When is it worth it to correct somebody? Or maybe, when is it appropriate to get stern with someone? This is a question I ask myself often.
The first thing I remember, and I remember it often, is the corrections from those I admire. I remember how it felt, I remember what I was trying to do and where I was coming from. I remember how it felt immediately- the sting, defensiveness, maybe anger. And I think often about how that information organized itself over time into wisdom once the hurt settled, like brown water that clears up after a churning rain.
I don’t take the task of correcting someone lightly, because I know its effect. I know it carries a double edge, with one risk being to push the person away in hurt, and the other to draw them closer to the truth and to growth.
So firstly, before correcting someone, I ask myself where it is coming from, within me. Am I doing this for the right reason? Is it for them, or to make me feel better, bigger, to retaliate? This is a question that can give us pause, and stops me from correcting many, often.
Then I ask, Is the correction necessary for my own well-being or of those near to me? There is a line that repels others, where once drawn, the opinion of the other is no longer my concern. There is a moat to my castle, and you cannot enter without the right password.
And for those close, I ask, is this person worth the risk to me? Is correcting a dear student, behaving out of turn through frustration or ignorance, worthy of such a heavy blow to the ego? Is it worth risking their pain, their distance, even their anger at me, to ensure their path toward success? Are they ready to hear it? Can I speak it direct to the source, like a needle to the vein, bypassing the weak flesh? Or, risk the needle bending and creating disruption, upset, disturbance in the skin?
Our energy is precious, and finite. Much of it is wasted correcting others to wave a flag of superiority, an act of concealing our small and feeble self worth. But what if our corrections of others were calculated, with a mind toward investment? What will this correction do for me, for them, for the future? These are important questions to ask ourselves, and answer truthfully.
Photo by Melinda Yelvington