Tuesday, July 5, 2011

The right word


If you reject criticism, you only harm yourself; but if you listen to correction, you grow in understanding.    Proverbs 15:32 NLT

A freshman journalism major at Oklahoma Baptist University, I was convinced my professor, John Parrish, thought I was a horrible writer.

I was making Bs in his news writing class but every assignment came back with red ink all over it.  I knew enough about journalism to know that when things appear in print they should be close to perfection. Mine was far from it. I always had the wrong word, its instead of it's, and so on.

I was further convinced of my despicableness as a writer because a friend of mine and I would always get the same grade but she would not have a red mark anywhere.

My other love was Bible classes or as it was called at OBU, religion. So I decided to change my major. Only one problem.  I needed Mr. Parrish’s signature to do that. Frankly, he intimidated me more than a little.

In his office I didn’t speak but just shoved the request for change across his desk. 

“Why do you want to change majors?” he asked in soft, almost fatherly voice.

“I…I figure I am a horrible writer. I…I figure you must think so too.”

“Why do you think I think so?”

“You bleed all over my papers.  Julie gets the same grade and you don’t even make a mark on her paper.”

There was silence in the room. Finally, he spoke again.“Teresa, I take time to make suggestions on your paper because I know you have a gift and you will do something with it. If I didn’t think so I would not take the time to help you become the best. I doubt Julie will even be back next year.” He was right, of course. Julie did not come back after that year. 

It was perhaps the best lesson I learned in college. It has followed me throughout my life.  

Soloman was imparting this same wisdom in Proverbs 15:2.  The person who learns to listen to instruction, correction, even criticism, is the one who wants to improve.  They are the better for the time someone took to invest in them.

Correction, it's the right word. So, thanks Mr. Parrish for spilling a little editor’s red blood for me.  I am certainly the better for it. 

1 comment:

  1. Wonderful post, Teresa. Criticism is sometimes hard to swallow. Our prideful nature causes us to stop up our ears and those who've been exposed to destructive criticism in the past are twice-shy. Your Mr. Parrish gave you the greatest compliment in taking the time to urge you in a better direction in your writing.

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