1 If you love learning, you love the discipline that goes with it— how shortsighted to refuse correction! (Proverbs 12:1)
I sometimes take a little heat from my friends because I like to learn new things. I have a curious mind that is only satisfied when I have discovered a new fact - like taking something apart to see how it works, or discovering the name of a bug that crawls out of a hole in my back yard. The writer of Proverbs says that if we are the kind of people that love learning, then we will also love the discipline that goes with it. Most of us could say that we are open to learning new things, but does discipline REALLY have to be part of it?!?
The process of learning requires that we take in knowledge or a new skill through the process of being instructed or in self-study. We go through a process of learning - it is systematic. Learning is seldom "instantaneous", although it can be. I remember being rear-ended when I was quite young. Since that time, I can honestly say that I don't get behind the wheel without buckling up. That was one of those "instantaneous" learning moments! The injuries of the accident "convinced" me to use my seat belt. This learning opportunity would probably equate to a lot of reminders about how to protect yourself in an accident from serious injury - like those bells that ding when you get in, turn on the ignition, and the flashing light that attempt to make you compliant with wearing your seat belt. So, could we say it was "instantaneous" - not really. I had been exposed to the knowledge part a lot earlier, but chose to not apply what I knew to be true until I was injured.
It amazes me to know that this is also how we sometimes approach the learning we experience in our spiritual walk. We get repeated exposure to the opportunity to learn - but somehow, we don't take it seriously until we are in the midst of a really painful situation! We call this type of learning "behavior modification" - we engage in a behavior, it produces an "ill effect", and we recoil when we experience the effect. Do this long enough and you will eventually recoil from the very thought of even engaging in that behavior - your behavior becomes modified!
God doesn't want us to have to experience "bad stuff" in order to "modify" our behavior, though. He wants us to embrace the process of learning - willingly, enthusiastically, and with a trust in the one who is doing the teaching. Learning is a process of first being able to take in the knowledge - having an open heart. Then we must have open minds - being able to discover what truth he is revealing. To this, he ads that we need to have "hearing" - this is a combination of both an open heart and an open mind. It is this "hearing" that brings us to the place where we finally "know" the truth that is being revealed (like when I realized that my injuries could have been minimized had I been properly restrained).
Discipline is the type of training that corrects - it molds us or perfects our mental faculties enough that our moral character is affected by it. The writer implies that we need to couple learning with discipline. We could take that to mean that we need to be "disciplined" in our learning - and this would be one truth that we could adopt from this verse. Yet, the meaning he has in mind is that learning becomes the most effective when it includes elements of disciplined correction, or the perfecting of those things that need to be changed in our character.
The end of all teaching (as God sees it) is a greater awareness of just how much our "self" interferes with our character growth and our embracing of that which will finally deal with "self". That means that if I truly love learning, I will whole-heartedly embrace the discipline or correction that comes along with it! I was always disappointed when my teachers would return a paper to me with a grade that suggested I had not "learned" the materials. Some students in the class would just accept that grade and go on getting that same grade throughout the entire semester. That "grade" made me try harder - study more, get another viewpoint on the material presented, etc. I guess that is why they gave the grade in the first place - to show us where we needed improvement.
God doesn't use a "grading" system to show us where we need to embrace learning in our lives - but he does use the promptings of the Holy Spirit to show us where we are responding inappropriately, believing stuff that is dangerous to our moral development, or surrounding ourselves with things that will distract us from what is important. We would do well to learn to appreciate the "discipline" of learning! It provides an opportunity for our development that we'd never experience otherwise.