We had been friends for years but there was something different about this invitation to get together.
“Is everything okay?” I asked.
“Yes, everything’s fine. I just have some things I’d like to talk over with you,” she responded. “Can you come over sometime this week?”
Gulp. Somehow I knew I was “in trouble.” This friend has always been supportive, encouraging and lots of fun. We had gone through both tough and joyful times together. Whatever she had to share was going to be helpful, I knew. But I was still troubled….
When I arrived at her home she was her typical self: welcoming and warm. I was eager to hear what was on her heart so I jumped in to thank her in advance. Her friendship was dear and cherished, and we had talked comfortably and openly over the years about our strengths and weaknesses. I knew how hard it was to say hard things to someone I loved.
“Sheree, thanks for coming over,” she began. “I’ve been praying about this for some time and sensed the Lord wanted me to share with you some thoughts I’ve had….”
When she pulled out one of those yellow-lined pads of paper with hand written notes I gulped again. What could be so serious to warrant notes? What in the world had I done?
For the next couples of hours (ha…at least that’s what those thirtyish minutes felt like!) my friend lovingly and graciously pointed out several indications of what she called my hatred of correction. She cited the familiar verse in Proverbs 12:1 that says, “He who loves correction loves knowledge, but he who hates correction is stupid.” She contrasted my response to solicited correction and feedback verses being surprised by it. Then she skillfully and articulately pointed out several examples of times when I had either deflected input or defended myself when criticized. She expressed her concern that my response to unsolicited correction or evaluation was likely making it hard for those close to me to muster the courage to speak up. As I sat there listening, I knew there was no appropriate way to respond but to agree. After all, I certainly didn’t want to add another example to her list!
When I left that day I experienced a strange mixture of gratitude and discouragement. In fact, part of me wanted to do exactly what she had mentioned I had done before; I wanted to defend myself — or at least explain my side of the story on some of the examples she used. I wanted to remind her of the times I had responded well — at least outwardly. I felt her list of examples didn’t take into consideration the stinky attitudes of my correctors. I felt mildly judged and wished our conversation had been a little more of a friendly exchange than a lecture. I’m sure you’re getting the picture: my inward reactions to her feedback were only confirming her discernment.
Yet there was a fresh breeze of thankfulness in my heart for a friend who would have the courage and love to point out the speck in my eye.
Over the following days the Lord worked on my heart. What He was doing had little to do with my friend’s delivery (she would admit today that she should have been less of a lecturer and more of a conversant). What God was doing was alerting me to the truth of her comments.
I didn’t like being corrected!
I wish I could say that has dramatically changed. Twenty years later I still don’t like having my faults and weaknesses pointed out to me. And if they are, I want the person to first point out areas of strength! If they are upset, self-righteous, critical or assume their conclusions are correct without any dialogue I still find it hard to take.
Yet I learned something that day in my friend’s living room that produced an appreciation for speck removal that stayed with me till today. The Bible rightly calls the “wounds of a friend” faithful. When someone loves you enough to exercise the courage to remove a speck from your eye, true friendships become stronger and deeper. My friended wounded me that day with her honesty, but years of loyal friendship earned her the right to do so. We’ve lived hundreds of miles apart for over ten years, but recently she was in town and we were together till nearly 2 AM one night. You know those friendships where you pick up right where you left off, as if it hasn’t been years since you last had a meaningful conversation? That’s the gift my friend Nora is to me.
Do you have friends who know you well enough to detect your specks? Or are your relationships more of the superficial, “on your best behavior” type? Do your friends and family find it easy to point out your flaws and weaknesses or would they be afraid of your response if they tried? Do you feel that unless constructive feedback is given graciously, with acknowledgement of your strengths and giftings. it’s invalid?
There’s only One who removes specks from our eyes perfectly. Anytime we or anyone we know approaches someone with sharp instruments in hand to dig into someone’s eye, there will be mistakes.
My friend did well. And I’m forever grateful.
P.S. Next week I’ll be posting more about how we can welcome and provide speck removals in our relationships.