"Character is the one thing we make in this world and take with us into the next."
- - Ezra Taft Benson
July 23, 2014
Learning to Love the Breakfast of Champions
by Kathryn Grant

A young Boyd K. Packer had just spoken in church. Afterward, the stake patriarch complimented him — and then offered a minor correction to a word he felt Brother Packer had mispronounced. Miffed, Brother Packer said he, “replied with some impudence, ‘Oh, is that so?’”

Later, feeling ashamed, Brother Packer called the patriarch and apologized, thanking him for the correction and inviting more.

Drawing a lesson from this experience, Elder Packer observed, “A desire to learn is one thing. An expressed willingness to be taught and to be corrected is quite another.” (“The Edge of the Light,” BYU Magazine, March 1991.)

It’s been said that feedback is the breakfast of champions. If that’s true, why does it sometimes make us gag? And how can we change our appetite, as Boyd K. Packer did, and learn to crave it instead?

Sometimes we resist feedback because our assumptions are so well camouflaged in our worldview that we simply can’t believe we’ve been wrong. Other times, we see the truth but don’t want to admit it. After all, it could be embarrassing. And if we were wrong about that, what else might we have been wrong about? Not to mention the hassle — if we admit we’re wrong, we’ll probably feel obligated to do something about it. Ugh.

But in most cases, if not all, the root problem underlying our resistance is probably pride. And the crazy thing? In almost all cases, we only compound a problem by refusing to admit it and correct it. Our resistance to the truth keeps us stuck in a place where we can’t find solutions. Why not cut our losses, address the problem, and move on?

Letting go of ego and receiving correction is actually the key to freedom and progression. We become free from resistance, from wounded pride, from stunted growth. We’re free to get past mistakes and problems, to prosper and thrive.

In a BYU Devotional, Tyler Jarvis spoke about the iterative process of learning and growth: we act imperfectly, get feedback on our actions, and then use that feedback to improve. (“That’s How the Light Gets In,” BYU Devotional, July 9, 2013.) It’s a simple approach, but it’s hard to find one that’s more effective.

Even if we learn to love feedback, occasionally it may be served with an unpalatable side dish of judgment or criticism. I once saw a friend rebuked in a public setting in a way that seemed decidedly unfair. But by his reaction, he taught me and others that even hurtful feedback can be useful.

If we’re humble, we can still acknowledge anything accurate in the feedback and use it to improve. We can also learn from this type of correction how to offer feedback to others with greater sensitivity.

How might it affect our lives if we actively sought and used feedback instead of resisting it? Elder Packer shared another experience that helps answer this question:

Once when I returned from a mission tour totally exhausted, my wife said to me, “I have never seen you so tired. What is the matter; did you find a mission president who wouldn’t listen?” “No,” I replied, “it was just the opposite. I found one who wanted to learn.”

Many will say they want to learn but feel threatened if there is the slightest element of correction in what they are given. He wanted to learn! That president now sits in the Council of the Twelve Apostles. (“The Edge of the Light,” BYU Magazine, March 1991.)

To be clear, the point is not that seeking feedback could result in a leading Church calling. But a humble willingness and even eagerness to be corrected, a strong desire to learn and improve — these are qualities that allow the Lord to use us in meaningful and perhaps surprising ways to build His kingdom and hasten His work in the latter days.

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About Kathryn Grant

Kathryn Grant is a user assistance professional with a passion for usability and process improvement. She also loves family history and enjoys the challenge and reward of building her family tree.

As a child, she lived outside the United States for four years because of her father's job. This experience fueled her natural love of words and language, and also taught her to appreciate other cultures.

Kathryn values gratitude, teaching, learning, differences, and unity. She loves looking at star-filled skies, reading mind-stretching books, listening to contemporary Christian music, attending the temple, and eating fresh raspberries.

Kathryn teaches Sunday family history classes at the BYU Family History Library, and presents frequently at family history events. For more information, visit her Family History Learning Resources page

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