While I was at a youth bowling event several years ago, one of the youth workers told me he could discern which boys were currently active in sports and which ones weren’t. How? By noting how they responded to correction when taught how to bowl. For the kids who were engaged in competitive sports, reproof and correction was the ocean they swam in.
This isn’t saying that those who choose arts or academics over athletics are consigned to a perpetual state of being unteachable. But every good athlete aiming to get better knows that improvement only happens through the receiving of forthright and sometimes painful correction, and learns how to receive that correction without taking it personally. Good athletes understand that reproof—no matter how pointed and painful—was not designed to attack the dignity of their personhood, but to help them change for the better. At the higher levels of sports, not only do athletes learn to receive correction well; they learn to actually seek it, as they know that they will stagnate without it.
Proverbs 15:31-32 instructs, “He whose ear listens to the life-giving reproof will dwell among the wise. He who neglects discipline despises himself, but he who listens to reproof acquires understanding.” Reproof is never easy to listen to for anyone; no one naturally or instinctively enjoys hearing others tell them what they’re doing wrong. In fact, those who claim that they love being corrected are—at least in my experience—those who most resent and disregard correction.
But wisdom understands that it is a fundamental skill in life to be able to differentiate the dignity of your personhood and the shortcomings that need to be addressed in life. Conversely, the foolish person takes offense at every correction, and seeks only to express his own opinions and insist on being right in his own eyes (Prov 12:15). Not only should we be able to take correction, but we should seek it. Such applies to virtually every area of life. It’s true in sports. It’s true in school. It’s true at work. And it’s especially true in one’s pursuit of spiritual maturity.
It is impossible to grow spiritually without learning how receive and seek forthright and painful correction. Paul reminds Timothy that the Scriptures are not only profitable for teaching, but also for reproof and correction (2 Tim 3:16). Thus, the only way for a man to reach the maturity that leads to salvation (2 Tim 3:15) is to submit himself to biblical reproof and correction administered by faithful and godly men (2 Tim 2:2). Does not the grace of God teach us to deny ungodliness (Titus 2:12)? Thus, being a true disciple of Christ necessitates listening to correction and taking it to heart—not taking it personally. At times, such correction—when given faithfully by a friend—will wound us (Prov 27:6). But those who are serious about growing in Christ-like maturity understand the value of learning to willingly swim in such an ocean for the glory of God and the good of others.