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Responding to Correction: What does it look like in books?

This week the team discusses how characters respond to correction not only in our anchor books, but also in other literary or popular titles.

In Wise Up chapters #6 and 7, we learn the important of listening to wise counselors, specifically parents, and receiving their correction. Part of choosing the right path (SRC week 1) is accepting discipline when we stray. The other part is repenting and being willing to return to the way of wisdom. What examples can you think of from our anchor books, Wise WordsThe Wilderking Trilogy and The Playmaker duo that show characters responding to correction?

Megan: The stories in Wise Words contain numerous examples of responding to correction. The “Barefoot Messenger” is given strict counsel to obey the king’s instructions in seeking a bride for his son, but the messenger takes the liberty of following a the enticing counsel of a stranger. He wanders off the path into danger and must be rescued by the king’s own son who is following him to be sure the bride is reached in accordance with the king’s instruction. In “King Jacob of the Green Garland,” Eric shows no mercy to the peasants and is punished by being transformed into a beast like King Nebuchadnezzar. Thankfully he learns his lesson before he dies and makes his successor, Jacob, promise not to act as Eric had.

Betsy: The Wilderking books reflect not only the story of the biblical David but that of King Saul as well. Saul (King Daren) and David (Aidan) are striking foils: King Saul rarely (if ever) repents of his wrongdoing, and when he does, it frequently seems self-serving (begging the question: is it true repentance?). David’s very posture is often one of humility and seeking to do the right thing. When Nathan comes to him, chastising him for his sin with Bathsheba, David is quick to repent and penned one of the most quoted Psalms: Psalm 51. The Wilderking books don’t show Aidan going quite this far, but he clearly respects his father and even the king as the Lord’s anointed.

Janie: In The Playmaker, Richard Mallory receives an early warning from his hostess about “playing a role” off the stage.  It doesn’t fully register with him at first, but as the plot thickens, he’ll encounter characters who don’t seem to have any central identity, and it leads to a firm resolution in the end about lying and hypocrisy.  That pattern is even more pronounced in The True Prince, when Kit Glover is warned numerous times about his wild ways but fails to heed until it’s almost too late.

Are there any other stories, films (or even comics) that show the benefits of humbly accepting correction or the folly of resisting? 

Betsy: Popular culture shows us countless instances of those who do not repent and return to the path of wisdom. For example, in the Jurassic Park movies, the “bad guy” usually receives many warnings of folly. They don’t repent and don’t return to the way of wisdom (i.e. “don’t mess with life” or “don’t try to play with dinosaur DNA” or “pride goes before a fall”). The result: death and dismemberment! The positive counterparts can be a trifle more obscure, but our recent Beauty and the Beast discussions highlighted the Beast’s repentance or change of heart as he left his prideful ways behind him and become more beautiful. Becoming a beast was a tremendously humbling experience he might not have chosen, but sometimes that happens to us as well when the Lord humbles us in order to turn our hearts towards repentance.

Alysha: Betsy, I would never have thought of Jurassic Park, but that is a great example of what can happen when the voice of wisdom is ignored.  In Pixar’s Inside Out, the main character, Joy, shows both sides of the coin to me. She begins the film desperate to keep Riley (the human in which she is the emotion of joy) happy. She does not listen to Sadness and takes matters into her own hands. She ends up in a dark place where she’s forced to confront her way of thinking. She realizes that Sadness is also an important emotion and ends up giving up some control to the other emotions so that Riley can function and grow in a healthy way. In the literary world, most fairy tales come to my mind. The warnings of Red Riding Hood’s mother of not to stop or stray from the path is ignored and the result is a gruesome detour that puts her life and the life of her grandmother in a dangerous position.

Janie: “Humbly accepting correction” isn’t a popular theme these days, when young people are told to follow their own hearts and not let anyone interfere with their dreams.  But what if those dreams (like the dream of the Jurassic Park scientists) turn out to be destructive—for ourselves as well as others?  That side of the coin isn’t discussed so much; it’s just assumed that we know what’s best for us.  I would particularly commend one of the picture-book recommendations for this week: Sneaky Sheep.  The book is hilarious (for grownups as well as kids), but it very clearly points up the absolute folly of refusing to listen to wise counsel.

At the middle-grade level, The Great Gilly Hopkins accurately pictures a hardnosed 12-year-old who thinks she has life all figured out.  That hardness has to be dealt a sharp disappointment before she can accept correction, and for many of us that’s what it takes—God has to shake us out of our delusions before he can teach us anything.

Elsewhere I mentioned Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet, which is usually regarded as a tragic love story.  Tragic it is, but love story it’s not.  At best, the attraction between these two young people is infatuation, which might have grown into love if given a chance.  Unfortunately, wise counsel was in short supply, so they were left to follow their hearts right into the grave.

Megan: Wow, Janie, I always accepted Romeo and Juliet as a romantic tragedy (is that the same thing as a tragic love story?), but you’re right, it’s no love story at all. Instead it’s based on passion and dying because life isn’t worth living without the one you have a major crush on but are barely acquainted with. Love requires self-sacrifice and commitment even when the other person isn’t even likable, because that is how God loves us and how Christ shows us to love one another.

In other examples, I think about The Golden Plate and the Frances books by Russell Hoban as examples of children who practice folly but have good relationships with their parents and respond to verbal correction. That is the kind of relationship I pray I may continue to enjoy with my sons as they are rapidly growing up. Although there will be necessary consequences at times, I love how Frances’s mother made a chocolate cake to celebrate when Frances came “home” after running away to live under the dining room table in A Baby Sister for Frances.

On the other hand, in Calvin and Hobbes, Calvin responds disrespectfully when his parents reprimand him or send him to his room. Sometimes they do spank him, but there is no sense of true restoration.

Now it’s your turn! What else have you read that shows characters responding positively or negatively to correction?

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