By Kimberly Miller
Last month, Donna Lee Schillinger wrote about how to present wisdom to a fool. She cited Proverbs 9:7-9: “Whoever corrects a mocker invites insult; whoever rebukes a wicked man incurs abuse. Do not rebuke a mocker or he will hate you; rebuke a wise man and he will love you. Instruct a wise man and he will be wiser still; teach a righteous man and he will add to his learning. The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom, and knowledge of the Holy One is understanding.” Her point was that you can’t just share Christ without considering the audience. As I was reading this, I admired how poignantly she articulated what I had been thinking during my business trip.
But then I got to thinking about a different way to look at it. What if I was the fool? One of the most important but difficult things about having a real job and doing it well is learning to take criticism. By nature, nobody wants to be corrected. They tend to insult the rebuker (as observed above) and reject the wisdom. How many times do I do that at work, most likely out of pride? I think I would be a fool to read the wisdom of Donna’s column last week and not point the finger on myself!
Sometimes, we are so convinced that we are the ones sharing the wisdom that we don’t even consider the times when we need to receive it. And it is coming! Among other things, rebuke come in the form of final grades and job evaluations in adult life. Most jobs require at least an annual evaluation, and most people always hate them. Not a wise woman, though. A wise woman will love the instruction and be a better employee for it. If you honestly think you’re doing a bang-up job, how else can you learn how to improve, if not through critical feedback from a supervisor? And if you think your writing is publisher-ready, how else can you realize it needs improvement without the professor’s scribbles in the margin? Don’t look to your friends to prune you – we all need these God-placed authorities in our lives to raise the bar for us.
However, even mentally preparing myself to learn through criticism when I know it is coming – like with the annual job eval – doesn’t seem to anesthetize the sting. My nature is to be the fool – to return tit for tat. I need to strive to be wise.
So that’s the fool. But what about the heart? In the 1997 mega-hit movie Titanic, the elderly Rose narrates at the very end that “a woman’s heart is an ocean of secrets.” I’m not sure I understood the truth of that statement until a few years ago. Proverbs 4:23 says, “Above all else, guard your heart, for it is the wellspring of life.” The depth and content of a woman’s heart are no more easily mapped or charted than the ocean that covers most of Earth’s surface.
In the upcoming months, I have many heart topics to share. Some happy, some harder to share. And I’ll start by telling you the beginning of the story I already finished when I told you how I emerged from the dark place in which I dwelled for a time in college.
Until then, one last Proverb: 31:10-31. If you have never read this, I wish you would. It’s God’s description of a virtuous woman. On first reading, it might seem a little culturally bound and outdated, but the practical advice therein is applicable in full to life today. If you were to assess your own life against the laundry list of P31 Woman characteristics, you might get that stinging feeling of rebuke as you realize you don’t quite (or at all) measure up. Strive to be wise, though. Embrace this passage as something to shoot for. As we begin to consider the new year and the changes we want to make in it, I encourage you to craft at least one resolution based on Proverbs 31. I can’t think of anything wiser or more applicable to growing up than that.