The Wolf and the Knife


Do not say, “I’ll take revenge and do to them as they have done to me, … but instead strive to do what is good for each other.”  Proverbs 24:29, I Thessalonians 5:15 1 (rvk)

Today, more than ever we can see what criticism can do to others, especially if done in the wrong way. Just look at our political arena, where one side is criticizing the other without reservation and with great malice. Whether these leaders realize it or not they are destroying the spirit of our nation, as well as themselves. However, this article is not about politics but about what we as Christians need to do when receiving untrue criticism or badly done correction.

First there is an applicable story I want to share; whether it is true or legend I do not know. It is about a tribe of Eskimos that once killed dangerous wolves in a very effective way. To begin, they sharpened the blade of a knife until it was razor sharp, and then dipped it in the blood of a seal they had recently killed. They put the knife outside until the blood froze on the blade. They repeated this process over and over until there were many coats of blood on the blade. Afterward the Eskimos planted the knife in the snow far from their igloos. The scent of the blood, even though frozen, could be easily picked up by a wolf in the area. It would then begin licking, layer after layer, until only the blade was left. The wolf would continue, causing him to bite into the blade, and eventually bleed to death.2

Had the wolf in this story been wise enough to just step back from the knife when tempted by its smell of blood, he would have survived. And so, it is with you, instead of taking revenge when criticized or corrected, or becoming angry and defensive, backpedal a bit before saying or doing anything

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What are some back-pedaling steps? Here are just a few, for there are many.

A first step back from the blade of criticism or a poorly done correction is to stay quiet and just listen to the person offering the criticism or correction. In your silence pray that God will help control your feelings, which can range from surprise, despair, depression, to anger. Responding in anger with a counter criticism is like the wolf licking off the first layer of blood on the knife.

A second step back is to consider what is being said in the criticism or correction, maybe there is a kernel of truth to what is said. If so, then God will show this to you. Sometimes He confirms this through your feelings, and at other times through others who love you. Not to consider what is said, is like licking off another layer of blood on the knife.

A third step is to thank the person for what they’ve said and tell them you will consider it. This shows real humility which the Lord always loves to see in us. Such an answer will not only help you recover from the criticism or correction more quickly, but it will also greatly help build a bridge with the person who shared his or her concerns with you. Not to do so, but walking away in anger and disgust, is like licking yet another layer of blood on the knife.

A fourth step is to apply what you’ve learned from being a receiver of criticism or correction to situations when you are in a position to correct or criticize. Make sure what you say is filled with feelings and words of genuine care and love. Use words that will bring the person you are talking to, improved character, hope, and a closer relationship to Christ. Not to do so in this manner, gets you nearer to that razor-sharp blade, which will cut you to pieces.

Conclusion

Remember, when criticized or corrected by others, don’t lick the knife of revenge, just take it and grow from it.  And if that person has been unfair or ruthless in what they’ve said to you, just let the Lord take care of them. He will likely do it through another to bring them into account for what they’ve said or done. Finally, learning to deal with criticism or correction in a God-honoring way will keep you from possibly bleeding to death.

Scriptures on Correction

I Thessalonians 5:15 Make sure that nobody pays back wrong for wrong, but always strive to do what is good for each other and for everyone else.

Galatians 6:1, Brethren, if a man is overtaken in any trespass, you who are spiritual restore such a one in a spirit of gentleness, considering yourself lest you also be tempted.

Matthew 18:15 If your brother sins, go and show him his fault in private; if he listens to you, you have won your brother. 

Ephesians 4:29 Let no unwholesome word proceed from your mouth, but only such a word as is good for edification according to the need of the moment, so that it will give grace to those who hear.

Colossians 4:6 Let your speech always be with grace, as though seasoned with salt, so that you will know how you should respond to each person.

Footnotes

  1. rvk- Scriptures where the meaning has not been changed but have been shortened. (Revised by Kent)
  2. How to Kill a Wolf,com (October 19, 2006)