Monday, August 18, 2008

Oh Don't Be So Stupid!

Recently someone who knows me very well made a comment to me about the way I edit my photographs. With the intention of being helpful, they told me that in their opinion there is a particular tool I use too much, with certain kinds of shots. I responded by saying "oh really? I wasn't aware of that, thank you for pointing that out to me, I sure appreciate that, and I'll change the way I do that, immediately!"

Yeah, sure I did. And the pope is an undercover Southern Baptist gathering crucial data for a new missional, evangelical program strategy. Ahem. Moving right along...

Truth be told, I responded with "I do not!" My immediate and initial reaction was denial, rejection, and maybe even a wee bit of idignation. It only lasted for a few seconds, but it was there all the same. After the inital few-second reaction, then I really did say "do I really?" and welcomed the correction, genuinely eager to hear how I could learn a better way. It was however the initial response that has stuck with me for a few days now, and what every single one of us deals with. Correction and instruction. How we deal with that, says more about us than I think we even realize.

I was looking at Proverbs 15:9-10 and essentially what it says is that the person who has strayed from the path of righteousness will literally hate to be corrected, and will find what we might call constructive criticism (Scripture uses the word that can be translated into instruction, discipline or chastening), unpleasant words to disagree over and reject as troublesome or just plain wicked.

Proverbs has a lot to say about this, and after I read this passage I read more and here are just a few examples of what Scripture has to say about the person who rejects instruction:

Proverbs 1:7 says that it is the fool who despises it.

Proverbs 12:1 actually says that the man who loves correction loves knowledge, but the man who hates correction is just stupid. I'm not making this up, I assure you. The KJV calls such a man "brutish" and this word actually means displaying stupidity.

Proverbs 13:1 says the wise hear it, but the arrogant will not.

Proverbs 13:18 says the man who rejects it will suffer poverty and dishonor.

Proverbs 15:12 says he that hates it, actually hates himself.

That's rather profound when you think about it for a moment. If a man is veering off the path of righteousness according to God's standards, and heading down a path of his own version of righteousness, that man (or woman, or teenager, or kid) has set up a brand new standard for himself. The new standard IS self, and words of correction or instruction suddenly and intensely offend the pride in that man and cause this ugly reaction that Scripture defines as being a fool, stupid, arrogant, in want, dishonorable, and hating himself. Not a very pretty picture, is it?

If you could see a scenario like this played out, you might hear the person say something like "how DARE you tell me how to do this" or "who are YOU to tell me anything??" Such a reaction comes when man sets himself up as his own god, so to speak. His way is the way, and there is no one that possesses enough wisdom to dare instruct that man.

One of the most heartbreaking things that a Christian faces, is when they suddenly respond to something either in thought or word, the way they did as the "old man". When you become puffed up and so full of yourself that there is just no way anyone can tell you anything, no matter how trivial it might be. The example I gave up above about photography was certainly not a spiritual matter or dealing with receiving spiritual wisdom, but the attitude with which I even briefly initially responded with, most certainly is a spiritual matter. Even if just for a few seconds my heart and mind said "I am right and you are wrong and you cannot instruct me!" it was a few seconds too long. Even if the person was wrong with their helpful advice, and I was the one who was right, my initial reaction was still wrong, and still sinful and arrogant.

I'm learning more and more to not respond that way, but to be open to correction, to wisdom, to instruction and to grow in that. It's one of the hardest things I've ever done, too. Admitting you don't have all the answers is admitting you've got a weak spot, and the old "pride" in man just doesn't like to do that. Realizing that Scripture calls that man foolish, stupid, arrogant, in want, dishonorable, and hating himself, goes a REALLY long way in not wanting to identify with that man, at all!

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