The Kindness of Correction


"Friendship will not stand the strain of very much good advice for very long." - Robert Lynd

How do you respond to that quote? Do you think it's true? False? Somewhere in-between? When I read it, I wanted to protest vehemently. Of course friends can take advice from one another, I wanted to say. That's partly what our friends are there for, isn't it? To talk through things and give helpful advice?

But then I thought a bit harder... and I started to wonder.


I did a little research about this Robert Lynd and found out that he was an Irish journalist and essayist in the early 1900s. The above quote was taken from a collection of essays that he wrote in 1924 called "The Peal of Bells". Here is the full version:

A strong friendship will withstand years of separation and months of traveling together (both of which are customarily granted to be the most severe tests of congeniality). But friendship will not stand one mother telling another how to raise her baby and it won’t stand listening to the young mother rave.... Hence I feel an honest glow of pleasure when I see other people behaving well, and I am melancholy when I see, or even hear of, other people behaving badly. I often long to direct them with good advice, and refrain only because I know that friendship itself will not stand the strain of very much good advice for very long. And so, while I am inwardly aching to preach to my errant fellow-creatures, I find myself talking to them instead about diet, diseases, cinemas, Bernard Shaw, and the day on which I backed three winning horses at Ascot.

I read that and I thought to myself, isn't that sad? But then I asked myself, is it true? And I felt in my heart of hearts that, for the most part, it is. 


You see, us human beings don't seem to like being told what to do very much. We don't mind being given advice that agrees with what we already think, but if it doesn't, forget about it. 

I think about my relationship with my dear husband - if anyone feels free to offer me good advice, he does, and he does it on a fairly regular basis. Now, he is the person closest to me and I know that he loves me very much and wants the best for me. And yet, when he tells me (effectively) that I'm doing something wrong and gives me some "good advice", I rarely respond positively at first (even when I know he's right!). I get offended that he could think he knows better than me and tend to react in a fairly hostile, defensive way, which (more often than not) will then lead to a fight. Eventually I may (or may not) come around to his point of view and I calm down again, but if we weren't married, would I stick around long enough to get to that point? Perhaps not! And sadly, I think that this is what Robert Lynd is wise enough to discern. Most friendships are not strong enough to withstand the sort of attack on our pride that "good advice" tends to inflict.

And so we talk to our friends about  "diet, diseases, cinemas, Bernard Shaw, and the day on which I backed three winning horses at Ascot" rather than run the risk of ruining the friendship with too much good advice.


Is that how it should be though? Should true friends tiptoe around each other about "blind spots" that they may see in the other? Should we respond with indignation when we are lovingly corrected? What is the way of wisdom here?

Well, I believe that wisdom comes from God, since he is the one who created all things and "in him all things hold together" (Colossians 1:17). His ways are high above ours and beyond understanding (Isaiah 55:8-9), yet he does deign to reveal some of his wisdom to us. He has even told us what wisdom is in this regard - how we are to view and receive instruction from others. In fact, there are so many Bible verses linking wisdom with accepting good advice that when I started to write them all out, I gave up because there were too many.

The essence of it is this: a wise person RECEIVES instruction. They do not ignore it. They do not get offended by it. They do not laugh at it. Instead, they view it as a kindness to them. With humility, they listen, they consider and they act upon good advice. Here is a sampling of verses about this:

"The way of a fool is right in his own eyes, but a wise man listens to advice." Proverbs 12:15

"A wise son hears his father’s instruction, but a scoffer does not listen to rebuke." Proverbs 13:1

"Whoever heeds life-giving correction will be at home among the wise." Proverbs 15:31

"Let a righteous man strike me—it is a kindness; let him rebuke me—it is oil for my head; let my head not refuse it." Psalm 141:5

"But the wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, open to reason, full of mercy and good fruits, impartial and sincere." James 3:17


There is a story in 1 Samuel 25 that gives us an example of what it looks like to heed "life-giving correction" and the blessing that comes from it. The story occurs during the time in which David has been anointed as the next king but is running for his life from the current king of Israel, Saul, who is jealous of him and wants him dead. David has a company of men that live with him in the wilderness and in this chapter they come across a wealthy man who also lives there called Nabal. They ask him for some food and resources, since David’s men helped to protect wild beasts from tampering with Nabal's 3 000 sheep and 1 000 goats.

Nabal is described as "surly and mean" and certainly acts this way in response to David's reasonable request. Not only does he deny him any food, he also insults him. David is angry when he learns of this and in response, takes 400 men with him to slaughter Nabal and everyone of his household.

Fortunately, Nabal has an "intelligent and beautiful" wife called Abigail who intervenes. She meets David on his way to kill Nabal's family and offers him food and other provisions, while pleading with him not to proceed with his mission. She is wise and gentle in the way she goes about it and David not only listens to her, but praises both her and God for coming to correct him:

"David said to Abigail, “Praise be to the Lord, the God of Israel, who has sent you today to meet me. May you be blessed for your good judgment and for keeping me from bloodshed this day and from avenging myself with my own hands. Otherwise, as surely as the Lord, the God of Israel, lives, who has kept me from harming you, if you had not come quickly to meet me, not one male belonging to Nabal would have been left alive by daybreak.” 1 Samuel 25:32-24

In the end, God himself ends up striking Nabal dead 10 days later in judgement for the evil he committed against David. David's response to this is interesting also:

When David heard that Nabal was dead, he said, “Praise be to the Lord, who has upheld my cause against Nabal for treating me with contempt. He has kept his servant from doing wrong and has brought Nabal’s wrongdoing down on his own head.”

