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The Importance of Giving and Receiving Correction

The Importance of Giving and Receiving Correction

Giving and receiving correction well are vitally important, because we’re sinners! We sin against others, and others sin against us. These skills are necessary in marriages, families, churches, businesses—really any group or organization—that involves relationships, so they can be strong and healthy. Here are reasons giving and receiving correction well is so important!

First, the Bible Has a Lot to Say About Giving and Receiving Correction

I often tell the church I pastor that God does not waste words in Scripture. When He is repetitive, it is for a reason. God does not use highlighting, italics, underlining, or bold for emphasis, but He does repeat Himself when He wants to ensure we do not miss something. Since there are so many verses in Scripture dealing with giving and receiving correction, this point alone tells us it’s important. Consider the following verses just from the Book of Proverbs:

  • Proverbs 12:1 —Whoever loves discipline loves knowledge, but whoever hates correction is stupid.
  • Proverbs 15:5—A fool spurns a parent’s discipline, but whoever heeds correction shows prudence.
  • Proverbs 17:10—A rebuke impresses a discerning person more than a hundred lashes a fool.
  • Proverbs 19:20—Listen to advice and accept discipline, and at the end you will be counted among the wise.
  • Proverbs 19:25—Flog a mocker, and the simple will learn prudence; rebuke the discerning, and they will gain knowledge.
  • Proverbs 21:11—When a mocker is punished, the simple gain wisdom; by paying attention to the wise they get knowledge.
  • Proverbs 25:12—If your enemy is hungry, give him food to eat; if he is thirsty, give him water to drink.

NOTE: There are more examples from Proverbs throughout the rest of the post.

Second, Giving Correction Fosters Spiritual Growth

Correction is vitally important to our maturity. Sanctification is the Holy Spirit convicting – or correcting – us about an area that needs to be more conformed into the image and likeness of Christ. Often the Holy Spirit will use people in our lives to accomplish this. Those close to us identify blind spots we’ve been unable to see. Whether it’s because of pride or ignorance, there are some issues in our lives that require the help of others to recognize the change that’s needed.

Sometimes we respond poorly by getting upset, making excuses, or trying to turn the tables on the other person. All this does is shortchange our spiritual growth. This is why the Bible places so much emphasis on the way we respond to correction. There are positive or negative consequences associated with the way we respond to correction:

  1. Proverbs 13:18—Poverty and shame will come to him who disdains correction (negative), but he who regards a rebuke will be honored (positive).
  2. Proverbs 15:10—Harsh discipline is for him who forsakes the way, and he who hates correction will die (negative).
  3. Proverbs 15:31-32—The ear that hears the rebukes of life will abide among the wise (positive). He who disdains instruction despises his own soul (negative), but he who heeds rebuke gets understanding (positive).
  4. Proverbs 29:1—He who is often rebuked, and hardens his neck, will suddenly be destroyed, and that without remedy (negative).

A Possible Evidence of Salvation?

Someone close to me was engaging in habitual sin. At best I thought he was backslidden, but more than likely I assumed he wasn’t a Christian. I spoke with him about his sin, explaining that when people are saved, their lives shouldn’t be characterized by sin.

Then I waited for a response filled with hostility and/or excuses, probably the words, “Quit judging me!” Instead, he said, “Thank you so much. I needed to hear this. I don’t want to live this way anymore.” Over the following weeks the person repented and made appropriate changes, which served as an evidence of salvation.

Third, Giving Correction Allows Relationships to Develop

When correction can’t be given in a relationship, it’s almost impossible to move beyond a superficial level. Relationships that can’t discuss hurts or offenses are completely shallow. A real friendship – whether in a family or in the church – should be able to see either of the following take place:

A person’s wisdom yields patience; it is to one’s glory to overlook an offense.

Proverbs 19:11

This only applies IF we can do what the verse says and overlook the offense. If we’re still angry about something weeks, months, or – sadly even – years later, we need to go to the person.

