By Pr Ay Nee Ng
Right is right even if no one is doing it; wrong is wrong even if everyone is doing it. ― Augustine of Hippo
The superior man understands what is right; the inferior man understands what will sell. ― Confucius
What’s the use you learning to do right when it’s troublesome to do right and ain’t no trouble to do wrong, and the wages is just the same? ― Mark Twain, The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn
The probability that we may fail in the struggle ought not to deter us from the support of a cause we believe to be just. ― Abraham Lincoln
Taken from the Exclusive Forbes Report (Online), “The Little Black Book of Billionaire Secrets”
How To Tell Someone They’re Wrong (And Make Them Feel Good About It)
How many of us realise this is so difficult to do? There are plenty of reasons not to tell someone they’re wrong. It’s uncomfortable, for one thing. You also might come off as rigid, unsympathetic, arrogant, or worst of all, politically incorrect. In some cases, depending on how much alcohol is involved, you might even get smacked in the mouth.
Here’s what all the touchy-feely folks out there don’t get about constructive criticism: It’s invaluable. The important thing is how you deliver it.
Everyone makes honest mistakes. What most people don’t realize is that embedded in criticism–constructively conveyed–is the wish to help someone get better at what they’re doing. It is never about down grading anyone. Any fool can deliver a meaningless “good job.” Being a constructive critic takes thought, effort and compassion. Here are eight tips for getting your good intentions across:
i) Pick Your Spots. Before you tell someone they’re wrong, recite–three times–Jack Nicholson’s tirade from A Few Good Men: “You want the truth? You can’t handle the truth!” Then answer the question: “Can he or she handle the truth?” If the answer is an unqualified ‘Yes,’ let them know they’re wrong, right then and there. If “No,” then keep reading.
ii) Never Qualify. Trying to soften criticism with qualifications like, “With all due respect,” “No offense,” or “Don’t take this the wrong way”; it is slathering poison on an open wound. Avoid this infuriating strategy. The same goes with showering praise early on, only to switch gears and unload with the bad news. At best you’ll come off as disingenuous; at worst, a jerk.
iii) Sugarcoat Donuts. Some blunt but effective advice from James G. Ellis, Dean of the USC Marshall School of Business: “Never try to simultaneously be a good cop and a bad cop,” he says. “You need to deliver your view without beating around the bush.” Ellis’ faculty knows all about this. “Say what the problem is, and if you must amplify your message, say where your data came from,” he adds. “But make it clear that your goal is ‘movement toward constructive change,’ and nothing else.”
iv) Paint A Picture. Ambiguity is your enemy when telling someone they’re wrong. Be concrete and don’t sermonize, even if the culprit knows he’s a sinner. Your feedback, like his priest’s, won’t afford a single clue about how he can extricate himself from purgatory.
v) Deal In Facts. Objectivity is crucial to constructive criticism. Remember that the goal is to communicate that a performance standard has not been met. Your sentiments (and certainly your judgments) are irrelevant. Never, ever talk down.
vi) Focus On Behavior, Not Character. It’s easy to lapse into character assassination without knowing it. For example, in saying “You were lazy in preparing this report” you may think you are helping the author improve his writing; instead, it addresses your assumption about the person’s attitude toward their work.
vii) Show Them The Way. Criticism without an action plan is worthless. Give them direction or keep your mouth shut.
viii) Let The Fixes Feel Like Their Own. Chelsea A. Grayson, a partner in the Los Angeles office of Jones Day’s mergers-and-acquisitions practice, is acutely sensitive to saying, “You’re wrong” in a constructive manner. “After I present my approach to someone I solicit feedback to ensure buy-in,” she says. “When I get it, and we concretize a plan, I often characterize it as theirs. If people feel you support their fundamental views and value them, achieving buy-in is easy and natural.”
How many of us realise that to get things right and to fix things up we have to acknowledge that there is something wrong? How many of us can handle being told we have made a mistake, we have wronged someone, or our tasks were not done well? Do pride, anger, frustration, and bitterness enter our hearts as we think: “Who does he think he is or who does she think she is? Who gave her/him the right to tell me off?”
