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First Thoughts

The Third Commandment of Staff Relationships: Thou Shall Accept Correction

As We Pursue Excellence Together No Person May Ignore or Reject Correction but Must Respond Positively to It

Correction is Hard

Anyone close to me can tell you how much I really dislike correcting people. It is one of the hardest parts of my job. But, because I am committed to regular, truthful, and loving communication, I am committed to providing correction when it is necessary.

Years ago, a member of my team did something I specifically requested he not do. I hated to have a corrective conversation with him, but I knew it was necessary. I told him he was out of line. I made clear that he is always free to ask questions, to disagree, and to propose alternatives, but that it was wrong for him to be openly defiant. I made clear I never wanted to see that kind of behavior again.

It was a hard conversation.

Correction is difficult for most people. That is true whether the correction is given or received. This third commandment has to do with how we receive it.

It is often unpleasant to hear where we must improve, where we have failed, or where we have let others down. Most people dread being corrected, and many resist it.

Correction is Good

As hard as it is, correction is also wonderful. Proverbs 10:17 says, “Whoever heeds instruction is on the path to life, but he who rejects reproof leads others astray.” When we embrace correction, it gives life and vitality, not only to us as individuals but to the ministries we are charged with leading on a ministry staff. On the other hand, when we reject correction, it doesn’t just do damage to us but to those who are part of our ministry.

This is why it is required that every person on a ministry staff must accept correction. We are not allowed to be the kind of prideful, unwise, and foolish people who lead others astray. We must hear where we have been wrong, where we need to grow, and be committed to improvement. 

Ways We Reject Correction

Because the blessings of correction are so wonderful, and our ability to reject it is so strong, we must think hard about the various ways we reject correction.

Outright Rejection

The most obvious way to reject correction is to do so outrightly. This is the loud, proud, and angry response. It is an insistence that you are right, the other person is wrong, and that you have no intention to change. This never ends well, but it happens.

Delayed Refusal

This is a more subtle approach than the first one. In the approach of delayed refusal, the corrective conversation may go, more or less, well. But then the changes never occur (Matthew 21:30). It may be a subtle kind of rejection of correction, but it is rejection all the same.


Some people reject correction by trying never to hear it. They avoid relationships, situations, and meetings where they might hear things they don’t like. Eventually, this commitment to avoidance results in the end of employment.

Personal Offense

The person who responds this way hears the correction and perhaps makes the changes that are required, but they are unhappy about it and take the offense into their heart. They make it personal and bear contempt against the person who corrected them. This leads to broken relationships, bad attitudes, gossip, and slander. This person may appear at first to accept correction, but deep down, they refuse to believe the biblical truth that the wounds of a friend are faithful (Proverbs 27:6).

Blame Shifting

The blame shifter hears the correction and even admits it’s true but will not take responsibility. The failure is always someone else’s fault. Mitigating circumstances are always more to blame than the person’s performance. A person who never accepts responsibility is a proud person who doesn’t see the beauty of correction and so doesn’t receive it.

Accepting Correction

When we understand the blessing of correction and the spirit of Proverbs 10:17, when we learn that we have been wrong, instead of fighting against it in any way, we will receive it.

We will say something like, “Thank you for telling me that. I am sorry and will try to do better.” That is what my friend said to me all those years ago when I corrected him for his error.

Then, later, he approached me about the issue. He affirmed that I was correct to point out the problem, but he also shared that he thought I did not fully understand the situation. He also told me that he thought my correction was harsher than the kinds of communication he was accustomed to receiving from me.

He told me my correction was harsh and uninformed. In other words, he corrected me.

And, you know what? He was right.

He corrected the corrector. And I took it. I admitted I was wrong, asked forgiveness, and promised to try and do better.

We were both wrong. That is true more than we care to admit, which is why we must always be willing to accept correction.

Dr. Heath Lambert is the Senior Pastor of First Baptist Church in Jacksonville, FL. He is the author of several books, including The Great Love of God: Encountering God’s Heart for a Hostile World. 

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