Monday, January 14, 2019

Teach me to be Teachable

Our men's small group has been going through a topical study of the book of Proverbs. We have several passages organized by topic, and we've been moving slowly through the list. Our study has led to some great conversations. We will often hit these single verse statements of wisdom that are the best kind of a slap-to-the-face. One of our group members remarked recently how astounding it is that the phrases can be so condensed and to-the-point. One such Proverb we encountered was 12:1 which reads:
"Whoever loves discipline loves knowledge,
            but he who hates reproof is stupid."

The word "discipline" has a couple of different meanings in English. It can be what an athlete requires to train hard; they require discipline to focus on training. Discipline can also be what a parent does with a child when they are off course or doing things that are not right. The parent disciplines the child.

This second meaning is what the author meant here. When we understand that, the statement takes on a pretty arresting quality. Who loves to be corrected? Who loves to be called out for doing something wrong?

There are many layers to this and our discussion went in a few directions as we sought to understand these ideas, but the first question I had was, "what's the relationship between discipline and knowledge?" How are these two things related? Most people would say that they like knowledge. Though truth has become a moving target in our culture, most people wouldn't say that they dislike or detest knowledge. But the author here says that if you love knowledge you will also love discipline; you will also love correction.

In an objective sense, I can understand what the author is saying here. There is a strong relationship between failure and learning. Furthermore, the best way to learn things is not simply from personal trial and error but from a teacher. We need that external perspective, that outside view to give us a reality check.

If you have ever been in a dance studio, you know that a good many of the walls are lined with mirrors. These mirrors are important tools in dance practice. The movements the dancer is doing may feel right, they may feel correct, but the mirror provides a response mechanism. They show the dancer what others see so that they can make changes to their movements. This process continues until they achieve the results that they want. In our lives, correction and discipline are that same sort of response that help us see what we may be missing.

The challenge is that while I do see the objective sense of the statement, I still feel the emotional response when I receive discipline or correction. I still feel that push back, that voice in me that says "What right do you have to say that to me?!" or "How could you possibly try to point that out when your life looks like that?!" Or maybe nothing so overt as that, except we just get defensive and look for the closest way out of the conversation. Whether it is rage or aversion, we often respond to appropriate and well-meaning correction in inappropriate ways.

So how can we put this into practice? How can become someone who loves discipline and knowledge? We must step into the dance studio. We must look into the mirror, and we must move before the mirror and then make adjustments based on the responses we get. To do this we need mirrors, and those mirrors are people. This entire process comes in relationship with others. It happens best in a deep community. It requires the communion of the saints. We cannot be in shallow or nonexistent community and expect to have people around us that can call us on the carpet. People that can say, "hey, I saw what you did there, and we both know that isn't right." We need people in our lives that we have expressly given the right to ask us hard questions - questions we ourselves have given them. We must be open to answering and dealing with hard questions in our lives. This does not happen by accident. This is not the kind of community that just sort of happens.

To be honest, there are plenty of times in my life where according to this text, I was stupid. I was the fool that hated reproof. I pray that we can all love knowledge and because of that love, discipline, as well.

1 comment:

  1. This is something I have tried to deal with in my life. When I was much younger I always used to like to listen to people older than me.I liked to pick their brain. I still like to listen to older people. I have some friends I know that love me and care about me and I like to hear from them. When I need advice from a doctor I go and ask for it. The same thing if I need legal advice I go to some lawyer to ask what to do. I do not always feel "I am right all the time". And I try not to criticize others and tell them what to do unless they ask me. I do not think I need to know everything that is going on in other peoples lives. We will not always agree on what each other does. But be loving and not interfere or criticize unless asked to do so


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