Here’s another one from my college basketball coach, Dean Smith. I once asked him for a leadership tip - one that he would want me to share with others.
Here’s what he said: Always correct the behavior, not the person.
It’s a timeless truth. One which can be applied to coaching, but also to parenting. And to all relationships as well.
Consider how Jesus interacted with the woman caught in adultery. Her accusers’ intention was to publicly humiliate her. But Jesus showed the woman boundless grace, finally saying to her, “Go now and leave your life of sin” (John 8:11). He corrected her behavior without attacking her identity. Her character.
There is a huge difference between correcting the person and the behavior. When you correct the person, you run the risk of creating the thinking, “I am a bad person.” That gives way to shame, which is a very difficult emotion to overcome.
But when you correct the behavior, they feel, “I did something bad.” The person can then work hard to overcome what they did wrong. But still feel valued as a person.
It’s an important truth for us all to know and practice: Correct the behavior, not the person.
An invaluable lesson from my college basketball coach.
I bet he learned it from Jesus!