Looking for Treasure in Verbal Spewage

Whoever loves discipline loves knowledge, but she who hates correction is stupid.

Proverbs 12:1

The way of a fool seems right to her, but a wise woman listens to advice.

Proverbs 12:15

I was intrigued by the letter Dear Gabby answered in this issue – the one about body odor (a must read!). So I thought I would share a little story of my own in which an embarrassing incident actually yielded an improvement for me. In doing so, I hope to reinforce two points Gabby made and add one of my own. 1. Ignorance of the annoying things about ourselves is not bliss – I would always prefer to know if I have spinach in my teeth, wouldn’t you? 2. If we have to burst someone’s bubble for their own good, we should do it with discretion. 3. For those unfortunate times we ours it the bubble being burst, by all means, we should take the advice in stride!

One afternoon during my junior year of high school, I was working on a journalism project with other students in a small class of about 10. We were having some fun with it and being somewhat boisterous, all of us except the teacher who was working in her office. All of the sudden, from her office she shouted, “Donna, lower your voice! Your voice has a very annoying quality to it!”

Out of a low roar of intermingled voices, she found mine to criticize – and not the least bit discreetly. Of course, I was humiliated. When I got over the embarrassment (which took a while), I found some good advice in what she said. I started to listen to myself and found that when I wanted to be heard over the rest, I did put a shrill edge on my voice that cut through air like a chain saw!

I began to work on controlling the quality of my voice and I believe I have a much more pleasant “crowd” voice now – thanks to an insult hurled at me in a moment of frustration! That was an early experience that helped me develop an ability to listen to (not just hear) people who are criticizing me or giving me advice.

When someone starts in on me, I try to brace myself and think, “OK, I’m just going to listen to this and see if there is something valuable in it.” I hear the words as if they are directed to someone else, not me. I have to stop feeling and just take notes. Later, I let myself feel all the emotions that criticism stirs. If I don’t control those emotions when I’m listening, I miss important information. The hurtful words can keep me from seeing the spirit in which they are being delivered or hearing the more subtle statements that sound almost like afterthoughts but are really the crux of the matter.

Let’s bring our analytical thought into action as we listen to advice and especially criticism. Think of it as a treasure hunt. In all those words, there might be something very valuable. Listen carefully, sort through it and it could have a big payoff!

Hold this thought: Listen for the gems.

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