Here is one of the biggest understatements I will write all year: I’m not much of a handyman. When it comes to the component of male DNA which results in craftsmanship, manual skills and competency with tools…I ended up in the wrong line when it was being handed out. I think when others were being run through the line to be equipped with these skills, I must have been going through some other line for a second helping of a different ability. I missed out on these types of abilities, and most who know me carry a silent pity in their heart for me about this. Whatever you do, please keep the tools away from Jeff. Because of this lack, I find myself regularly admiring some friends of mine who are skilled with tools, adept at working on cars and can repair or build anything. We tend to admire those who are gifted in areas where we are not, and I love to see people get busy with the art of handy-work.
One of those friends broke out some spiritual sandpaper on me recently and aggressively went to work on some rough spots in my life.
Listen to what Scripture says concerning the occasional “tough-love” moments from friends: “Let a righteous man strike me—it is a kindness; let him rebuke me—it is oil for my head; let my head not refuse it.” – Psalm 141:5. The Old Testament sage communicated it similarly when he wrote in Proverbs 27:6, “Faithful are the wounds of a friend.” Yes, no matter who we are, how long we have walked with Christ, or how shiny the polish is on our testimony…we all have some rough spots in our lives that need a little sandpapering.
So, how do you respond to the occasions where someone is pointing out something you need to work on?
I used to view these challenges from others as a great opportunity to display my skills at debate (hey…maybe that was the line I went through twice while others were getting their handyman skills). Not pausing to listen to the helpful person in front of me, I often viewed constructive criticism as a personal attack and commenced to fighting back. I spent several years failing to benefit from those who were tying to help me by correction. At other times when I did not respond properly, I would mistakenly view the precise correction of a singular area in my life as a wholesale denunciation of all that I was. I could not allow for the possibility that weakness could be a part of me without believing that I had become altogether fouled. It was as if I gave credence to their correction then I would perish through the acknowledgment of weakness. Perhaps the worst response I ever gave was a cavalier dismissal of what was being said because the person saying it had faults of their own they needed to work on. If we are not wise and cautious, we can find ourselves responding in any of these less-than-stellar ways instead of doing the one thing that is reasonable and healthy:
Benefit from any and all criticism. Why? Because you can.
God will place people in your life to help you through the ministry of constructive criticism and correction. Depending on how you are wired, and how the one correcting you is wired, the input may flow like or oil or grind like sandpaper. You need to receive it. Maybe they were not as gentle as you would have liked; get over it and discern if what they are objectively saying is true and helpful. Perhaps they touched on a sensitive area in your life where God has already been working on you – be thankful that He is using them to tell you that you still need His help…and possibly theirs. We must arrive at a place in our walk of faith where we want to be righteous more than we want to be right. If we are servants of God and others, then we must clearly hunger to be improved upon by whatever means God chooses to employ. Because of this commitment to growth and maturity, we’ve learned not to resent the input of our brothers and sisters in Christ…even if it feels like a needle, cheese grater or sandpaper upon our egos. By the way, those needles typically bring medicine that we stand in need of. That friend I mentioned above stuck me with a holy hypodermic, and I am spiritually and relationally healthier today because of it.
Do you have someone who has that ability in your life – the ability to correct you? If you do not, then you are living very dangerously with no accountability…beware. It is not good for you to live above correction. It certainly is not good for those around you. If you do have that type of person in your life, then you need to show your appreciation of them by paying attention to what they are saying. Our enemies attack and cut in their attempt to destroy while, conversely, our friends provide faithful incisions that repair unhealthy parts of us. Afterwards, if you look carefully you will likely see that they stitched you back up with sutures of love and grace.
Sandpaper and stitches, correction and comfort. We need both.