When the Student Becomes the Teacher

biblestudy

If you are a seasoned Christian, there will undoubtedly be times where you will have influence over people who are new to the faith.  You may be a Bible Study teacher, accountability partner or even mentor.  If you do your job right, you should experience a day where your student will not only meet but exceed your knowledge.  Before you know it, they will be coming to YOU with things they have learned and discovered.

This is what we are called to do.  The goal is not to teach or lead someone to always stay just under our abilities, but to soar beyond us.  We are building future leaders.  We should be encouraging them, and listening to what they share with us.

Yet, we can easily allow pride to get in the way.  And, I am not talking about pride in our student.  I’m talking about that moment when our student corrects or has insight that counters our own interpretation.  It is a defining moment where we turn our student into our enemy, instead of rejoicing in their growth.

“Who does she think she is correcting ME?”

“I’ve been a Christian my whole life, how dare he think I don’t know what I am talking about?”

These are just some of the thoughts that can come across our minds, when pride gets in the way.

One day, a friend was venting to me about her husband.  She was a woman who had always supported wives in a submissive role.  In many ways she helped me to get a better understanding of what godly submission looks like in a marriage.  In this moment, she was not being submissive to him.  She was very upset, she wanted her way, she wanted me to tell her she was right, and frankly she was being a very disagreeable wife.  Because of what I learned from her, I responded that I could understand where they were both coming from, but that she needed to quietly submit to him on the issue.

“I don’t need you to tell me how to be submissive.”  End of conversation.

Ouch.  Here I was reflecting back on her the very thing she taught me, and I was admonished for it.

Granted, it probably wasn’t what she wanted to hear in the moment.  But, it was what she needed to hear.  She was allowing her anger to cloud her view of not only the situation but her husband.

She didn’t talk to me for quite a while after that.

In another situation I found myself in, I had been deeply studying scripture as part of one of my seminary classes.   Someone I had considered more learned than me during my earlier walk, had shared an interpretation of scripture that was wrong.   When I attempted to guide her toward the correct meaning (I wanted her to discover it for herself), it got argumentative.  I had to then be blunt and explain that her exegesis of the scripture was incorrect.

Radio silence.

It bothered me the entire day, because I wasn’t doing anything wrong…. but she was upset that I had corrected her.

Teachers who are prideful can often put themselves above correction.  They are teachers who become unteachable themselves.  They can’t handle when their student surpasses them, and especially can’t handle being corrected by their student.  It is impossible for them to accept that they may be wrong.  What is worse, their pride turns their student into an enemy.  They will see this correction as an attack, and go on the defensive.

In reality, they should be PROUD!

When my children teach me something new, because they learn something in school I was never taught… I AM THRILLED.  We discuss it, so that I too can understand this fantastic new fact or theory.  It’s a reciprocal relationship of investing in each other.  I have invested my time and energy in to teaching them MANY things, and that they would want to teach me something new is their return on that investment.

When the student becomes the teacher, it is a blessing.

1)  It means we did our job, we taught them well and set them on the right course to continue learning.

2)  It means that they recognized our investment in them, and they wish to repay us by teaching us the new things they have learned.  We deposited in their bank of knowledge and now they are depositing in our bank.

3)  It means that they are no longer our student, but a peer.  They become a resource for us to pull from as we continue to teach new students.

Our goal, when we are teaching the Word to ANYONE should be to help them go further than we ever could with our faith.  It is setting into motion ripples that will reach far beyond our own spot in the pond.

Their success, is our success.  Their fruit, is our fruit.

If we allow pride to get the better of us, and we react in harsh ways to their new found knowledge… it can be damaging.

The relationship will be damaged.  Their confidence will be damaged.  The progress of their calling will be damaged.

When your student corrects you, it is a good thing.  If they are right, and there is nothing wrong with verifying the accuracy of their information.  We SHOULD check, that’s being a good Berean.  You can acknowledge the new information, let them know that you are going to look into it further, and make sure to follow up the conversation.  Did you come to agree with them, are you uncertain if they are right or not, do you have suggestions of someone else to include in the conversation to bring clarity, or did you find out their information is wrong?   Share it with them, have dialogue… but keep it healthy.

Check your motives, it shouldn’t be to “prove wrong” but to seek the truth.

I STAND CORRECTED…………… (Part 2/2)

MBA

I am going to be honest, I do not take well to criticism.  I am an eager learner, I don’t mind being corrected when I am wrong.  I value the opinions of others.  I am a move forward, not back kind of girl. But, there are times when I can allow criticism to get under my skin.  But, there is a difference between criticism and correction.Recently my husband informed me that I “don’t finish projects”.  For those reading this, who know me personally, you are probably wondering if this man knows me at all!  My husband was not correcting me or guiding me, he was being critical.  I didn’t take kindly to it and I proceeded to remind him that he was the one who initiated our journey into Dave Ramsey living.  If he would like me to finish our household projects, I’d be happy to… the moment he handed me a credit card or expanded my personal budget.  (I was being very sarcastic, I really wouldn’t do that.)   I wanted him to understand I was doing the best with what I was given, and he needed to be patient through our “cash only process”.

