Being teachable is a virtue. A disciple is someone who is willing to be taught, someone willing to be disciplined into a discipline. But that's hard. Proverbs 4:5 tells us, "Get wisdom, get understanding; do not forget my words or turn away from them." God teaches us through his word in scripture, through his creation, and through the people he has placed in our paths, but we might not be listening. We don't want to change the way we do things.
God's desire for us is an abundant life. John 10:10 tells us, "I came that they may have life and have it abundantly."
Rather than pursuing the abundant life God has for us, we might get sidetracked by practicing these characteristics of unteachable behavior:
When I'm unteachable, I want results now. I don't want to have to explain things or wonder how another might do it. Everyone else seems like an obstacle that is interfering with progress. Sometimes haste and focus are in order, but when I'm unteachable, this is my default mode of how I approach things. Pausing can help me to reset unrealistic expectations and listen and learn from the world around me.
When I'm unteachable, questions, other ideas, and contradictions scare me. I don’t want other opinions to be voiced. I see other ideas as a threat to my own rather than a sharing of experiences. Yet if my beliefs and ideas are solid, they can stand up to challenges and I can hear others' ideas without getting anxious.
When I'm unteachable, I don't notice or wonder how others are reacting. At my worst, I don't really care what you're experiencing (because you're probably doing it wrong anyway). I don't wonder if this is working for you or others, especially if it's working for me. Maybe I can tell you how it should be for you, but I'm unlikely to invest in hearing another person’s story or point of view. Empathy helps us to tune into what might be in the best interest of the community.
When I am unteachable I choose not to look at the world beyond my experience so I miss the wider kingdom vision. I become so convinced that what I believe is right that I refuse to look at a situation from another perspective. I don't ask questions, because I do not want to hear the answers. When I am unteachable, I get stuck in my rut and refuse to consider how things might be done in a different way. Philippians 2:4 tells us, "Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others." We are called to be people who care for one another.
When I am unteachable, I get easily angered because the rest of the world doesn’t function the way that I think it should. When this is my normal way of living, I seem bitter and unhappy most of the time. I miss out on the joy of discovery and learning because I am convinced that I know all that that I need to know already. Bitterness gives the devil a foothold in our lives (Eph 4:26-27).
When I am unteachable, I interfere with the learning of others with my brashness. It is difficult for others to learn from one another if only one voice is heard. It is difficult to learn over a loud opinionated voice. If we care for others, we will treat them respectfully even when we disagree.
Adopt a teachable spirit in your life. Proverbs 9:9 tells us, "Instruct the wise and they will be wiser still; teach the righteous and they will add to their learning." Do not let the characteristics of unteachable behavior take root in you. Choose to let Christ’s compassion be seen through you as you invest in the lives of others and hear their voices.
Rev. Deb Koster