Learning: Day 11 / by Jeff Tacklind

I have so much to learn!  This isn’t some acclamation of false modesty.  It is the plain, hard truth.  I need to be a better leader, husband, father, and friend.  I need to get over some past hurts and overcome some lingering fears and insecurities.  I need to grow!

There’s nothing like a good dose of humility to invigorate the learning process.  And often our best guides in this life are those that tell us where we’re coming up short.  Even if it is in misguided or overzealous criticism.  To discover the truth and grow from it is one of the keys to success.  It just requires a tremendous amount of restraint not to lash back in defense, or worse, counter attack.  But wisdom reminds us to listen carefully and humbly.  To seek understanding, especially when it is hard to hear.

To listen carefully to the truth is how we learn and how we grow.  We must embrace the reality that I don’t have it all figured out, instead of awkwardly trying to fake that I'm holding it all together. 

Because education is not just a phase of life, but an ongoing current that is sweeping us along.  We should always remain students.

My friend, Melanie, shared some advice she heard, about writing with a pencil instead of a pen.  Pencil can be easily erased.  It can be corrected and changed.  It assumes a realistic margin of error and doesn’t ever claim to be the final answer.  The phrase, “I’ll pencil it in” means, let’s hold it loosely.

It reminds me of one of my favorite lines from the theologian, NT Wright in the introduction of one of his books.  He acknowledges (and I’m paraphrasing) that he will probably change his mind about 30% of what he has written, he just doesn’t know what 30%.  In other words, his words are 100% what he believes today, but he knows that his ideas will change over time.

And they should.  This idea of a once and for all set of impermeable beliefs might have a sort of virtuous appeal.  But the truth is, that a mind that is not changing has become rigid, lifeless, and unable to grow.

My mom once told me about a woman in her church who was asked to share a bit of wisdom on her 80-something birthday.  She just shook her head and said, “I have so much left to learn.”

And to that, I say, “Amen!”  I hope for the same.  To finish life with more questions than answers.  To not be afraid to press in to the complexity.  To have the courage to explore where I’m weak or atrophied.  To grow until I die.

And so, I pray that my heart remains soft.  That my mind stays curious. And that my soul remains teachable.  I want to embrace learning, not simply as a skill, but as a vocation.  And to not be afraid of making some mistakes along way.  To write more in pencil.  And to hold knowledge not only with confidence, but authenticity, and the humility to acknowledge when I’m wrong.