For years we have a God who has been listening in to our conversation and seen what we have done in our lives, some a bit messy, some in need of a few touch up every now and then, and others just only coming along! He has been trying to tell us something and some of us have had ear wax in our ears for years, all clogged up, while some of us are just hard of hearing. Do we want to hear what God is trying to tell us? He wants us to get our lives right with Him.
What happens when you want to get right back with someone? First of all, you realise a wrong was done; you have neglected your life and spiritual growth or something wrong has caused a strained relationship. Maybe after a while, you have missed that kind of relationship, even with God, as you sense an emptiness creeping in, and you have tried to find solutions to reconcile. What if the other party may have cooled off so what happens? Do we give up? What would Jesus do? Would He be the other party that has cooled off or would He welcome us back into His loving arms?
First and foremost, God will tell us to get our lives back on track and then get right back with Him. Guess what? Getting back on track is hard work; it will affect our heart. So many of us don’t want to get hurt again so we kind of harden our hearts and show no emotions. Church, getting back on track and right with God takes discipline and exercise. We need to remove our pride, humble ourselves, forgive, seek reconciliation and the hardest of all, love again; His love will overwhelm us. The Spirit of love and forgiveness overtakes you, and you are drawn closer to God. His Spirit helps you think clearly and to find a path to bring reconciliation. Do we want to surrender our heads, our minds, and our emotions to God, and get right back with Him? Then let’s get right with God.
All religions, including some Christian ones, such as the Roman Catholicism, believe that the way a person gets right with God is through good works. Every religion somehow points to man’s effort to be reconciled to God by earning His favour. But Biblical Christianity is about God’s reconciling sinful man to Himself apart from our good works. There is only one way of reconciliation, and that is through Jesus Christ. God sent His only begotten Son to pay the penalty that we deserve so that we can be right with Him through grace alone (God’s unmerited favour upon us) by trusting in Jesus Christ, and not in good works to earn His favour.
We must also understand what is “wrong” before we can get “right” with God. The answer without doubt is sin. Sin hinders and blocks the channel of us getting to God or being reconciled to Him. Sin is to know to do good and to choose not to do it. “There is no one who does good, not even one” (Ps. 14:3). Sin is total rebellion against God. We have rebelled against God’s commands; we “like sheep, have gone astray” (Isa. 53:6).
The bad news is that the penalty for sin is death. “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God […]” (Rom. 3:23). “For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Rom. 6:23). “The soul who sins is the one who will die” (Eze. 18:4).
The good news is that a loving God has pursued us in order to bring us back to Him through salvation and the gift of eternal life. Jesus declared His purpose was “to seek and to save what was lost” (Lk.19:10), and He pronounced His purpose accomplished when He died on the cross with the words, “It is finished!” (Jn. 19:30).
How do we get right with God? Or, more specifically, how can we sinners be right with God, who is absolutely righteous? Read Romans 1:16-3:31. Paul forcefully drives home the point that all people, whether the pagan Gentiles or the religious Jews, are under sin. He spent so long on that subject, especially hitting the religious Jews with their self-righteousness, because he knew that unless we feel the weight of our own sin and condemnation, we will not appreciate our need for the gospel of hope and salvation. This is like when someone meaningfully tells us we have gone off track or heading the wrong direction and somehow how defences are put up.
Folks, let us tear down right know our defence mechanisms—all those walls we have built to protect our heart, our emotions, from being hurt or attacked and say to ourselves: “I got to get my life right with God. I am tearing don’t my walls of defence.” Let us understand the bad news and the steps we need to take before welcoming the good news.
1. Acknowledge our sin and wrongful ways. Having a right relationship with God begins with acknowledging our sin.
2. Confess our sin and wrongful habits (1 John 1:9). We need to confess in humbleness our sin to God (Isa. 57:15). “For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you confess and are saved” (Rom. 10:10).
3. Repent (turn away from sinning) and believe. This repentance must be accompanied by faith–specifically, faith that Jesus’ sacrificial death and miraculous resurrection qualify Him to be our loving Saviour. “If you confess with your mouth, ‘Jesus is Lord,’ and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved” (Rom. 10:9). Many other passages speak of the necessity of faith like John 20:27; Acts 16:31; Galatians 2:16; 3:11, 26; and Ephesians 2:8.
4. Respond to His love and what He has done for us. Being right with God is a matter of our response to what God has done on our behalf. He sent Jesus Christ our Saviour, He provided the sacrifice to take away our sin (Jn. 1:29), and He offers us the promise that “everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved” (Acts 2:21).
