Correcting Without Offense or Being Easily Offended


Eric V. Snow  Sermonette  Ann Arbor, Michigan, UCG 


The problem:  I got corrected in an insensitive way via email.  An unnecessary, personal insult was thrown in for good measure that poked at a personal weakness of mine.  Not really relevant to the sin committed.  But how much of my emotional reaction was caused by simply having a wounded ego and being embarrassed at my sin?  And not about how the correction was expressed? 


We need to consider more generally something else:  Can we correct others without being insensitive?  Can the one being corrected point out to the corrector there are better ways to have done the correction?  Are there some people who get so wounded, however, at any corrective remarks made that they could complain regardless of the way the comments were made?


 People do make corrective remarks that needed correction in return for the harsh or insensitive way they put their correction.  But if the recipient of the correction makes an issue of how he was corrected, the main issue may soon get obscured in an argument about how to argue.  And, of course, since we have egos that need to be protected, ahem, we never like to hear any corrective remarks specifically aimed in our direction.


S.P.S.   When we are correcting others or being corrected, we need to be neither offensive nor easily offended.  (repeat)


Two points today:


1.  We have the power to correct others about their sins, but we need to be careful about how we do it.


Matt. 18:15-17


Today, we’re really focusing on the first stage of this procedure since most of the time the next two escalations aren’t necessary.


Because most people find this hard to do, personally confronting someone about their sin or how they offend others, it may be normally done between friends in the church without being done hurtfully.  I suspect not so true if between a husband and wife or parent and (adult) child, however.


A similar situation occurred to me in the past several years back, also via email.


Describe daughter-in-law of W. situation.


Email not the best way to do this to begin with.  It’s such an impersonal, emotionless, medium.   It may be why they invented those cute little abbreviations and smiley faces and so forth using punctuation marks and other keyboard symbols.  Sarcasm doesn’t work.  This message isn’t about proper email etiquette, however.


This leads us to


2. We must be willing to accept correction even when the person doing the correcting is being insensitive or harsh.  


Situation with worst date ever, doubtful anyone at work would be as bad:  Attacked incredibly harshly for being too talkative and also condescending, intellectually prideful.  Doubt second charge in situation, first had truth to it.  Was helpful, for example, during this past Feast, probably avoided driving up the wall one lady I danced with.


Can we be humble?  Can we avoid constantly seeking to protect our egos at all costs?  Can we admit error, and then be embarrassed, even ashamed?  Are we willing to repent then?


Ps. 141:5


Table manners example:  Easy to offend others.  Case of man using thumb, not knife, to push peas (or whatever) onto knife.  Eating with mouth open (mother’s comment at MSU).  Burping without saying “excuse me.”  More voluntary control over body’s processes than think (alone vs. with other people).  Philosophically, table manners about concealing the animal side of our natures from others.


Prov. 13:18


A significant theme in Proverbs concerns accepting and not rejecting reproof, rebukes, correction.  This is a typical text here.


Defect in American national character, wear feelings on shirt sleeves, are too thin skinned.  Not merely a minority group, PC thing; that’s just a subset of mainstream culture.  I see defect in self, but don’t think world should conform to me, but would like to be different, not so sensitive and complaining. 


Role of ignorance:  Elevator etiquette example, “etiquette lessons” at work by coworker.


Conclusion:  We need to be able to correct others while being sensitive to their feelings.  But we also need to be willing to accept correction even when it’s stated in an offensive or insensitive way.  We need to be humble and listen to others and admit our own problems instead of automatically attempting to deny them.  Arguing a lot about how the correction was expressed normally is a diversionary tactic from the main problem.  So let’s be aim to correct others without causing unnecessary offense, and be willing to accept correction even when it was expressed offensively.