The other day, I was backing up in a parking lot and saw a woman walking in the direction of my car. I kept going, figuring she would stop, but she didn’t. In fact, she gave me the stinky face in my rearview mirror as I put on my brakes and waited for her to pass.
A few minutes later, I was getting some stuff out of the trunk when the woman walked over to me. In a sour tone, she said, “You know, you really need to be more careful about looking in your mirror when you’re backing up. I was walking behind you, and you could’ve hit me.”
In my heart, I responded, “Get over yourself. You need to watch what you’re doing when you walk behind cars.” But with my mouth, I spoke to her in an ever-so-slightly patronizing tone and said, “Thank you so much for pointing that out. I actually didn’t realize you were behind me until I looked in the rearview mirror and saw the look on your face.”
The woman turned around and walked off, and I replayed the conversation in my head over and over again, blaming her for the snarky attitude she took with me. But then I sensed the Holy Spirit pushing back and reminding me that she was right: I needed to take a harder look in the mirror.
Getting Mad at the Mirror
Whenever I am critiqued, I’m tempted to blame the one pointing out my faults. I find myself focusing on my critic’s delivery instead of what I may have done to provoke their frustration. The book of Proverbs describes that attitude as a combination of pride and foolishness, which always go hand-in-hand.
“Rebuke a wise man, and he will love you” (9:8).
“Conceited people do not like to be corrected; they never ask for advice from those who are wiser” (15:12).
“Do not speak in the hearing of a fool, for he will despise the wisdom of your words” (23:9).
Being open to correction is more than just second guessing yourself and cow-towing to every negative opinion someone else may have about you. It’s having the wisdom to recognize that no matter how thoroughly you look in the mirror, you always have blind spots that others can see. So their feedback on how well you’re moving through life is invaluable, regardless of how well they deliver it.
As Joseph Pulitzer said, “Let those who are startled by [criticism] blame the people before the mirror, not the mirror.”