Is it Okay, if I Love My Red Pen?

I used to envy teachers. Not only did they get to write on a chalkboard or markerboard, but they got to correct papers (how naive was I?!?)! I’d see corrections in red on a paper or test and think they were beautiful…as long as they were on someone else’s paper or test!

Then came my freshman year of college. I wrote my first paper for my English class and felt pretty confident about it…until I received it back from the professor. I remember it like it was yesterday. There was red all over the first page, and the letter grade at the top (also in bright red) wasn’t anything close to what I was used to!! My heart sunk. Those red markings weren’t so beautiful on my paper! As I re-read the paper with the prof’s corrections, I began to see how the changes he made were making me and my writing better. I approached him with corrections I didn’t understand, and he explained why what I wrote wasn’t fitting. That paper gave me the opportunity to accept or reject criticism. If I accepted it as constructive, it would improve the way I wrote. If I dismissed it as he didn’t know what he was talking about with a, “Who does he think he is to touch my paper with his red pen?!?” response, I would’ve remained stagnant. I chose to accept the critiques.

Ask my parents, my kids, or my hubby! I LOVE me a red pen, even if it’s only in my head!! If I’m reading an article, a book, or a PowerPoint slide and find an error, I’m elated!! I homeschooled our kids for six years, and I relished the moments our daughter would come to me and say, “Mom!! I found a typo!!” She, too, had a discerning spirit…

Is that what I was breeding? A discerning spirit…or a critical one? I was always looking for ways to make something better or “right,” but I realized that my standard, oftentimes, was my own…the way I would do it.

Photo by Brooke Lark on Unsplash

Have you ever taught a child how to do a job around the house? I’d explain, as I showed them how to complete it; they’d forget or be in a hurry; I’d come back to check it when they were “done,” and things weren’t executed the way I’d shown them. I began to see how corrections could be destructive or instructive; a lot (not all) depended on the heart of the one hearing and if he or she wanted to learn. Nitpicking when they were close didn’t encourage them, and letting something go wasn’t teaching them. For me, this was a tightrope line to walk…and it still is, as I seek to bring an awareness to how they work, they’re motive for getting the job done, and Who they’re working for, while also seeing the way they’re wired and accepting their best.

Here are some verses that check my heart in these situations to see if my invisible red pen is active to instruct or destruct:

“I, therefore, a prisoner for the Lord, urge you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which you have been called, 2with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, 3eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.”

Ephesians 4:1-3 ESV

15“Rather, speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into Him who is the head, into Christ, 16from Whom the whole body, joined and held together by every joint with which it is equipped, when each part is working properly, makes the body grow, so that it builds itself up in love.”

Ephesians 4:15-16 ESV

“The good person, out of the good treasure of his heart, produces good, and the evil person, out of his evil treasure, produces evil, for out of the abundance of the heart, his mouth speaks.”

Luke 6:45 ESV

These verses help me ask some hard questions about myself, taking the red pen to my life first. It’s not only worth assessing to grow my relationship with my kids; it’s also important for their relationship with work and others! Needless to say, I need to ask these questions when it comes to my interactions with others, as well!

  • Is my heart prideful? If yes, am I demonstrating that in my words and facial expressions?
  • Am I possessing an attitude that is focused on the goal of the task or conversation OR the task or word(s) spoken itself?
  • Am I fully applying myself in guarding unity (joining together, rather than separating) by allowing God’s Spirit to move me?
  • Are my expectations set on God’s standard or mine?
  • Do I take into consideration how God made the other individual involved?
  • Are my responses good or evil? What does that tell me about where I place the value of things in my heart?

Thank you, Lord, for continuing to pursue what You have for me, making the corrections in me that You see need to be made (’cause there are many)! Thank you for the love and patience with which You instruct me! Please keep reminding me of these questions, so I can demonstrate Your heart better to anyone I come in contact with! Amen.

Photo by CDC on Unsplash

2 Comments on “Is it Okay, if I Love My Red Pen?

  1. Girl! I love me a red pen! In too many ways on so many days! What a kick in the pants to check that pen at the door of my heart and to reach out with both hands to love and guide first before correction! Love this so much!


    • Pen Pal, I’m glad I’m not alone, but the struggle is real!! I had just written this, when I was challenged to continue working on it. I so saw the Lord’s hand in the succession of the posts He has initiated over the last weeks! I have to abide, with/next to Him, to have any chance of succeeding in having a discerning spirit, not a critical one…to instruct, not destruct!! Thanks so much for your encouragement!! Praying for you.


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