Yesterday, I wrote a brief Introduction to Proverbs, and so today continue on with chapter one. The author turns their attention to the wisdom offered by parents, but is really an exhortation to gain wisdom. This continues the theme of chapter one, pointing out the numerous benefits of living wisely.
My child, listen when your father corrects you.
Don’t neglect your mother’s instruction.
9 What you learn from them will crown you with grace
and be a chain of honor around your neck.Proverbs 1:8-9 (NLT)
Verse 8 tells us to listen to our father’s correction, and not to neglect our mother’s instructions. This is fairly plain on the face of it, and good advice for the young (and not so young).
In my post last week – An Open Rebuke – we examined a particular proverb pointing out that being rebuked openly was preferable to hidden love. A rebuke is related to a correction, and put simply is a way for a superior to point out where we have gone wrong and set us straight.
We all need correction at times, and although it rarely feels like a blessing in that moment, it will do us good in the long run.
Emotions make correction hard to accept, but ultimately we must trust that one bringing correction to us has our best interest at heart. In this verse, the correction is being brought by a father, and it urges us to listen to what he is telling us.
Is it your experience that the father brings correction, while the mother instructs? I guess it is a bit of both. A turn of phrase from a few decades ago was the well-known – “Wait ‘til your father gets home!” So perhaps historically the father figure has brought the discipline.
How do we accept correction? Firstly, we must trust that the person wants what is best for us. Secondly, we should prayerfully consider what they say. Not all correction is trustworthy, and not all of it is accurate, so we should be a little discerning. Right or wrong however, if the person feels we need to address something in our lives, then we would be wise to reflect on that.
If the correction is justified, then we need to take steps to put it right. That may require an apology, or some other restitution depending on what has happened. It may simply mean adapting our behaviour going forwards. My view of correction is not to bash someone about what happened in the past, but rather to steer them towards better choices in the future.
My view of correction is not to bash someone about what happened in the past, but rather to steer them towards better choices in the future.Tweet
Verse 8 tells us not to neglect our mother’s instruction. Instruction is simply to tell someone else what to do. This might be helping them do something new for the first time, or it might be to show them a better way to do things.
If we choose to ignore instructions, then chances are we will make mistakes.
Take a recipe. If you do not follow the steps or the method, you likely will not get the results promised. If you do not weigh out your ingredients, but instead just throw random amounts into the pan, it will not turn out as expected.
We tend to think of parental instruction as only applying to the young. While this is primarily the case, our parents help and advice can be invaluable throughout our lives. Many older people whose parents are no longer with them admit to missing their parents’ support in times of need.
I am acutely aware, when writing of parents, that not everyone reading this will have had a good relationship with theirs. Perhaps you never knew your parents, or perhaps they did not treat you all that well. Whatever the case, there are still lessons for us here.
Firstly, if you did not get on with your parents, or worse if they mistreated you, then there are still lessons you can learn. Try not to repeat their mistakes, and do not pass on what they gave to you. This can be hard to do, especially if you picked up on their bad habits when young. As an adult though, you can examine their lives and their interactions with you, and hopefully you can see some things you do not wish to repeat on your own children.
Secondly, not every parent has to be a blood relative. While this verse says “father” and “mother,” I do not think it a stretch to apply it to other older people who may hold a pseudo-parental role in our lives.
When I think back over my years in church, I can recall a number of elders who looked out for me, instructed me at times, and corrected me too. They were not “parents” but they were spiritual foster-parents of a sort. I am eternally grateful for those who have spoken into my life.
A Crown of Grace
To conclude this post, I just want to reflect for a moment on verse 9. It points out that for those who accept the instruction and correction of our parents (actual or otherwise), wisdom will become a crown of grace or a chain of honour.
In my mind’s eye, I picture a mayor wearing gold chains, or royalty with a golden crown atop their head.
When we accept the teaching of those who have gone before us, we can learn great wisdom, and such wisdom will be evident for all to see.
If there are people in your life right now who love you enough to instruct or correct you, tell them how much you appreciate them. It only takes a second to reach out today and share your gratitude.