“On the highest throne in the world, we still sit only on our own bottom.”
― Michel de Montaigne, The Complete Essays
Anyone who has ever been a teacher in a formal setting knows that you learn materials best by having to teach others, but you also know that you have plenty of things you can also learn from your students, as long as you are open to the idea, which often means giving way to pride and being open to the possibilities of a humble heart.
But, anyone can benefit from the possibilities that occur when we are open to learning from others, no matter if we are supposed to be teaching those others or not. And those others can be young people half our age as well as our “elders,” can be people who make almost no money to those who make millions.
Case in point: I have been doing desktop publishing for our family health food store for almost 17 years, an outcropping of experience I started gaining when I was just in high school journalism classes. Lately, I have had to hand over some of my duties to a young woman who works for us. She is about to begin her junior year in college. I am almost 20 years out from my graduate degree. Sure, so far, I’ve had to edit her work as she puts together test ads for me, but they are fairly small changes that I can easily explain to her to improve upon the next time.
What I have learned so far is that it is very nice to have a second voice offering ideas about advertising slogans and perspectives. It is quite a bit quicker to edit an ad layout that is already quite strong than to have to come up with the entire ad to begin with. I also have been reminded that other people can come up with creative and intelligent ideas.
Today, I even learned that I could use a computer program I hadn’t even thought about in a while to create cropped pictures with traced transparencies that will be very useful for my advertising and marketing and website purposes. I was so happy to be able to say to my younger employee that we could learn from each other during this process! And the employee was excited too.
My point is that in order to learn from anyone, from a superior at work to a young person you might otherwise write off as naive or inexperienced, you have to be open to the possibilities and willing to see the world through an unbiased lens. Forget the attitude and especially the fear that keeps you from admitting that you still have things to learn, especially when you are dealing one-on-one with somebody. I think you will find that people will respect you more when you are honest about what you know and don’t know instead of putting on an act of bravado and never admitting that you still have something to learn.
God wants us to be always open to instruction. The Proverbs discuss the importance of discipline. The Old Testament is replete with reminders that God will humble us if we do not take care of our attitude ourselves. In the New Testament, Jesus reminds us that we must come to Him as little children, meaning with an attitude of full faith that includes admitting we don’t understand everything but are willing to believe anyway.
None of us are ever too old to be schooled. And since we never know exactly how God is working the things that happen in our lives to the good, don’t we all have every reason to be open to learning from anything and everything that happens to us? Even a two-year-old knows a few things that we have managed to forget as adults. Have you ever seen a better nap-taker?
“Life is a long lesson in humility.”
― J.M. Barrie, The Little Minister