Unfortunately, for every situation like these two, the opposite also takes place. People don’t have the humility or spiritual maturity to receive correction well. I’ll be the first to say this has been the case in my life too. When we see how much emphasis Scripture places on receiving correction well, how much effort should we put forth to respond well? Instead of pride and humility, we should say, “Thank you for telling me. I’m sure this wasn’t easy. I’m glad you cared enough about me to talk to me about this weakness of mine.”

Fourth, Giving Correction Protects Against Bitterness

When people sin against us, it can create an offense. We have to talk to the person that upset us. The alternative allows bitterness to develop, and it can have far-reaching consequences:

Lest any root of bitterness spring up causing trouble, and by this many become defiled.

Hebrews 12:15b

Nothing ruins relationships faster than having an offense but not going to the person that offended you. The hurt festers creating anger and hostility.

We treat people differently when we’re upset with them, perhaps even unknowingly. The person who offended us will say, “You seem different toward me. Did I do something wrong?” We should share how the person hurt us, but we quickly respond in a dishonest way, “No, everything is fine.” We didn’t even know our offense had caused such a noticeable difference in our actions.

Fifth, Giving Correction Is Loving

The world says love means letting people do whatever they want whether it is detrimental to them or anyone else. Disagreeing with someone’s choices or lifestyle makes you at best unloving, and at worst hateful. This logic demands sitting back silently while people make destructive decisions.

The Bible, on the other hand, points out the logical reality that love demands correcting people:

Do not correct a scoffer, lest he hate you; rebuke a wise man, and he will love you.

Proverbs 9:8

He will love you, because he has the wisdom to recognize you have done him a favor.

David saw it as an act of love to be rebuked by someone:

Let the righteous strike me;
It shall be a kindness.
And let him rebuke me;
It shall be as excellent oil;
Let my head not refuse it.

Psalm 141:5

David invited correction, because he knew how important it was if he was going to live a life fully committed to the Lord.

When someone is sinning, correcting is what a friend does. Silence – or worse encouragement – is what an enemy does:

Open rebuke is better
Than love carefully concealed.
Faithful are the wounds of a friend,
But the kisses of an enemy are deceitful.

Proverbs 27:5

Rebuking is better or more loving than “love” that remains silent when it should speak up. A true friend will hurt you at times. Someone who praises or compliments when a rebuke should take place is not just unloving, but is an enemy because of the selfishness of supporting or encouraging a destructive behavior. Here’s the same truth:

It is better to hear the rebuke of the wise,
Than for a man to hear the song of fools.

Ecclesiastes 7:5

Comparing Ecclesiastes 7:5 with Proverbs 27:6 it is better to be wounded/rebuked by someone wise than kissed/sung to (or praised) by a fool/enemy.

A Biblical Example of a Loving Friend

Nathan the prophet was a faithful friend to David. When David’s son Adonijah rebelled against him, two of David’s closest friends – Joab and Abiathar – tragically joined him (1 Kings 1:7). Nathan stayed faithful to David though. He warned David about the betrayal through David’s wife Bathsheba (1 Kings 1:11-24).

Was this the greatest example of Nathan’s friendship? I don’t think so. I think the greatest example took place years earlier when Nathan confronted David about his sins of adultery and murder. David refused to repent. He tried to hide his sin, and for almost a year he had been able to do so. But then Nathan visited David and told him a story about a man who acted very wickedly. David didn’t know the story was about him. Nathan revealed the truth:

So David’s anger was greatly aroused against the man, and he said to Nathan, “As the Lord lives, the man who has done this shall surely die! And he shall restore fourfold for the lamb, because he did this thing and because he had no pity.”
Then Nathan said to David, “You are the man!

2 Samuel 12:5-7

When was Nathan a better friend to David? When he stood by David or when he confronted him about his sin? I would say when he confronted him, because that’s when Nathan risked the most, even his own life.

If you want to know who your real friends are, think of the people who have been honest with you even when they knew it would hurt. If you want to know the people who really love you, think of the people who corrected you even when they knew it might damage the relationship. Of the friends we have, these are the ones who love us enough to put our best interests ahead of even the friendship itself.

