(long post) criticism and advice – above all, seeking biblical counsel

There was a moment yesterday evening when I was playing tennis and was getting really frustrated. It’s been a week now and I still can’t manage to hit a backhand consistently. I’ve received a lot of advice from different people, most of which have been experienced tennis players who are either better than I am, played longer, or are simply just not as removed from the sport. Eva was giving me tips after every swing, and I just wasn’t accepting any of her input, so I asked her “politely” to please stop giving it. My mind was just caught up in my own critical thinking. 

“I want to fix this. What am I doing wrong? I just need to figure this out myself. No one can really help me.” 

And then it dawned on me, while I was playing, that I just wasn’t listening. I mean granted, even if I had willingly sought her advice, I probably still wouldn’t be hitting backhand winners the moment after, but my thoughts were consumed with my own focus on fixing the issues that only I could see, and I couldn’t see what others could see. 

 A mocker resents correction; he will not consult the wise. (Proverbs 15:12)

I had clearly already consulted the wise, but I was unwilling to change. Why was that? Clearly, the people I was playing with had a better grasp of the sport of tennis than I did. Why did I still believe (in my heart) that I could beat every single one of them in a match? Why do I still tend to think that way? I have so much to improve upon; I can learn a lot from each of them too – their form, their footwork, their confidence, their technique. While I don’t doubt my own ability and my potential to reach and exceed that level of finesse, I’m currently not in position to boast, nor shall I ever be. 

Words from a wise man’s mouth are gracious, but a fool is consumed by his own lips. At the beginning his words are folly; at the end they are wicked madness—and the fool is consumed by his own lips. (Ecclesiastes 10:12 NIV)

And then I started realizing something the LORD was speaking to me. In the past month, God has been presenting multiple opportunities for me to outreach and love on people in my life. I tend to stay hands-off with people around me whom I deem “irredeemable” – not redeemable in the eternal context, but more of the, you’ve made mistakes, and I can’t really play a role in your life and give you advice or assist you unless you realize how wrong you are and how bad your decisions are. That sort of irredeemable  So when I talk about being hands off, what I mean is, lately, when I see my peers struggling or making unwise decisions, I tend to stay away until I see that they’re humble before speaking up because I personally feel they won’t listen to anything I say unless they seem teachable to me. 

Tiara shared with me her thoughts on this hands-off tendency; she said sometimes you do need to speak up because you do have a responsibility for the people you care for to help prevent any further unwise decisions even at the expense of that person rejecting my input. I often times I have the mindset that whatever I say has to greatly impact and change the person’s mind. Otherwise, it’s just a waste of time to share if nothing changes in them. Because of that I move on the someone else who is more ready to receive instruction of encouragement. In my own words, basically saying, finding someone else who I have hope in and isn’t make mistakes.

As I was reflecting on tiara’s words, I really didn’t understand the point of sharing if it doesn’t seem to make a difference. But last night, after tennis, I got to talk to a good friend about one of the things (which turned out to be a lot of things) that he’s struggling with. Before he even spoke to me, I knew about all the things he would share. but I have been reluctant to approach him about it for the past few months. I just didn’t think he could receive counsel. But I was wrong; he definitely had been humbled, even though I couldn’t see it. When he was speaking to me, my hope-meter raised as high as it possibly could, and on the receiving end, I was even more encouraged than I think he was about himself. God opened a door for me to encourage and edify him, to exhalt and prophesy to him. Until 2:30am haha. 

So, Tiara’s last bit of advice earlier this week was sometimes, people are seeking counsel for something in particular, and when they do, they are actually open to hearing your thoughts for that particular area. Perhaps they haven’t become completely humble, but you should give them what they’re seeking because if you give too much, it might be a turn off. I’ve just been been praying a lot about truth and grace. How to speak with conviction, but not allow my own convictions to dictate what I share. To be honest, I’ve been trying to grow in this area for a long time, and it’s constantly an uphill battle. But through this tennis experience, and prophesying on my friend, I see that God is just molding me more and more to know what is glorifying to him, and what truly is biblical counsel. 

Brothers, if someone is caught in a sin, you who are spiritual should restore him gently. But watch yourself, or you also may be tempted. Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ. (Galatians 6:1-2 NIV)

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