Years ago when I was involved in our home school association, I attended a leadership conference. The Home School Legal Defense Association was giving advice. The one piece of advice that really stuck with me was, "When someone criticizes you, before you get defensive, stop and see the truth in what they have said." There was more to the advice than just that, but it was enough to make me see some truth. Often when we are criticized, we get defensive, start offering excuses for why we did what we did, or just flat out ignore the criticisms. Often we are so busy offering our "reasonings", we don’t even hear what the person is actually saying. Obviously, if the criticism is "off the mark", you should try to get the good out of it and leave the bad, but hearing is important.
This would come under the Bible verse that says to be slow to anger, slow to speak, and quick to hear. I think when God disciplines us (and He does), He wants us to change our ways – not offer excuses for what we did. As parents when we discipline our children, we want them to stop their bad behavior and do good. If you listen to their excuses for their bad behavior, you will probably get sidetracked. If you stop the discipline due to the excuses, you are not helping your kids at all (and probably have big problems with your kids). Are there really any good excuses for doing wrong?
What we really want when we give advice or critique someone, is for him or her to listen and change. It is the same with our children when we discipline them; we want them to hear and obey. God is probably the same too – He wants us to hear and obey (don’t be fooled by anyone who tells you that you only have to hear and not obey.)
When I spoke with Harv at the art show about his attacking innocent families, he immediately began telling me why he did what he did. He kept saying, "You have to understand where I was coming from." No, I don’t! There was no excuse for being rude to people whom didn’t deserve it. By sticking to my point, the original criticism, I was able to make Harv see that he had been unnecessarily rude and he apologized. If I had bought into his excuses, we would still be standing there arguing. I just wanted him to hear, understand, and change.
I also spoke with a mother about her children’s behavior at last year’s art show. Her children really were the ones who swamped the food and punch bowl. Now, I could have offered excuses for the kids behavior – they are just kids, they were really hungry and thirsty from playing in the park…All of which was true, but the point was, they were not well behaved. They needed oversight by their parents. They needed to learn what society expects of them at functions such as this. Unfortunately, before I could finish telling the mother what had happened, she began telling me that it was not her children (and why she knew this), her children would never do that, and on and on. This time, I did not argue. She was not hearing. My criticism was offered in love – it was meant to be a help. She was not willing to see the good in the advice – not willing to change. It made me very sad – it hurt our friendship. Does God feel this way when we ignore His good Word? I think He probably does.