As I was reflecting on the confrontation I had with my friend (see last month’s devotion), I asked myself if I was being critical of her.  Or, was my assessment of the situation accurate & correction was the right course.  That is, after all, what correction is.  We are helping someone who has taken a turn get back on course.  In some cases it is an obvious sharp turn, and in others it has been a slow, gradual, drift.  When I struggle with anything like this, I always turn to the Word.  If I can figure out what God has to say about it, perhaps figuring out my next steps won’t be so hard. I also reached out to those I consider wise counsel.

As a result, I came to find that scripture not only tells us that we should correct our sisters in Christ, but we are also told how we should be responding to correction.  In reading this, it not only confirmed for me that my friend was responding incorrectly, but also made me take at look at my own responses to correction (and criticism
too).

Proverbs 19:20     Take good counsel and accept correction— that’s the way to live wisely and well.

How do you respond when someone corrects you?  Do you get defensive?  Do you make excuses?  Do you try and pass the buck & blame someone else?  Or, do you try to justify your behavior in order to make it ok?  When you read last weeks devotion, did you relate to it?  Have you responded in the same way my friend did?  Do you take it personally when a friend tries to encourage you to have a different perspective?  Are you teachable?

This bit of advice was shared with me, just this past week:
“When someone gives you advice that you don’t want to hear, you should not react until you have:
1) prayed about it
2) compared the advice to Scripture
3) asked yourself, is it true?”

Being accountable to each other as friends is a two way street.  We must be willing to not only give correction, but also receive it.  If I speak in truth and love, then I should receive with love and humbleness.  I need to embrace this person, who cared about me enough to call me out on my behavior, and help me realize what I was doing & become better for it.

Proverbs 27:17    As iron sharpens iron, so one person sharpens another.

Lord, I pray that you give me a mouth that speaks, when it is time to speak; and ears to listen, when it is time to listen.  Help me to speak in YOUR truths, through MY love for my sisters in Christ.  Let me received YOUR truth, through THEIR love for me.  Protect our friendship from division, so that we may continue to encourage each other to be focused on YOU. Amen.

TO BE CORRECTED ……. (Part 1/2)

MBA

Recently, one of my best friends sent me a vague text stating that she was angry.   During the course of the discussion, I realized that I disagreed with her take on the situation.  Even more importantly, from a spiritual standpoint, I didn’t agree with how she was responding to the situation.  As her friend, and a Christian, I decided to correct her. After all, isn’t that what we are told to do?

2 Timothy 4:2     Preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, and exhort, with complete patience and teaching.

I wasn’t mean, but I also didn’t beat around the bush.  You see, this was a behavior that I had seen before.  As I recognized this pattern, it was like a veil was lifted & I suddenly saw some situations from her past in a new perspective.  Her response of anger was a pattern of behavior.  It wasn’t healthy for her, or any one around her.   I knew that I needed to say something.  This correction, however, was not well received.  I thought I had handled it well.  I wasn’t mean or harsh, but I also didn’t beat around the bush either. Instead of appreciating my correction, what I got was the silent treatment.  The deafening silence continued for days; leading me to try and clarify my point.  I was also trying to fix her being upset with me.  The more I tried to fix it, the worse things got. Then, my mind started getting the better of me.

Galatians 6:1   Brothers, if anyone is caught in any transgression, you who are spiritual should restore him in a spirit of gentleness. Keep watch on yourself, lest you too be tempted.

Satan had gotten a hold of my ear.  Twisting the scenario around.  Tainting my thoughts and opinions of her.  To the point that I was even playing out scenarios in my head of what our next conversation was going to be like.  Fortunately, despite everything going on in my head, my heart and my friendship… I was seeking God.  I was digging into his word about friendships & accountability; and the more I read, the more my heart softened.  I wasn’t letting Satan mess with my mind any more.  I was reminded that I loved my friend.  I wanted to open her eyes to something she may not have been recognizing in herself.  I wanted to help her.

Proverbs 17:17     A friend always loves, and a brother is born to share trouble.

How do we correct our Christian sisters?  First, I would recommend reading Matthew 18:15-17.  I am grateful for the clarity in God’s word on the subject.   We need to first speak with them, privately.  Then if they don’t listen, we come with 2-3 others.  If they still do not listen, you take it to your church leaders or body.  Oddly enough, this was the easy part.

Second, there were some important things I realized (in retrospect) that would have helped.  Hopefully my sharing them will be beneficial should you find yourself in this situation.

  1.  She admitted she was already angry.  This was definitely not the right time, her emotions were on high alert.  She was not going to be able to hear me.
She was on the defensive.  Poor timing.

    2. Say it, then zip it.  If you do speak to your friend… say what you have to say, then zip your lips. Your friend may need time to process what you say to her.
And what may not even seem like a big deal to you, may be a big deal to her.  Stop trying to make your point, or smooth things over. Give her space.

3.  Wait. Pray. Speak, only if led to.   Unless what your friend is about to do is going to cause immediate harm to her or others, wait to speak. When we wait, we
then have time to reference scripture and pray.  Ask God if you should say something, how you should say it and when.Let God lead your correction.  God
may end up leading you to keep your mouth shut altogether or just for the time being. 

*Written for the TC3 Women’s Ministry Devotion Blog