Have you ever received a piece of advice from someone that made you feel like shutting down? At times we receive correction that is handled gracefully which is easier to receive. And in other occasions someone in authority may give us a nudge that isn’t offered with kid gloves. Interestingly, the Bible guides us to receive all of it, whether its served up wth a nice bow or not. Wisdom is gained by being a teachable person. If you notice that your heart closes or responds coldly to people, teachers, pastors, your boss, when they offer you correction or exhortation, then you may want to take a step back and figure out why.
HOW YOU RECEIVE ADVICE INDICATES IF YOU ARE ASCENDING OR DESCENDING IN MATURITY
The Apostle Paul ran into this situation and has some very valuable advice for all of us. Apparently, he had been working day and night to lovingly teach and shepherd the early Christians in Corinth. And although he was committed to them enough to say the hard things, they lacked the maturity to receive his leadership and guidance. In fact rather than having an open heart to Paul, they were responding coldly to him.
The way he responds to this is interesting. First he recounts the unbelievably sacrificial life he has led in the name of Jesus and for the benefit of the Corinthian church. His list of hardships is astounding. He does not do this to make anyone feel sorry for him. He is way beyond that. No, he shares this to try to soften their hard hearts. He has been so open-hearted toward them, and now he will not sit back and watch them proudly clam up and turn coldly disobedient… there was too much at stake and he loved them too much to sit back and watch them act like selfish children throwing a temper tantrum. All of us do this from time to time, and hopefully each us us is learning when we respond that way, to simply repent and open our hearts to what God has to teach us. Here is the excerpt from Paul’s letter:
We put no stumbling block in anyone’s path, so that our ministry will not be discredited. Rather, as servants of God we commend ourselves in every way: in great endurance; in troubles, hardships and distresses; in beatings, imprisonments and riots; in hard work, sleepless nights and hunger; in purity, understanding, patience and kindness; in the Holy Spirit and in sincere love; in truthful speech and in the power of God; with weapons of righteousness in the right hand and in the left; through glory and dishonor, bad report and good report; genuine, yet regarded as impostors; known, yet regarded as unknown; dying, and yet we live on; beaten, and yet not killed; sorrowful, yet always rejoicing; poor, yet making many rich; having nothing, and yet possessing everything.
We have spoken freely to you, Corinthians, and opened wide our hearts to you. We are not withholding our affection from you, but you are withholding yours from us. As a fair exchange—I speak as to my children—open wide your hearts also. – 2 Corinthians 6:3-13
Hundreds of years before Paul wrote this letter, King Solomon wrote a more concise word of instruction that parallels Paul’s situation:
A wise son heeds his father’s instruction,
but a mocker does not respond to rebukes. – Proverbs 13:1
ADVICE OR CHALLENGE OF ANY KIND BENEFITS YOU IF YOU SUBMIT IT TO JESUS
The reality is that we will all, throughout our lives, get advice, correction, or admonishment of some kind. Sometimes it will come on a nice platter which will make it easier to receive. I hope we can all learn to bring admonishment to others in this way. But there will be many other instances where a boss or elder person may correct us in a way that is hard to hear, lacks the gentleness and respect that we would want, etc. In these situations, I have found that the best way forward is to ask the Lord, “Lord, what are you teaching me in this situation, I’m sure I have a lot to learn. Here I am, my heart is open, I’m ready to learn what you want me to hear.”
Leaders like advice and admonishment because it improves them. Who cares about the source from which it comes? Maybe you’ll have to listen to an angry customer, read a scathing review, sit through someone offering an alternate view or perspective that shows the holes in your own argument… all of these situations have immense value if we are humble enough to receive them and ask Jesus what he wants us to learn from it.
I encourage you to take some time today and evaluate these reflection questions. How you answer them and take action will probably determine if you are a leader on the move or a leader on the descent.
- When was the last time someone offered you a piece of advice or admonishment? What were the details?
- Do you get that feeling of “shutting down” or coldness in your heart when someone approaches you with a word of admonishment or correction? What are you afraid of? Why are you not opening your heart in that situation? Is it from a previous wound? Take all of that to God and allow him to transform your mind.
- Leaders very often must move toward those they are leading to offer both challenge and support. Do you offer enough challenge to those you are leading? Do you offer enough support to those you lead? Remember that people need to be challenged but they also need the salve of support to take it to the next level.