Even if I caused you sorrow by my letter, I do not regret it. Though I did regret it– I see that my letter hurt you, but only for a little while–yet now I am happy, not because you were made sorry, but because your sorrow led you to repentance. For you became sorrowful as God intended and so were not harmed in any way by us. Godly sorrow brings repentance that leads to salvation and leaves no regret, but worldly sorrow brings death. (2 Corinthians 7:8-10 NIV)
I suppose it is good that the letter Paul is referring to was lost. It might have been nice to see how Paul worded his corrections to the Corinthians, but we would probably turn it into a formula and that wouldn’t be good. He confronted them and with words that hurt. Confronting someone with truth and grace is very difficult to do.
I am blessed that early in my adult life a couple was willing to confront me. I was teaching an adult Sunday School class. I thought it was going well. I studied hard and was confident that every week I was providing valuable information that they all needed. The truth was that I didn’t see what was going on at all. I didn’t notice that how I was delivering the information cancelled out its value.
So, this couple invited us to dinner at a nice restaurant. We didn’t know the couple that well, and this was going to be an opportunity to get to know them better. I don’t know if the rest of the class had put them up to this encounter or if they did it on their own but given the feedback I suspect it was the former. The truth they delivered that evening hurt, but I don’t know where I would be today if they hadn’t loved me enough to tell me the truth.
I had a choice to make and while I know I didn’t instantly fix the issue they had communicated I did work to make a change in direction. Feedback like this is a gift. If it is to be valuable it must hurt. Without pain and sorrow there is no chance of change. With pain and sorrow we have a choice. We can treat the truth as a gift from God and choose to change our mind and direction. The other option is to treat the truth as a lie designed to hurt us. In this case we typically end up with a broken relationship with the person who was attempting to help us. I think this leads to bitterness which Paul tells us ultimately ends in death.
Providing corrective feedback is difficult in the best of circumstances. If someone loves you enough to attempt to give it to you, then do your best to receive it with grace. I still have much work to do on both giving and receiving corrective feedback despite how much I realize its value.
To my grandchildren:
When you are corrected don’t argue. Receive the correction as a gift and say thank you.