David was truly grateful to the Lord for sending Abigail to intervene and prevent him from taking revenge on Nabal himself, a thing that would have been sin and that he would have lived to regret. He receives the correction she gives him as a great kindness and seems to be so impressed with her that he even asks her to become his wife after Nabal's death!


I'm not saying that the best response to a friend who gives some good advice is to propose marriage to them (haha!) but I think we (or at least I) can learn something from David here. When someone points out to me an error (or planned error) in my ways, it would be wise for me to stop and listen, as painful or embarrassing as that may be. How humble David was to listen to a woman's advice (not the done thing back then) and thank her for it! I want to follow his example and not react in immediate hostility and defensiveness towards my corrector. After all, what if they are right? Let me stop and consider. It could be that God is using their advice to prevent me from making a mistake and suffering all the consequences that would follow it - and what a kindness that is to me.

So my prayer is that I will follow the example of the wise and take the correction/good advice of a righteous man (or woman) as a kindness, rather than a strain on the friendship that can't be tolerated. And how much deeper and truer would a friendship that operates in that way be?

References: "Friendship Itself Will Not Stand the Strain of Very Much Good Advice for Very Long" from


  1. A very thought-provoking post.
    None of us are perfect, and there is always scope for improvement and correction.
    My friends as well as my wife have corrected me, or advised me, on what they think is the right way.
    None of them have compelled me to change.
    I have always pondered over what they have said.
    Most of the time, I have found, sooner than later, merit in what they have said.
    It is indeed a blessing to have people around us, who can help, guide and correct us.

    1. It can be annoying sometimes that the advice our close friends/family gives us turns out to be right! It is often so hard to admit that we don't know best, but if we can see it as a blessing to have advisors then it helps a lot I think. It also helps if the advice-giver is thoughtful and gentle in their approach, and not compelling you to change - I think you are fortunate to have people like that in your life.

  2. I think we can all be open to advice from those whose opinion we value. It might rankle a bit, but ultimately we know that they have our best interests at heart and that can often take the sting out of it. Pride is a huge stumbling block, admitting we might be wrong is really tough!
    I've learned to rein in the advice and only give my opinion when it's asked for (most of the time) or I give advice with the disclaimer that it's just my opinion and they aren't under any obligation to take it on board. It's hard when you see someone you care about making bad decisions, but they are adults and are often operating from a different set of life experiences and that can make their decision making process quite different from ours. That's where prayer comes into play - I often pray very hard and keep my words very soft and leave it in God's hands because He knows their situation far better than I do. A thoughtful post Hannah xx

    1. I think giving advice is actually even harder than taking it in some ways. There is much wisdom required in knowing when to speak and when to hold back, and how to convey thoughtfulness and love in a "rebuke". I am reading Proverbs at the moment in my daily quiet times and came across this verse the other day - I like how the NLT puts it - "Don't waste your breath on fools, for they will despise the wisest advice." (Proverbs 23:9) Harsh but something to consider about the sort of person you might be about to waste your breath on with advice!

      My prayer is that I will learn to take wise advice quickly and give it slowly. Xox

  3. I love the thoughtfulness of this post. While I'd like to think I'd receive correction well from a friend or loved one and see it as a kindness, unfortunately that's often not the case! It's hard to have my sin pointed out to me!! As we agreed when we chatted on this very topic a few weeks ago, I do think that there would be people from whom it would be much easier to hear something hard, and others from whom it would be difficult. Pride can become such a confounding factor!
    I remember someone (who I'd never met before) telling me a long time ago that my (ex) husband must have turned away from the Lord because of a moral issue. I was absolutely indignant that someone who knew nothing about me or him would pass such a judgement. So I absolutely think that the relationship is crucial when it comes to (both) giving and receiving correction or rebuke.
    At the same time, I don't want to discount the many ways that God might choose to use to speak to me, or indeed that He might use me to speak into someone else's life (that's really hard too). I want to be humble enough to allow accountability partners to speak truth to me, even perhaps clumsily, as part of God's sanctification process. It might be hard to hear, but if I remember that He is far more concerned about my holiness than my happiness, then the end result will be growth rather than hardening of my heart xx

    1. I'm the same, Sue. I want to take advice until it actually gets given to me, haha! Pride surely is annoying at times. I think you're right that relationship can make it much easier to take advice, or a rebuke, but also agree that God may choose to use someone who isn't close to us to teach us something. So I want to be open to that also. It is difficult to think that God cares more about us being holy than happy, until I remember that ultimately my holiness is for my happiness anyway. Shame the process has to be painful!

      I appreciate your thoughtful comment as always :-). xox

  4. Thank you for such a thoughtful post! This one really hit home with me, i can reflect on times in my life where advice has been given to me... I've been offended and have ignored said advice thinking i can surely do a better job running my life only to be wrong ofcourse...oh hindsight! Pride is such a tricky sin.
    But how great would friendships be if they operated in such a way to be able to have soft teachable heats and listening ears, to hear good advice and correction and receive it as kindness!
    -Sarah ;)

    1. I have sometimes wondered what relationships would look like if pride did not exist - probably a lot different I suspect! Our pride often gets in the way of being wise and reasonable and I too have had the pain of ignoring good advice only to wish I hadn't in hindsight! Hopefully as we get older and Christ has his work in us more and more those sorts of mistakes will also be avoided... But undoubtedly it takes time, prayer and a decent amount of time soaking ourselves in God's word to keep a right perspective and make progress.

      Thanks so much for your comment, it's really nice to get a response and have some interaction especially with these kinds of posts :-). Xox


Please tick the "notify me" box if you'd like to receive an email when I reply to your comment.