Proofreaders

She reads them all.  Every single one of them.  

It seems a cruel punishment, doesn’t it?  I sit at my computer for a few hours, pecking out the words, sorting through the verbs, nouns, and modifiers (dangling or not) and then she has to endure the torture of sorting through the olio that results.

Each morning after I arrive at the music store, I check my email.  It is a common task for most of us in this era of digital communication.  But, I am looking for something different than most office workers.  

As I open the mail folder, I quickly scan down the list of unopened entries.  If her name is not present, I breathe a sigh of relief and move on to other pursuits.

That may seem strange to you.  She is my wife, after all–the Lovely Lady, whom I love.  

Why shouldn’t I want to see an email from her when I get to my desk?  Is something awry in paradise?  Are there problems I haven’t shared with my readers?

No, you may rest easy on that point.  The email I dread from her is the one with the stark single-word subject line that says simply, Blog.  Its presence in the mail queue can only indicate one thing.  I have made an error in my latest post.  

It does happen.

I don’t like making mistakes, but contrary to what you may have been led to believe, it does happen.  Frequently.

Gingerly, I open such emails, dreading what I will find.  Gently–always gently–she mentions that I might want to check the comma in the first paragraph or the tense of that dependent clause near the end of the essay.

I breathe a sigh of relief when it is such minor problems that are pointed out.  The issues I dread are actually more commonplace than that, but I detest to have them pointed out.

“You have one typo here.  Instead of out, you wrote our.

Such a revelation can spoil my entire morning; my self-confidence is shattered.  Too many commas, I can handle.  Commas are almost a matter of personal choice.  There is no definitively correct way to handle them.

letters-1161947_640Typographical errors, on the other hand, show carelessness and are indicative of slipshod performance.  They reflect on my work ethic.  I am mortified to have missed such common errors.  

I exaggerate, of course.  

I do, however, feel bad about my personal failure to offer the best product possible to my readers.

I smile as I think about the patience of the Lovely Lady, who really does read and reread each essay because she wants to.  There is no expectation on my part and she knows it.  I welcome the criticism, even when it brings with it the embarrassment of learning my shortcomings. 

But as I think, my mind (as it is wont to do) slips on past this era of morning email and back to a time in the distant past, and my smile disappears.

My friend and I are talking about a class I teach at our church.  I am proudly expounding on the excellent discussion we had the last time the class met.  He hesitates and I await his response, assuming he will have nothing but praise to offer for my mastery of the situation.

“Paul, do you realize several people wanted to say something that day, but didn’t?”

The words come quietly and slowly—as if he hates having to say any one of them.

I am surprised, but immediately fling back my response. 

“Well, why didn’t they speak?  Everyone knows they can talk freely there.”

“They didn’t speak because they knew you would just blast them out of the water,” he says firmly.  “You hardly give anyone time to finish their thought before you unload on them with your arguments and opinions.  They’re afraid of you.”

This time, I’m not exaggerating when I tell you I am devastated.  

I sit and think back on the session we are discussing.  The way I remember it, there was nothing but smiles and goodwill.  But clearly, I had failed to feel the undercurrents; failed to hear the whispers of dissent.

I had failed.

It was one of the hardest weeks of my young life.  I think that’s how it is when you’re forced to come face-to-face with the person you really have become. 

That same night I called one of my mentors and talked through what I was feeling, suggesting I should immediately resign from teaching the class.  He helped me to see I would only be running from the issues, not dealing with them.

The next Sunday, a rather tearful apology and promises to do better in the future were met with the forgiveness and acceptance I didn’t deserve, but for which I was grateful.

If you have stuck with me thus far, I should point out something which may already be obvious.  I’m really hoping you see the people in the above narrative more clearly than the events.

You see, I am unashamedly grateful for people in my life who are willing to proofread, to make correction, to help me to be a better me.

Without question, life would be easier without their meddling.  I could go along without a care in the world, confident in my intellectual and moral superiority.

And, conspicuously wrong.  

When I undertake to walk the road before me without aid, I falter on the way. Assuming that my sense of direction is impeccable, I make a wrong turn.

Every time.

Friends and wise counselors are, without doubt, one of God’s greatest gifts to mankind.

We should cherish them; we should certainly heed them.  Chances are good that, if they’ve stuck with us through years of our immaturity, they want only good for us and not otherwise.

And, when we come finally to the years of wisdom, those we call the golden years, each of us needs at least one such friend.

If nothing else, they may keep us from making really stupid old-person mistakes.

If history means anything, it seems to be a distinct possibility!

 

 

 

Wounds from a sincere friend are better than many kisses from an enemy.
(Proverbs 27:6 ~ NLT)

 

Let no man under value the price of a virtuous woman’s counsel.
(George Chapman ~ English poet/dramatist ~ 1559-1634)

 

 

 

© Paul Phillips. He’s Taken Leave. 2016. All Rights Reserved.

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