Whoever loves discipline loves knowledge, but he who hates reproof is stupid. Pr. 12:1
Proverbs 12:1 makes me giggle everytime I read it. The Bible uses the word stupid? Really?! I looked it up to see the Hebrew word, and sure enough, it means stupid. It could also be translated brutish or senseless. Whichever translation you use, the word is sobering in connection with something the vast majority of us hate – reproof.
Reproof is a negative comment, reprimand, or rebuke. Nobody LIKES negativity. Nobody likes being reprimanded. But the wisdom from Proverbs 12:1 is you better not HATE it. Dislike of reprimand is normal. Hate of reprimand will destroy you.
I dislike reprimand because I don’t want to be wrong. I dislike reprimand because it challenges my views of myself. I dislike reprimand because it embarassses me.
I don’t hate reprimand because I realize others outside of myself can see aspects of myself to which I am blind. I don’t hate reprimand because I know I can deceive myself about my own motivations to make me feel better about myself. I don’t hate reprimand because I know others can sometimes more clearly see the long term results of my choices than I can.
I don’t hate reprimand, because I’ve watched others who do hate it be destroyed by their stubborness.
I have had the chance to watch people privately and publicly despise rebuke, and ultimately again and again their ministries were destroyed by their pride. They valued teachability in others, but only if they were the teachers. The teacher couldn’t be taught, and everything unraveled in the aftermath. This was certainly the case at Mars Hill, and now there is no Mars Hill. I find that reality sobering. Having been a part of the church at its highest point, I soberly reflect on its downfall, God removing the lampstand if you will, and I note again and again the inability of leadership to hear and accept reprimand and rebuke at key moments in its past.
Recently, Godly Response to Abuse in Christian Environments released a report on Bob Jones University’s handling of sexual abuse over the last few decades. I was a student there and also taught high school there for a few years. Teachability was valued there, or so I thought. Students were taught to listen to correction. But I noticed as a student and low level worker that teachability was valued by leadership (at the highest levels) for everyone but themselves. Senior leadership was proudly stubborn, though they labeled it as a positive stand against compromise. The GRACE report revealed how that stubborness caused them to ignore or minimize society’s growing awareness of educational institutions’ need to report child abuse. Mandatory reporting laws were ignored while leadership positioned themselves as authorities on counseling the abused. The Bible says that was stupid, and I am sobered by its assessment. Even now, after the report, there seems a sluggishness to hear the recommendations to remove leaders that ignored laws on mandatory reporting from their positions of influence. Again, that is a senseless, ignorant response according to the wisdom of Proverbs 12:1.
In light of the personal and public downfalls of formerly respected people who wouldn’t listen to reproof, I feel a new burden to teach it to my children and value it for myself. Part of me doesn’t want anyone telling me anything, the natural results of having authorities over me telling me what to do who eventually show themselves stupid. Yet I recognize too that their downfall was centered around their inability to hear rebuke for themselves. I do not protect myself from others like them by becoming like them. I must remain teachable for my own long term health. Others must be able to rebuke and reprimand me. And though I will naturally not like it, I must not hate it.
Proverbs 9:9 Give instruction to a wise man, and he will be still wiser; teach a righteous man, and he will increase in learning.
1 Peter 5:5 Likewise, you who are younger, be subject to the elders. Clothe yourselves, all of you, with humility toward one another, for “God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.”
Proverbs 13:18 Poverty and disgrace come to him who ignores instruction, but whoever heeds reproof is honored.
2 Timothy 3:16 All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness,
Hebrews 12:6 For the Lord disciplines the one he loves, and chastises every son whom he receives.”