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.

KEEP IT SHUT – You can’t stick your foot in your mouth, if you keep it shut.

kishutrev

Confession time: I am a chronic “foot in mouther”.  Sometimes, more than I’d care to admit, I smack myself in the head for the words that seemingly fall out of my mouth.  It’s not that I am saying something offensive or distasteful; I just seem to have a tendency to just let the thoughts swirling in my head fall right out of my mouth.  Occasionally, they are thoughts that would have been better of kept in the vault, or at least said in different circumstances.  I’ve also been known to NOT speak up when I should.

Do you relate?  Do you sound like me, or do you know someone who does?

The struggle is very real, for people like me.  The bible says to speak truth in love, but it also tells us to tame our tongues.  How do we find that balance, of knowing when to speak and when not to?  And, when it is time to speak up… how do we say it in a way that is appropriate?

As a child, I was taught to speak the truth.  When people would ask my opinions of things, I didn’t hold back.

It was in middle school, when my friend asked me if I liked her new hair cut, that I would tell her that it made her look like a stalk of blonde broccoli.

In high school, I told the boy who had just met my mother EXACTLY what she thought of him.

In college, when a friend lamented about people were talking about her behind her back, I politely told her that she was providing them with plenty of ammunition and should rethink her decisions.

Over time, I learned to soften the blow on the superficial things.

“I really like the other shirt better.”

“That is an interesting color, what made you pick it?”

But, I still manage to “insert foot in mouth”.  Some times, I open my mouth on subjects where I have no reason to even be involved.

When serving on a ministry team, we were preparing for an event, and I got caught in a triangle.  One of the Pastors didn’t necessarily agree with how the event was being planned.  He came to me to ask my opinion, which I gave.  Yet, I wasn’t on that committee.  I ended up getting a phone call from the coordinator, totally caught off guard, who was very upset.   This was a situation where I really should have kept my opinions to myself, it wasn’t my job.  I wasn’t on the committee.   At the same time, what I should have done was directed him to share his concerns with her directly.  After all, as the Pastor overseeing the ministry, he certainly had the authority to speak to her on the issue & make changes to the event if he felt it was necessary.  It was his job, just not my place to be involved.  She was very upset with me for getting involved, and rightfully so.  And, to be entirely honest, it has affected our relationship when working together on ministry projects.

Other times, I neglect to speak up when I should.

There was as situation with a close friend, where her behavior was out of line.  Instead of calling her out on it gently, when it started, I stayed quiet.  I knew she was a fragile person, and I thought I could just stuff my feelings.  It was easier to be a peacemaker, right?  WRONG.  Instead, because I didn’t speak up in the beginning… I stuffed… and stuffed…. and stuffed.  Then I blew up.  It was more than I could take, and something had to be said.  Unfortunately, by blowing up like I did, there was more damage done than if I had spoken up from the very beginning.

We need discernment about the things we say:  what to say, when to say it, and how to say it.  We also need discernment to tame our tongues. The only way we get this discernment is by seeking God’s wisdom.  The scriptures tell us exactly how to speak in love, when to tame our tongues, and the scriptures we can use to filter our thoughts through.

I recently received a copy of Keep It Shut by Karen Ehman from Family Christian.  Let’s be real, I needed this book in my life.  And, interestingly enough, I’m not alone.  This is a problem we will all face at one time or another, some of us more frequently than we should.  HA.  Even when we learn to tame our tongue, it can still happen… we say that thing, we simply can’t take back.

Things we say to our kids.   Our husbands.  Our coworkers and friends.  Those we serve with in ministry.  Even complete strangers.

Keep It Shut is a book that focuses on what to say, how to say it and when to say nothing at all.   It is a funny book, that is really open and honest about those things that plague us in our every day lives.  I also appreciate that Karen Ehman doesn’t lump everyone in to a single category, but recognizes that different people will require different approaches.   Keep It Shut also address our digital tongue, which has the potential to do even more damage.

Digital tongue is how we speak through email, text messages, and social media.   These dialogues can be harder to decode emotion and intention because you can’t see the people you are speaking to.  You may not even realize how offensive your statements sound, because in your head they seem innocent enough.  Or, as a reader, you may not realize a person is telling a joke or sincere.

The digital tongue is something still fairly new, but has become a primary way to communicate with people.  We have to learn to use it correctly, and to remember that nothing replaces real life conversations… where sound communicates more than the written word.

Keep It Shut doesn’t neglect to hit the topics that may sting a bit, like gossiping (especially under the guise of a prayer request) or when we speak in hate as a response to being hurt.  There is a biblical approach to the advice and guidance from the book, that helps us not only keep control over our words but understanding why it is important to do so.   Complete with examples from the scriptures of people who were put into positions where their words had great power over the outcome of their life and others.

Just as any good book should, Keep It Shut concludes with a reminder that we can use our words in good, positive, God honoring ways and leaves us with some tips and verses we can reference in the future.  I really like the last pages of the book that have speaking prompts that you can copy or print out & place in visible areas as reminders.  These can be placed next to your computer or home phone, or even create a cute background photo for your phone that you’ll see before answering every call or text.

Here are a few great quotes from the book, I hope you enjoy it as much as I did.

“Before I engage my lips, I must know with absolute certainty that what I am saying is true.  If I know for sure that something is not the truth, I need to be quiet.  If I have a strong hunch that something is not the truth, I need to be quiet.  If I have even the slightest doubt that something might not be true, I need to be quiet.  But just because something is true does not mean I always need to say it.  Motives and manners matter.”

“Do your words online add value to the conversation at hand?”

“My daughter simply vocalized a truth she noticed in my life:  I tend to lose my cool with my family, but somehow manage to keep calm when I interact with others.”

“Do I open my mouth with wisdom, or do I just open my mouth, spewing out whatever is bubbling up in my angry heart?”

 

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