Responses to Courage to Correct or be Corrected

Responses to Courage to Correct or be Corrected

Rich and insightful responses to last week’s discussion have inspired today’s piece. L presents additional options when dealing with negative and hurtful conversation.

“I like giving people a chance to correct themselves. For instance, with the gossip, first trying to change the subject, giving others who also might be uncomfortable an alternate conversation to follow. If that does not work, comment on what you see with no judgement in words: "we are (or to make it softer "we might be" or "I wonder if") discussing a lot of things about people they might not want us to," or a seemingly light- hearted "oh my, listen to us gossip!"  Drawing others' attention to their behavior gives a chance for self-correction, which then gives them the chance to choose the high road.

If those lower-level things do not work, the correction is even more powerful, especially if you can posit a good intent: "You know guys, I tried to change the subject and then draw attention to how our conversation had veered, and I am still uncomfortable with this kind of talk. We usually do not talk like this” or stronger "We are getting to destructive talk, lets change the subject" It also depends on your position in the group if speaking up will help. So, at times, I might try to catch the eye of a group leader and by my facial expression let them know I am uncomfortable, giving them the chance to recognize the situation and divert the conversation.

On the other side {of being corrected}, recognizing and responding to others' discomfort and recognizing and adjusting my behavior--and sometimes apologizing for it before I am told--is something I aim for. Cultivating an attitude of thankfulness when someone is caring enough to try to get me back on track is also something I strive for. Occasionally, that takes a little time. We all help each other become better. L”

When the motivation for correcting others is securely wrapped-up in protecting the reputations of non-present friends and adjusting kindly and humbly to inappropriate conversation, a positive and workable communication skill will be added to our mental file.

In dealing with group gossip, C tenderly shares another view of correction and caution for all of us.

“The topic of this piece really hit home with me.  As a teenaged girl in the Baptist Church, I was blessed with a handful of seasoned church women who mentored me Biblically with love. Gossip dishonored people and therefore gossip dishonored Jesus. These women did not gossip. Their leadership made me feel safe: I knew if they had something to say about me, they'd say it to me, and they did, but always in love. What a gift that was.

When I was to be married, I took classes to become a member of another church, the church where my husband had been a member all his life. I didn't have the long-established relationships there that I'd enjoyed in my old church family, and I wasn't accustomed to the rituals in my new church. When I goofed, the pastor laughed. He made light of my errors and gently guided me. However, I overheard stinging whispers from several women of the church, incensed by my gaffs. Thus, I became like Velcro to snippets of gossip I overheard in the ladies' room and fellowship hall. Church didn't feel friendly to me anymore.

With the goal of getting new members and retaining old ones, the church elders held a Saturday seminar to brainstorm. The pastor didn't participate. My fiancé had to work, and I went alone. When the head deacon asked for suggestions, I wondered, "Should I say anything?" I was young and new. Did they really want to hear anything from me? Concluding that it would be disingenuous not to say what was on my mind, I raised my hand. "We could be very careful to not gossip."  A hush fell over the room before the head deacon broke it.

"It's been my experience that those who mention it are the worst offenders." He stared straight at me. My face flushed, but I looked him in the eye. A warm cloak of God's love hung over me.  The barb did not find a home in me, but I have never forgotten this ordained church leader's response to my offering. How amazing was the grace I'd been given by my church ladies. Unshakeable.

Jesus came not to condemn us, but to heal and to save us, they taught me from His Word. (John 3:17) I hid it deep in my heart until it became a part of me. Perhaps the head deacon had never experienced the perfect love of Christ that leaves no room for barbs. Many years have passed. C”

What a concrete example of the deep roots of unconditional love implanted many years ago by the church ladies empowering C, and still producing a healthy harvest today. So inspiring!

Not surprisingly, condo-condescension of rhetoric suffers at times from hurtful gossip as B shares.

“Truly, being a member of the Condo association board brings out conversation less becoming of any of us. We are human with sensitivities and convictions not shared by all. When comments were made directed generically but to me, I fessed up with explanation and apology. Not always easy, but proper. There have been few times of more harsh criticism followed by my snapping back. I have experienced too many snide references over the years.

When there are legitimate criticisms expressed, I know long term growth will benefit a lesson being delivered, liking it or not. Perspective and honest conversation with self and God in prayer will give way over time to blue skies and sun light! B”

We are all responsible for identifying gossip and curtailing its contagious growth. Many of us can recall   parents and teachers counseling, “If you can’t say something nice, don’t say anything at all.”

Also, learning to lasso guilt trips--a form of passive correction hurled by others—before they overtake and injure, is also an excellent communication skill to refine.

We’ve pointed out before that what a person says or does reveals more about the spokesperson than about the listener. Actually, a healthy endeavor is pointing out guilt trips that nonchalantly swirl around in families, churches, offices, classrooms and neighborhoods, before they mature into hurtful habits of which the persons behind the guilt trips may be completely unaware. I like the safety reminder that a guilt trip isn’t a guilt trip unless you take it.

While we’re identifying negative communication, let’s add to the mix sarcasms and name-calling which are often meant to be corrective as well as humorous, but aren’t, and consequently, may remain in a listener’s mind for years. With intentional attention and practice, these conversational slaps can be eliminated, thus sweetening conversations at home, school, condos, clubs, classes and work. You’ll feel better about yourself, as well.

2 Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love.

25 Therefore each of you must put off falsehood and speak truthfully to your neighbor, for we are all members of one body. 29 Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouth. Eph. 4:2,25, 29 (NIV)

Let your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer (respond to) everyone., Col. 4:6 (NIV)

As usual, I value comments and suggestions.