Stifling the urge to correct others

“Convince, rebuke, exhort….” (2 Timothy 4:2).

Winston Churchill’s wife told him that loosing the election may turn out to be the best thing that could have happened.”

That statement from an online preacher’s magazine set off my inner alarm. The proper word is not “loosing,” but “losing.”

As an old high school English teacher, I know a little about these things.  And I know that these things matter.  (That is not to say I don’t slip up occasionally. I definitely do.


A couple of days ago, someone wrote to Smiley Anders’ column in our paper to bemoan the wrong placement of the word “only” in conversation and print.  Someone may say, “There were five boys, but I only gave quarters to two of them.”  See the problem? “Only” belongs before “two of them.”  It should say, “There were five boys but I gave quarters to only two of them.”

Two days later, Smiley says the language maven wrote a followup note to say that the very day her gripe ran in his column, the editorial cartoon violated the “only rule,” with that word in the wrong place.

And I’m thinking, “Get over this, lady.  If you go through life correcting everyone’s English, you have taken on a thankless job and unachievable task.”

In a subsequent column, someone wrote Smiley about his spinster aunt who would red-pencil his thank-you notes to her, pointing out incorrect English or misspelled words.


You may as well decide to correct all the errant drivers on the highway.  No doubt many of us have thought of doing this from time to time.

We imagine pulling up to a red light alongside that driver, rolling down our window, and getting his/her attention.  Then, softly but firmly we point out a) “Hey buddy! That was a stop sign you just ran,” b) “You should use your turn signals,” or c) “Could I point out that was a school zone you just whizzed through at 40 mph?”

Not a good idea.

Let me state that more emphatically:  It is never a good idea to try to teach another motorist anything.

The job is never-ending since the DMV keeps minting new drivers faster than you can correct the old ones.  The task is thankless because no one appreciates being corrected for errors on the highway.  But most importantly….

Correcting another driver can be harmful to your health. Even if you are nice.

You never know whether the driver is crazy, on drugs, a criminal, or angry at his wife.

Do. Not. Do. This.

Some years back, a New Orleans man was driving with his grandson when the motorist in front of them suddenly threw on his brakes and turned into a convenience store parking lot, almost causing an accident. The grandfather, a rather congenial sort, decided it would be a public service to speak to the young driver.  He pulled the car into the parking lot and walked over to the other car.

Grandpa learned very quickly that the motorist was having a bad day. He did not appreciate being talked down-to by the older gentleman, and they quickly began to have words.  As tempers unfurled, the granddad wisely decided to leave. But as he was driving away, the hothead retrieved a pistol from his automobile and fired at the departing car.  The shot hit something and ricocheted, then caught the child in the head, killing him instantly.

This kind of tragedy stuns everyone.

Who was at fault? Clearly, the man who fired the shot was the criminal.  But the grandfather created the situation by a) trying to teach another motorist and b) continuing to press home the point even when he saw the other driver was angry.

Sadly, there is an older gentleman in our city who still grieves about the day he took it upon himself to do a public service to a wayward driver and paid for it with his grandson’s life.

Drivers must learn to shrug off the foolishness of highway idiots.

They have been with us from the beginning and nothing you and I can do will change that.

Once you climb behind the wheel, your goal is to arrive at your destination safely.  Protect the people in your car.

To do this, you must anticipate foolish drivers.  You must enter the interstate assuming some people will be speeding and some will be whizzing in and out of lanes, endangering themselves and everyone around them.

Expect it.

Plan for it.

There have always been thoughtless drivers on our streets and highways, and mostly, they are unteachable.  Don’t even try. You’re wasting your time and possibly endangering your life and/or the lives of your passengers.

One of the biggest challenges you and I must face in this life is to subdue our own spirits.  Unless we can tell ourselves a strong “No!” we will be at the mercy of our whims and emotions.

“He who rules his own spirit (is better) than he who takes a city” (Proverbs 16:32).

If you decide to work on improving anyone, try it on yourself.  Try to discipline yourself not to want to correct other drivers and to teach writers and speakers.

Let disagreeable posts on Facebook go without your giving in to the urge to say your piece. There are good people on both sides of the question of Israel, gun control, security of the believer, and Joel Osteen.

As a faithful follower of Jesus Christ, you will want to show the same respect toward your pastor and other spiritual leaders……

–The pastor used a plural subject with a singular verb in last Sunday’s sermon?  Keep it to yourself.

–Stifle the urge to tell the preacher the latest gossip about some church member because, after all, “I thought you needed to know this.”

–Kill the inner desire to let the pastor know that old Mr. Crankshift is upset because the pastor never visited him in rehab.  You can actually handle this yourself. If the old gentleman is really upset and griping about the pastor to others, forget everything I said above about not correcting people and do him a favor. Tell him to get off this self-centered kick and to appreciate that the pastor has more important things to do than hold the hand of every church member who spends a few hours in the hospital.

Seriously, tell him that.  He needs to hear it from someone and the pastor cannot say it. You can.  “Faithful are the wounds of a friend…” (Proverbs 27:6).

Paul’s counsel (see 2 Timothy 4) to “convince, rebuke, exhort” was given a) to church leaders about b) followers of Jesus.  Therefore, in the context of the Christian community, you may gently do this.  Otherwise–on the streets and highways–approach with caution!

–Control that tendency to give the pastor instructions, directions, corrections on anything.  Pray for him.

The best thing you can ever do for your church and the community is to pray for your pastor.

Give thanks for him and thanks to him.

At lunch one day this week, my granddaughter said, “One thing I really like about Pastor Mike’s preaching is when he gets a little off subject and tells a story. He tells great stories, and I love to hear them.”  I said, “Tell him. He needs to hear this.”

Never stifle the urge to encourage your pastor.

After re-reading the above, I come away thinking once again, “Without the Holy Spirit guiding us in these matters, we would never know whether to speak up or hold our tongue. Help us, Lord.”

I Thessalonians 5:19 has the last word. “Quench not the Spirit.”

He will never steer you wrong.



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