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Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Teachable moments

If you have ever been around someone who is struggling to do something, or get through something, and you just offer them one piece of advice to make it easier or quicker, you might have been surprised to receive less than a welcoming and warm response to your "advice".  You know what I mean - when they looked you in the eye, expression of disgust on their face suggesting that you must be daft to even suggest such a thing.  Some people just cannot see any other solution to their issue than what they can manage to come up with in their own minds or power.  To suggest something outside of that imagined solution makes you the "crazy one" in the equation!

Some people like to do things their own way, and they get upset when people give them advice. Fools don’t want to learn from others. They only want to tell their own ideas. (Proverbs 18:1-2 ERV)


There is a lot of danger in being so determined to just do things our own way, though.  In many circumstances, the way we determine to be the "best" or "right" one may just be the easiest and present the least resistance.  I know I have chosen this option more than a few times, only to find out that the easiest "up front" isn't always the easiest on the "back end".  I have set up huge workbooks of data in Excel spreadsheets only to find it was set up so poorly it was impossible to drill down on the data to get any kind of useful report from it. I found myself "hand calculating" the data!  Now, maybe someone could have helped me if I had just have asked up front, but my pride kept me from finding out if there was an "easier" or "better" way other than what my mind could muster on its own.


This is often the case when it comes to our ability to learn in life - pride determines the course we take whenever we are faced with something a bit "over our heads".  We might think we have a solution, but pride keeps us from asking if we are even on the right track!  At this point in my career, I am often asked to build these workbooks for another to use - creating tools to make something they are doing in their job a little easier.  How silly would it be of me to just assume I know what their needs are and then to go ahead with building that tool for them without their input?  I have regular check-ins with these individuals because I know they will have to use the tool I create, so unless I listen to their needs, let them experiment with it a little, and then take their criticism or advice seriously, I will be creating something "for" them, but it won't be useful "to" them.

Pride is one of the most limiting things we can face - probably more limiting than just about any other issue in our lives.  Why?  Pride limits our ability to see any other solution to life's issue than our own - it is our way, or the highway. We don't even look for another solution because we have our minds and hearts so wrapped around what we believe to be best that we almost shut out any other possibilities.  Pride escalates one's ideas and beliefs to the place of superiority and shuts down any other idea or belief not completely like one's own.  There is a tell-tale sign one is experiencing some issue with pride in their life - whenever you are presented with another solution to what is front of you and immediately reject it as "wrong" or "unworthy" of your time or attention.

Now, there are times when we want this immediate rejection of ideas - like when they are totally wrong or violate God's commands.  For example, if someone says the way to get to work sooner is to just be a ding-dong of a driver on the road and weave furiously in and out of traffic until you nearly run every driver off the road, you might want to reject that one!  On the other hand, if someone tells you to set your alarm 15 minutes earlier and avoid hitting the snooze button five times, you might want to give that one some consideration. When my son had a hard time getting up for school, I moved the alarm clock to the other side of the room so he'd have to get up to shut it off.  Good theory, but it didn't work!  It wasn't something he really cared about, so he'd just let the alarm ring and ring - knowing it would eventually shut off!  Pulling the pillow over his head worked well enough to deaden the sound!

Some of what we imagine is "right" or "good" may not be "bad" - it just may not be what is best in the moment.  We need to first weigh what we are about to do against God's commands - if it is okay there, it is likely okay for us to pursue. Then if the scripture doesn't give us any real clear advice on the matter, we have to rely upon conscience - something a little less reliable.  When another comes alongside to give us advice, we weigh it against scripture and our conscience.  If it doesn't violate either, we might do well to give it consideration. We may never know when that "teachable moment" may occur which actually helps us move beyond something we've been struggling with for a while!  Just sayin!