Thursday, January 14, 2010

On receiving criticism

A year ago, one of my best friends and my girlfriend (now wife) came to visit me in my apartment in China. 

After grabbing a bag of my precious Doritos, they sat down and commanded me to bring forth my clothing wardrobe. What ho, you might say. Is this a burlesque or modeling show?  Not quite. They knew that I, a home-schooled aspiring writer, lacked something in the way of fashion. They were doing an intervention.  I pulled out one of my favorite long-sleeved collared shirts, a bright blue color.  "It's too large," they agreed.  I stared at my beloved shirt defensively.  Well, I suppose it did hang almost to my knees and flapped out like a sail on the HMS Bounty.  But still, a nice color.  But not as nice as the green floral Hawaiian shirt I pulled out next.  "Burn it!" they shouted in horror.  I was amused by their irony until I found out they lacked iron. 

The next hour blurred into a maelstrom of tongue-lashing.  I emerged, shaken, refined by fire, and minus one bag of Doritos.  Why did I put up with it?  First, because those two loved me.  And second, because I knew deep in my heart I needed it.  I pitched most of those clothes into trash bags and left them outside my apartment for the street beggars. (They were overjoyed.)  The end result is that I'm now usually sharply outfitted in clothes that actually match each other and fit my muscular figure. 

I was reminded of this earlier this evening when these same two, a best friend and my now-wife, once again gave me a tongue-lashing. They berated me up and down for saying I want to write and not writing.  For thirty minutes it was quite painful, and several times I wanted to lash back or tell them to shut up. But I knew first, that they loved me. And second, that I needed it.  I just didn't want it.

Let a righteous man strike me—it is a kindness; let him rebuke me—it is oil on my head.
My head will not refuse it.

                          -Psalm 141:5

Like an earring of gold or an ornament of fine gold is a wise man's rebuke to a listening ear.

                          -Proverbs 25:12

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