Wisdom – How Do I Receive and Respond to Discipline?

“We do have a responsibility to make wise decisions or to discover the will of God, whichever term we may prefer to use. But God's plan for us is not contingent upon our decisions. God's plan is not contingent at all. God's plan is sovereign. It includes our foolish decisions as well as our wise ones.” ~ Jerry Bridges

“______, you were responsible for this project and it is a complete failure.”

“______, there are some things about your performance that we need to address…”

“______, you made a poor decision and I am really disappointed in you.”

What would be your initial response to this statement if you heard these words from your boss, spouse or someone close to you? Our first reaction often times is a frantic scramble to find excuses and scapegoats to explain ourselves out of the situation, right? I mean, nobody wants to be “that guy” who dropped the ball! We often get defensive, embarrassed and offended when someone tries to correct us, or points out where we were wrong.

I had a similar experience a few weeks back…I was the one who dropped the ball. Even though I desire to live a life of integrity, I have days like anyone else. Fortunately, I have someone in my life that is willing to lovingly and courageously confront me when I need it ~ my wife. When it was brought up to me, internally I was searching for excuses and ways to explain myself out of it. Fortunately, wisdom kicked quickly in and I realized that I was in the wrong. I began to seek out ways to seek forgiveness and restoration.

I recently read a book called, Necessary Endings, by Henry Cloud. He has a term for the person who receives correction or discipline and responds with excuses, pointing fingers at others, and unwilling to take any responsibility – the fool. A fool gets offended at even the slightest remark or correction. A fool is afraid to ever find out anything they have done wrong. In hearing that his project is a complete failure, he responds with, “Well, Greg was 2 weeks late on the proposal to begin with, and Regina had the numbers all wrong, and if YOU would have been more clear about your expectations, maybe it would have turned out differently!” The Fool. Proverbs 12:15 says, “The way of fools seems right to them, but the wise listen to advice.”

On the contrary to the fool, is one who receives criticism or correction and chooses to respond with an open mind and objective heart. This person is labeled as – wise. Proverbs 1:5 says, “Let the wise hear and increase in learning, and the one who understands obtain guidance.” A wise person is able to take a step back and ask the question, “Is it possible that some of the things said could be true?” It is a recognition that I may very well be at fault. This response only comes from a humble heart -a person who is willing to grow through failures.

If given the choice, 99.9% of humanity would rather be praised than corrected or disciplined. It’s certainly not something I regularly sign up for. But when those instances come up in your life, how should you respond? My hope is that we would be a people and a company that would respond, not as the fool, who tries to explain his way out of it…but as one whom in wisdom, seeks an objective understanding of the situation, humbly accepts any faults or missteps, and finds a way to grow through it.

“My son, if you receive my words and treasure up my commandments with you, making your ear attentive to wisdom and inclining your heart to understanding; yes, if you call out for insight and raise your voice for understanding, if you seek it like silver and search for it as for hidden treasures, then you will understand the fear of the Lord and find the knowledge of God.” ~ Proverbs 2:1-5