Thursday, September 11, 2008

Consider the Source?

I was confronted today by someone whom I love dearly and trust greatly. He drew my attention to a personal flaw and challenged me to face it and change it. He is right. I know it and will continue to work to right it. But there's a larger question that I considered after our discussion.

Why is correction so much easier to take from some people than from others? I mean, correction is correction, right?

If someone observes something in us that needs to change, and tells us, that should be enough, no?

No. Because we have a hard time separating the message from the messenger and the motive behind the delivery. Some comments and critiques come easier from people whose motives are noble and unquestioned.

Noble motives are those based on love and altruism. In other words, people who act selflessly, for the benefit of others, doing the right things right for the right reasons with nothing expected in return are noble people. Noble people also act consistently, therefore their motives are unquestioned. That's the kind of person we desire to be: one who can offer critique that is received eagerly.

We know all this, do we not? It's why we console ourselves when we receive a message we don't want to hear with the cliche "consider the source."

Here's the gotcha. We dismiss criticism coming from some people at great risk to ourselves. Though the messenger may be ignoble or inconsistent, he may still offer us valuable insight into our character and our behavior. Critique is easier to receive from some more than others. "Considering the source" may ease the pain now while shielding us from what we really need to hear.

Job said, How painful honest words can be! (Job 6:25). But the writer of Proverbs says whoever listens to counsel is wise (12:15) and listen to counsel and receive instruction so that you may be wise in later life (19:20).

No caveats. No disclaimers. No "consider the source." Instead, consider the critique. Regardless of the motive of the messenger, there just may be something there.


Anonymous said...

How true! Sometimes the most valuable observations come from people with no interest in perserving friendship; the challenge is to separate the message from the messenger and take it to the Father for consideration.

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