2 Corinthians 7:10 (NIV)
10 Godly sorrow brings repentance that leads to salvation and leaves no regret, but worldly sorrow brings death.
When was the last time someone rightfully rebuked you? In other words, when was the last time someone correctly pointed out an area where you needed to improve? How did you feel when you were rebuked? How did you respond? Did you get defensive and lash out in anger? Did you hold a grudge against that person for speaking the truth? Or did you use that rebuke to make you better?
It never feels good to be rebuked. There's a certain sorrow that comes with it. But how you respond to rebuke, and how you deal with that sorrow, will determine your destiny.
In 2 Corinthians 7:8-16, Paul describes the two ways you can respond to rebuke. The first way you can respond is what Paul calls "godly sorrow". Godly sorrow is marked by 7 traits (see verse 11):
- earnestness: you sincerely want to know where you went wrong and aren't afraid to admit when you're wrong and apologize
- eagerness to clear yourself: you want nothing more than to improve and make things right
- indignation: there's a part of you that's mad at yourself for making that mistake (not necessarily beating yourself up like there's no tomorrow, but still there's a healthy "ugh! Why did I mess up there!")
- alarm: the rebuke causes you to go into a high alert mode where you're now being extra careful not to repeat the mistake or make other mistakes
- longing: you so want to improve and become a better ____ (you fill in the blank...leader, teammate, servant, parent, spouse, friend)
- concern: you feel bad that your mistake affected others and you're concerned for their well being
- readiness to see justice done: you're committed to making things right and improving no matter what it takes.
These are the 7 marks of godly sorrow. As Paul explains, godly sorrow is a good thing. It brings repentance, leads to salvation and leaves no regret (v10). There's a certain hope that comes with godly sorrow because we are eager to change and improve. Whenever we are rightfully rebuked, God wants us to respond with godly sorrow.
But there's another way to respond to rebuke. Paul calls it "worldly sorrow". That's where all you do is sulk, get defensive, make excuses, blame others and throw a pity party. Whereas godly sorrow brings hope, worldly sorrow brings hopelessness. As verse 10 says, "worldly sorrow brings death". In other words, the quickest way to kill your destiny is to respond to rebuke with worldly sorrow.
Praise God! While we don't know the exact situation in 2 Corinthians 7:8-16 that led to Paul rebuking his church in Corinth, we do know that the church responded with godly sorrow, not worldly sorrow. As a result, the church grew and used the rebuke - as painful as it was to hear - to their advantage, making them stronger.
I pray that you too, whenever you are rightfully rebuked, respond with godly sorrow. We all make mistakes. No one ever bats 1000 or gets it right all the time. But if we will respond to our mistakes with godly sorrow, we can with God's help turn our mistakes into the most important triggers for even greater growth and maturity.