Discuss:

  1. How do you respond when people correct you? Do you care enough about others to give them correction when it’s needed?
  2. Can you share a time you or someone else responded well to correction? Perhaps a time you or someone responded poorly?
  3. What steps can we take to make sure we receive correction well?
  4. Can you share about a time you were judged/corrected? How did you respond?
  5. Can you think of examples of judging harshly or incorrectly?

54 Responses

  1. Wonderful reminder! Almost as good as being there (at church). Thank you for keeping us sickies and house-bound peoples in the loop.

  2. Absolutely! My closest friends sharpen with me honestly and I truly appreciate them for it. You’re right we live in a culture of “do what makes you happy” but chasing happiness can lead you straight to regret if you aren’t taking wisdom into consideration and many times correction can provide that wisdom for our GOOD. Thanks for sharing this!

    1. Hi Brittney,
      I didn’t mention it in the post, but your mention of friends “sharpening” you reminded me of this verse:

      Proverbs 27:17 As iron sharpens iron,
      So a man sharpens the countenance of his friend.

      I’m sure you are better for having the humility to receive your friend’s correction.

  3. I agree totally with your message of it being loving to correct people. It is not an easy thing to do because some people are not willing to face things about themselves and they may reject us or become offended by our trying to help them face something about themselves that is hindering their spiritual lives. It’s easier to not get involved sometimes, but it’s not the right thing to do if we fail to speak up when the Holy Spirit prompts us to do so. Was just reading in Psalms today about this very topic: Ch. 15 speaking of who may find refuge and shelter on God’s holy hill (Living Bible paraphrase) Verse 15:4 “he who speaks out against sin, criticizes those committing it.” Ch. 19:11 speaking of God’s laws: “for they warn us away from harm and give success to those who obey them.” If we love someone enough to warn them from harm and want to see them successful and living in obedience to God, we have done the loving thing and what they do with that is not on our heads, for we have done our part.

    1. Hi Rebecca,
      No, it is not easy! And you are right that it’s made more difficult by the fear you mentioned: that people won’t take the correction well and will instead become angry at us.

      I really appreciate the wisdom you shared, and especially the verses. That does really identify with the post. I’m glad my blog was able to support your daily bible reading.

      Thanks for reading and commenting. I hope you’re doing well.

    1. Hi Mihaela,
      Yes, in a sense I think that’s one of the ways to be left with regret ourselves: when we didn’t say something and have to look back feeling like we could’ve prevented someone’s hurt.

  4. This is so true. In today’s society where we don’t want to correct each other out of fear of rejection it really is a breath of fresh air when we find friends who will do so in a biblical and loving fashion. Thanks for sharing this.

  5. Thank you so much for this, I can’t even begin to tell you how grateful I am that you wrote this. Love is telling people the truth. Our country is in the state that we are in today because if the lack of love for one another. Sadly, because Christians don’t want to step on the worlds toes and offend anyone, we stay silent when we have the knowledge that could change the course of situations. When we learn how to share the truth in love, we will be in a better place. My people parish from a lack of knowledge. Thank you, thank you, thank you!

    1. Hello Tiffani,
      Wow, wonderful to hear that! You might check out the previous post too if you enjoyed this one so much, and I’ll have another (or two) coming out along the same topic.

      I agree with what you said about our nation, and I think this is why we’re at with homosexual marriage and abortion.

  6. We certainly need to be honest and being able to correct a friend is a loving thing to do.

    Of course we need to be sure that we are correcting out of love; both love for the person and a love for God.

    When we correct or rebuke from a place of love we’re doing so because we want the very best for the other person. (Even though sometimes that other person won’t see that.) We’re told to be loving towards everyone, even our enemies, therefore it can be helpful to examine our own heart and motives before correcting others.

    1. Great thoughts Rodney, thanks.

      You’re right. I didn’t delve into that much – well, really at all :). But yes, we definitely can confront out of anger or bitterness versus love. Instead of wanting to help we want to harm.

