“The one who corrects a mocker
will bring dishonor on himself;
the one who rebukes a wicked man will get hurt.
Don’t rebuke a mocker, or he will hate you;
rebuke a wise man, and he will love you.
Instruct a wise man, and he will be wiser still;
teach a righteous man, and he will learn more” (Proverbs 9:7-9, Holman Christian Standard Bible).
“One who isolates himself pursues selfish desires; he rebels against all sound judgment” (Proverbs 18:1, Holman Christian Standard Bible).
In my quest to read through the Bible in 2016, I’ve made it to the book of Proverbs. That means that I am over halfway through. It also means that I’ve been reading quite a bit lately about wisdom.
It’s hard to read Proverbs and not see how precious and priceless the gift of wisdom is. A number of verses tell us to treasure it about silver and gold, above diamonds and rubies. The last time I checked, those trinkets weren’t cheap.
Still, I confess that I see a culture where we value knowledge and belittle wisdom. I scroll through social media posts and don’t see a lot of wisdom.
Recently, God has been showing me that one very important sign that a person is wise is their ability to take a rebuke. No one likes to be told they’re wrong, but those who treasure wisdom seek any opportunity to resist complacency and embrace growth and maturity.
Most people bristle at rebuke. People get very self-defensive at even the hint of correction or negative feedback.
“How dare you judge me?” will get thrown around a lot, mostly as an excuse to avoid any kind of accountability.
But the wise not only endure rebuke; they embrace it. They know that part of Christlikeness is the discipline to put off those habits and actions that contradict our faith message. They understand that spiritual growth may sometimes involve denial and pain, choosing sacrifice over comfort.
Correction does hurt. Still, the amount of hurt from a rebuke is often nowhere near the level of pain that results from a series of bad decisions and poor choices left unchecked.
I freely admit that I’m not the best at taking correction. Not even close. I get defensive and make excuses whenever I sense that the feedback is heading in a negative direction.
Still, I truly believe that it’s far more dangerous to cocoon yourself from any rebuke. For the record, it’s one thing to distance yourself from verbal and emotional abuse, slander, and hate (which is wise) It’s quite another to close yourself off from constructive criticism of any kind (which is very foolish).
The worst place to be is where you’re only surrounded by “yes-men” who will only agree with you and say what you want to hear but never what you need to hear. The absolute most dangerous place is outside of any kind of accountability.
So may we all seek wisdom, even if it leads to painful places and hard lessons. The payoff will be more than worth it.