 29:23 (TLB) says, "Pride ends in a fall, while humility brings honor." People who are prideful don't take correction very well. Instead of receiving it in a humble manner, they often become angry and offended, rejecting the reproof, even if it was given in genuine love and concern. These people usually end up hurting themselves more than anyone else, and even if they are very gifted believers, God isn't likely to bless them, or use them, the way He would like to. Proverbs 15:31-32 (NIV) says, "He who listens to a life-giving rebuke will be at home among the wise. He who ignores discipline despises himself, but whoever heeds correction gains understanding." Instead of always seeing correction as something negative, we should try to think of it in terms of being "life-giving," and a way of gaining more wisdom. How we respond to criticism tells a lot about us, especially where our spiritual maturity is concerned.
Psalm 94:12-13 (NIV) says, "Blessed is the man you discipline, O Lord, the man you teach from your law; you grant him relief from days of trouble." This verse reveals a remarkable Biblical principle. One of the primary ways the Lord corrects us is through His Word. If we spend time with God daily, fellowshipping with Him in prayer and Bible study, the Lord will not have to use other people to reprove us as often. But those who neglect spending time in God's Word will suffer frequent correction and criticism from others, simply because they haven't given God much choice in the matter.
James 1:20 (NIV) says: "Man's anger does not bring about the righteous life that God desires." When we respond to criticism with anger, even a reproof that is justified and meant to be constructive will fail to benefit us, or our spiritual growth. Some people get angry at correction simply because it enables them to avoid facing their problem, or having to do anything about it. The Bible often equates correction with love. Proverbs 27:5 (NIV) says, "Better is open rebuke than hidden love." And Proverbs 27:6 (NLT) says, “Wounds from a sincere friend are better than many kisses from an enemy.” So we mustn't assume that because someone rebukes us, they don't care about us, or that they mean us harm. It may be just the opposite.
Proverbs 15:12 (NIV) says that, "A mocker resents correction; he will not consult the wise." If we're in a situation where it would be smart for us to ask advice from godly people, and we refuse to do so, we may have a problem with pride. We will end up hurting ourselves because we've rejected the help God would have offered us through them. The best way to handle reproof--even if it's not given with good intentions--is to receive it in a Christlike manner, and to ask God, "Lord, is there any truth to this? Are there some changes I need to make here?" If so, we can count on the Lord to give us the grace we need to become all that He wants us to be!
Prayer: Lord, whenever I'm criticized or corrected, help me to respond with the right attitude. Surround me with godly people who will hold me accountable. Teach me to spend time with You and Your Word daily, so that You won't have to use others to correct me so often. Thank You for doing a mighty work in me, so that You can bless and use me in awesome ways!
- J. M. Farro