      What’s interesting – that I’ve had to consider in ministry at times – is even when people have wanted to be hurtful instead of helpful, there could still be some truth!

  7. Absolutely. I’ve had people ‘throw correction’ in my direction out of anger or bitterness and I’ve had to separate what they’ve said from the way they’ve said it. I’ve tried to discern if there has been any truth to their words and then act on them.

    I wonder how much angrier those people would be if they realised that what was meant to hurt me actually helped. 🙂

    1. Oh man, good stuff :).

      If I’m “lucky” the criticism will be in an e-mail and I can forward it to the elders (and often my wife) and say, “Okay, what truth do you see in this?”

    1. Thanks Keelie!

      I’ve often said from behind the pulpit, “You know you’re dealing with really mature people when they don’t take offense at being corrected.”

  8. Thanks for the article. I’ve finally found a chance to read it through from Katie’s post on fb. Now, I am going to be going through the Scriptures you mentioned and in prayer because the Lord has really been speaking to me about bits of bitterness or perhaps simply apathy that has developed toward some people. I have always had such a difficult time going to the person. I feel it is simply something that I have to deal with…learning to truly forgive and love the person. And while that is true, if I do not go to that person because of fear of them not liking me, or fear that my own motives may be fleshly, or simply more hassle, I may be stifling an opportunity for growth on both our parts.

    1. Hi Michelle,
      I think that’s really wonderful – and mature – that you’ve been recognizing these areas God is revealing. Shows sensitivity and humility.

      I have the same struggle myself, truly forgiving and loving those I feel have mistreated me. It’s definitely one of my weaknesses.

      One thing I’d recommend – perhaps unnecessarily b/c I suspect you’d do this anyway – is praying for the person to have an open and receptive heart. I’ve been particularly blessed at times when I’ve prayed and then seen people respond well to correction.

      Thanks for sharing!

  9. Scott i definitely agree with giving correction, otherwise the person that offended you, for example, may not even know it or didn’t mean for something said to offend you. That way correction just clears the air.

  10. I complete agree with you on the topic of correction. As a mom of 2 young children I am working on teaching them about correction and also having to be humble enough to receive correction from them when necessary

    1. That’s wonderful Elizabeth.

      I’ve often said behind the pulpit that our children are going to learn we (their parents) are sinners. They can learn it from us when their young – when we respond humbly to them as you said – or they can learn later in life because we tried to hide it from them. Unfortunately by that point it might be after they’ve become bitter toward us.

  11. I agree that we need to give honest correction. For me it is about how the person presents the correction, are they truly trying to help me or if they are just complaining. It also matters a lot to me how much I value and trust their opinion. So much goes into if a person will accept correction, but if we want to better ourselves sometimes it is the only way.

    1. Hi John,
      Thanks for reading and commenting.

      Although I’ve been blessed with a wonderful congregation, as a pastor I still hear a fair amount of complaints. Yes, it’s nice when the person is trying to be helpful versus just complain, but the problem is many times there has been plenty of truth even in the complaints :).

      Yes, like you’re saying, a person’s credibility – someone you trust – does make the correction much easier to receive.

  12. It’s funny, and sad, how correction has fallen out of fashion. Thanks for pointing out the reasons we need it. It is an important tool for growth.

    1. Tara,
      It probably has to do with our politically correct society. Everything is acceptable and you can’t say anything is wrong.

      Could also be why we’re not growing.

  13. For me my reaction to correction depends on the communication and person communicating it how I response. I tend to value correction and prefer it be immediatemy than after the fact. Correction helps challenge us to grow and is nccessary.

    1. Hi De,
      Yes, it helps when the person confronting us does so in a reasonable way.

      It’s interesting that you mentioned the correction coming immediately or later. I hadn’t really thought of that, but yes, it would seem to be most helpful if it took place soon after. Whereas later I might wonder the person’s motivation for bringing it up so late after the work.

  14. It can be very difficult to take correction in the moment it is given but if we’re wise we’ll consider the words someone speaks to us and then take the correction on board. It can be even harder to take correction when it isn’t delivered well.