5. Know our salvation has power and ability to share Christ with others. Romans 1:16-17 says: “For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek”.
Martyn Lloyd-Jones points out, “No man can be a Christian without realizing his utter hopelessness.” Sinners can be right with God through faith in Jesus Christ and His gracious sacrifice to redeem us from sin and death that the good news. We have hope and a future—the gift of eternal life—in Christ Jesus.
It is crucial to understand three main things to get right with God:
1. We all need to be right with God because we all have done something wrong—we sinned and fall short of His glory through Adam and Eve. We do this through God’s love and mercy.
2. No one is righteous before God. “All our righteoueness are like filty rags” (Isa. 64:6). Both the religious (Jews) and pagans (Gentiles) have sinned and need to be right with God (Rom. 3:22).
3. Getting right with God is important because the essence of sin is to fall short of His glory. What does this mean? John Piper (“The Pleasures of God”, Multnomah Publishers’ revised and expanded edition, p. 158) explains that we were created to reflect God’s glory. He says: “We reflect his glory as we cherish it and keep it ever before us and make it the treasure and the goal of our lives”. Then he refers to Romans 1:23, where Paul says that sinners “exchanged the glory” of God for idols. He continues: “Thus we have traded treasures. We prefer other things in life to the delights of seeing and knowing the God of glory. This is the sense in which we ‘lack’ the glory of God. We lack it as the treasure of our lives. We lack it as our passion and goal. We lack it as our all-satisfying vision. This is the essence of sin: preferring other things to the glory of God”.
Of course, this is bad news. We “all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” But, there is a hint of good news even in Paul’s stating this bad news. If God’s Law condemns us all as sinners, how can we possibly get around it and get right with God? In the Old Testament, the chief picture of redemption was Israel’s being freed from slavery in Egypt. To avoid the deaths of their firstborn sons, the Jews had to kill a lamb and place its blood on the doorposts and lintel of their houses. God saw the blood and passed over those homes.
Jesus is our Passover lamb, slain to redeem us from our slavery to sin. He paid the price that God required. In that way, God can be both “just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus” (Rom. 3:26). That leads to the last word, “faith” (or “believe”). This word is the key to the question, “How can I be right with God?” God justifies sinners through faith in Jesus Christ. No sinner needs to despair that he or she is too far gone. All who believe are justified by God’s free grace.
How can you and I as sinners be right with God, who is absolutely holy? It’s impossible to be right with God by striving to be a good person or by attempting to keep God’s Law. The Law only reveals how far we fall short of God’s glory. It is impossible to be right with God by our good deeds! The great news is that although we all have sinned and fall short of God’s glory, freely by His grace, He declares righteous on all who put their faith in Jesus Christ and His sacrifice to redeem us.
To be right with God depends on our total trust in Jesus Christ! If we have put our trust in Christ alone to carry us across the chasm that separates us from God, we have made the right decision to get our lives right and right with God!
A beautiful illustration of repentance and forgiveness is the parable of the prodigal son (Luke 15:11-32). The younger son wasted his father’s gift in shameful sin (v. 13). When he acknowledged his wrongdoing, he decided to return home (v. 18). He assumed he would no longer be considered a son (v. 19), but he was wrong. The father loved the returned rebel as much as ever (v. 20). All was forgiven, and a celebration ensued (v. 24). God is good to keep His promises, including the promise to forgive.
“The Lord is close to the broken-hearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit” (Ps. 34:18). To get right with God, first we need to let go to sin in our lives, forgive, and receive salvation. The only way is by trusting in Jesus Christ who can save us from sin.
This prayer is simply a way to express to God our love and faith in Him and thank Him for providing for our salvation.
God, I know that I have sinned against You and am deserving of punishment. But Jesus Christ died on the cross for my sins and took the punishment that I deserve so that through faith in Him I am forgiven. When Jesus Christ rose again the third day, He is alive and overcame sin and death. I now place my trust in You, Lord Jesus Christ for saving me and giving me the gift of eternal life and Your Holy Spirit that comforts, guides, teaches, directs me. Thank You for Your wonderful grace and forgiveness and loving and receiving me as a child of God. In Jesus name I give thanks! Amen!