Nobody likes to be corrected. Our brains are really good at constructing arguments to prove that we are right. We bristle when we are chastised, and even if we are able to override the initial defensive instinct and be civil, we can’t seem to escape the initial sting and the instinctive desire to ignore or reject unpleasant feedback.
Ezra Taft Benson said, “The proud do not receive counsel or correction easily. Defensiveness is used by them to justify and rationalize their frailties and failures,” (“Beware of Pride,” General Conference, April 1989). So if it’s true that pride is easily seen in others but extraordinarily difficult to see in ourselves, this symptom of pride may be a key. When we are corrected, how open are we to the feedback?
Laman and Lemuel said to Nephi, “Thou hast declared unto us hard things, more than we are able to bear.” Nephi’s response was yet another hard thing to hear: “The guilty taketh the truth to be hard, for it cutteth them to the very center” (1 Nephi 16:1-2). Their father, Lehi, later tried to encourage them to recognize the value in Nephi’s words and not to question his motives:
Ye have murmured because he hath been plain unto you. Ye say that he hath used sharpness; ye say that he hath been angry with you; but behold, his sharpness was the sharpness of the power of the word of God, which was in him; and that which ye call anger was the truth, according to that which is in God, which he could not restrain, manifesting boldly concerning your iniquities.2 Nephi 1:26
Could Nephi have been more tactful and empathetic in his delivery? Undoubtedly, yes. But that does not invalidate the truth of his words. As recipients of feedback, we need to move beyond the style of our critics and ask ourselves if there is any merit to their message. We need to hear what they are trying to say and rise above the discomfort of discovering once again that we are not perfect.
The prophet Amos offered a lamentation on behalf of the inhabitants of Israel. One of their characteristics which caused him sorrow was their unwillingness to hear and accept correction:
They hate him that rebuketh in the gate, and they abhor him that speaketh uprightly.Amos 5:10
The gate was a public place, a place to transact business or administer justice in the eyes of many witnesses. Receiving corrective feedback in front of other people can be more difficult than hearing it in private, but once again, that doesn’t mean it isn’t true or that we are absolved of responsibility for learning from it.
Today, I will accept difficult feedback graciously. Even if I disagree with the manner in which it is given, I will strive to hear the message and to learn from it. I will pay attention to my own thoughts and override defensiveness when it arises, so that I can benefit from the feedback I receive.