    Sometimes a correction can come in the form of a personal attack from someone who isn’t seeking our best, but seeking to bring hurt. That’s when we need to be able to separate the delivery from the message. It can be easy to dismiss that kind of ‘attack’ but it’s still wise to consider what’s been said to see if there may still be some truth that we need to hear.

    1. Rodney,
      You said this wonderfully. You’re absolutely right that just because someone says something to us to be hurtful, cruel, as a personal attack, etc that doesn’t mean it’s untrue! It might be harder to receive from someone we know wants to hurt us, but it could still be as true as if it was coming from someone who truly loves us.

      Like you said the words need to be considered whether they’re from a friend with our best interests in mind, or an enemy who wants nothing more than to be mean.

  15. I love what you said about how ignoring a hurt builds resentment. It is so true! If we don’t give people a chance to acknowledge their actions and take responsibility, we’re walking around hurt and angry and they have no idea. It’s not really fair to them or us – and as the body of Christ we are supposed to be unified.

    1. Yes! So often we think we’re being more mature by “overlooking an offense” but the truth is we haven’t been able to overlook it. The more mature response would be going to the person about the offense.

    2. Thanks.

      I say that from my experience as a pastor. I’ve spoken with people who are clearly upset with others. I’ll say, “Why don’t you go talk to the person?” and they’ll respond, “Because I’m not upset about it”…even though they clearly are.

  16. Great post! To answer your question, sometimes, when I get corrected, I take offense to it- because my human nature instantly want’s to believe that I was in the right the entire time. But often times, I was not in the right, and that other person came to correct me for being wrong. I have learned many times to listen and think beyond myself and into what that person may be experiencing or feeling. It brings about a new chance for healing and for forgiveness.

    I recently had a friend of mine decide not to attend my wedding. A friend I have had for a long, long, time. I approached her right away to let her know I was pretty hurt by this. She refused to apologize for it right away, and that hurt. A few weeks later, she apologized, and I had to tell her that I was still upset at the situation but that I forgave her, and that I was asking God to help me past that hurt.

    From both sides, either being the one correctly, or the one being corrected- there is a chance to learn.

    1. Hi Mary,
      Thanks for reading and answering!

      Right, everyone’s human nature wants to flare up against correction! Had thought about trying to see the truth in what’s said, but hadn’t thought so much about thinking about what the other person is going through.

      If you don’t mind me asking, did she give a reason for not responding? You said to think of what the other is going through and I’m wondering if she had something going on that prevented her attendance?

  17. I guess I always feel that it will be taken the wrong way. I need to focus more on just doing what is right. I appreciate it (sometimes) when people point out corrections for me. I would hope that others would have the same feelings!

    1. Steve,
      I think everyone understands that. Nobody likes correcting someone else, and that’s the main reason: fear it will upset the person.

      You’re right though that it’s about doing what we should do regardless of whether it’s what we want to do.

  18. Love this post! We touched a bit on this during church yesterday. To quote the guest preacher, “Don’t faint when God is whipping you.” Funny words, but very true! God corrects us and will use anything that He has to in order to get us back on the right track and our faith can be made stronger for it. Instead of fainting and being worried over His correction, we need to learn to welcome it.

    1. Thanks Kalinann. That quotes sounds like a loose quote of Hebrews 12:12-13, right out of the discipline chapter:

      Therefore strengthen the hands which hang down, and the feeble knees, and make straight paths for your feet, so that what is lame may not be dislocated, but rather be healed.

      Good word about God’s discipline, and He often uses those around us to introduce it in our lives.

  19. Scott, It is so true what you say here. Few are instructed in how to give correction when it is needed. We are always better prepared to give and/or receive correction when we have a game plan. It helps us keep our emotions in check. Good words.

    1. Paul,
      I agree with completely. I think I’m going to have a few more posts discussing what you mentioned: how to give correction. And maybe one or two on how to receive it.

      I’ve preached – a few times – on the importance of giving and receiving correction b/c of it’s relationship to the health and joy of churches. Have you by chance?

      Thanks Brother!

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