“Do not reprove a scoffer, or he will hate you; reprove a wise man, and he will love you. Give instruction to a wise man, and he will be still wiser; teach a righteous man, and he will increase in learning.The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom, and the knowledge of the Holy One is insight” (Prov 9:7-10).
I’m not good at receiving instruction or criticism. Verses like Proverbs 9:7-10 can make me want to hide. I don’t want to hide because I think the wisdom given is bad. I want to hide because I read the passages about the foolish man and the righteous man and compare them to my life. If I am honest, more often than not my daily living looks like the foolish man’s life. And therefore reading through the book of Proverbs feels like a running criticism of my life. My fragile ego can only take so much.
How do I continue reading a book that makes me want to hide and breaks my ego a little every time I pick it up? I could just hunt for passages I think I’m a little better at doing. I could look for a message that I believe condemns another more than me. I could rationalize that I am trying really hard. I could create my own chart of wisdom and decide what is the most important to least important. I could try any number of strategies and believe me, I’ve tried all of the ones listed. But none of those things gets me to the truth.
When I read Proverbs and my unrighteousness weighs heavily on me, I can look to Christ.
Just like when reading Proverbs, when I receive or feel criticism in other areas of my life, I have a few options. I can disregard all the unflattering things people say to me. I can find fault in the other person so I can discredit what they have said about me. I can only put myself around people that tell me about the good things about me and the good things I’m doing. I can unfollow all the people who say things that I take as a criticism of my thoughts and opinions. But none of those things will get me to the truth.
Or, my other option is to identify and name truthful criticism for what it is. This allows me to admit when I fail, and to see and marvel at the wisdom given. It allows me to scroll through Instagram and come face to face with the things I feel are critical of me. I can then dissect why I feel like I’m being critiqued. It’s generally not because someone has tagged me in a post about my failings, but because another is succeeding when I am failing and I’m caught in a comparison trap.
But what can I do when I am criticized and confronted with my failings?
I can look at all of my failings and foolishness because I know who Christ is for me. I rest in his wisdom and life not my own.
I can confess to my kids when they tell me they have no clean clothes and mismatched socks because I, their mother, am very poor at managing my time, talents, and energy.
I can confess to my neighbor when they call me out on words I have used in wrong or hurtful ways. I don’t need to find fault in them to disregard their accurate criticisms of my words.
I can confess all of my shortcomings because on Sunday morning, I hear “Take, eat, this is the body given to you. Take, drink, this is my blood shed for you for the remission of all your sins. You are forgiven.”
When I read Proverbs and my unrighteousness weighs heavily on me, I can look to Christ. He was and is and always will be righteous and wise. Criticisms will come, but on account of Christ, I don’t have to avoid them or excuse them away. Instead I can confess my wrongdoings and look to Christ. I look to his life, actions, and wisdom, not my own.