There are lots of things I don’t want to be. Right near the top of the list is stupid. I definitely don’t want to be stupid. Whatever it takes to avoid being the stupid guy, I want to learn that and be that.
Proverbs 12.1 tells us who the ‘stupid’ guy is, from a biblical perspective. It says ‘Whoever loves discipline loves knowledge, but he who hates reproof is stupid.’
I think there are at least a few ways that you can be biblically stupid, in keeping with this verse. I’ll try to tease a few of them out.
1. Fight Back
One way you can hate reproof is by fighting back against it. If someone corrects you, you resort to pointing out the log in his eye, you draw attention to her hypocrisy, or maybe you accuse them of having impure motives in bringing that correction to you. Either way, you’re hating reproof by turning the attention away from the reproof on to something else. That’s one way to be stupid.
2. Believe You Are Superior
Another way, though, that I think is far more subtle–and perhaps more common in our circles–is to politely receive the reproof (outwardly), while all the while thinking to yourself how ridiculous it is. We smile outwardly and in the best impression of feigned humility we can muster we thank the person for their reproof. But in our minds we think, ‘I’m actually far superior to this person spiritually–how dare she think she (of all people!) is qualified to bring me reproof!’ And then we go on our way, unchanged, not heeding the reproof. That’s another way to hate it… and to be stupid.
3. Live Like You’ve Got It Together
But there’s a third way to be stupid and hate reproof as well. Recently I was confronted with this reality in my own life from a number of years ago. Some friends from college that I haven’t seen in years reflected to me something of how I was perceived by others in school. I had no idea. To use CJ Mahaney’s analogy, I had cream cheese on my face and everyone saw it except for me (explanation here, third paragraph). The way I was displaying my stupidity, and my hatred of reproof, was simply by living my day-to-day life in a way that says to any and every onlooker, ‘I’ve got my act together and I don’t need your input, thanks.’ That’s stupidity in action.
That’s the guy I don’t want to be, but still the guy I’m so prone to be. Because I don’t want to be stupid, I try to appear like I’ve got it together. But in projecting the vibe that ‘I don’t need help,’ I hate reproof–and I actually become stupid.
How to Not Be That Guy
So what are some ways we can make sure we’re not becoming that guy? I’m not too sure. I’m still very much trying to figure this out myself. But here’s a starter list. Feel free to add your suggestions!
- Seek input. Be proactive. Create situations that are comfortable and disarming for people, then ask them what they see in you. Then listen. Don’t use defensive speech (either outwardly or in your mind). Be quicker to consider what they say than you are to defend youself.
- Take that input seriously. Pray about it. Ask others about it. Think about it. Look to see if you can in fact observe the patterns they’re mentioning. Then, after some time, bring it up with that person again and ask them if they’ve seen change. Showing that you’re considering what they’ve said will make them far more likely to offer reproof in the future.
- Remember the reprover is the one taking the risk. When someone is correcting you, he or she is the one incurring all the risk. If they are wrong, they may look silly. If they do it too often they may look like a busybody. If they say something the wrong way they may offend a friend they deeply care about. They are taking all the risk, and they are doing it because they love you. So consider that when you respond to their concerns.
- Remember that God’s ways aren’t yours. He chooses the foolish things of the world to shame the wise. Even if someone is spiritually immature, even if they haven’t taken out the log from their eye, even if they don’t speak the correction in gentle ways, God still may be in it. To spurn the reproof because it didn’t come from the person you’d like or in a manner you’d like is stupid. Take the reproof. Love discipline, love wisdom.
- Speak openly about your sin. Acknowleding your shortcomings honestly helps people to see that you’re willing to talk about your sins and not completely oblivious to the fact that you’re still in need of growth. That may make it easier for them to come and speak with you.
Do you have any other suggestions? How else can I learn to not be that guy?