There are two words that have been the guiding light of my life and ministry. Years ago someone wrote two words in the back of my Bible and these two words have influenced and impacted me more than any other combination of words that I know. They are simply…Stay Teachable.
The writer of Proverbs said, “Reprove not a scorner, lest he hate thee: rebuke a wise man, and he will love thee. Give instruction to a wise man, and he will be yet wiser: teach a just man, and he will increase in learning” (Proverbs 9:8-9). I honestly believe that having a teachable spirit is the most important element of success in life, ministry, and relationships. If you have reached a place where you can no longer learn anything, you are dead.
Ben Herbster said, “The greatest waste in the world is the difference between what we are and what we can become.” If you do not have a teachable spirit you will never fulfill your God-given capabilities, or enjoy your God-given gifts. Someone who is teachable will almost always have the following traits:
1. A Spirit of Humility
You cannot tell a “know-it-all” anything he thinks he already knows. Or as Erwin G. Hall puts it, “We can’t learn anything new until we can admit that we don’t already know everything.” Teachable people approach life with an understanding that they can learn from anybody regardless of that person’s state, status, or station in life. Such a spirit involves humility, and such humility keeps the door open for knowledge and truth to find a lodging place in our hearts.
2. A Hunger for Wisdom on a Daily Basis
It is often said, “Knowledge is proud because it knows so much, wisdom is humbled because it knows so little.” People who are teachable have a great desire to learn on a daily basis. Abraham Lincoln, arguably one of the wisest presidents in our nation’s history said, “I do not think much of a man who is not wiser today than he was yesterday.”
3. Opened Eyes and Unclogged Ears
I try to learn something new every day that can help me become a better person and Christian. Not only do I read constantly, but I try to find truisms in common, run-of-the-mill, ordinary situations. Wisdom and truth abounds, but we must pursue it. If you intentionally look for ways to grow in your faith, God will supply the venues for you to find truth.
4. A Closed Mouth
An open mind and a closed mouth provide an atmosphere conducive for learning. Doug Larson said, “Wisdom is the reward you get for a lifetime of listening when you would have preferred to talk” Leaders have to speak; it is part of the job. But a leader who rarely listens is hardly learning enough to continue leading. I love what Hans Finzel said, “If you can’t be silent, you will have nothing to say.”
5. A Positive Outlook
Learners are able to find opportunities in every situation; even, or should I say, especially, in adverse ones. Those with a teachable spirit see adversity as an opportunity to do something better. I certainly do not welcome hardships and trials into my life; but I have come to realize something about adversity: when it shows up, my spiritual ears usually perk up because I know God is about to speak up.
6. A Desire to be Around Growing People
Learners genuinely want to learn; therefore, most learners I know, want to be around people who can teach them. Some of the greatest moments in my life have been in coffee shops with people who have invested into my spiritual growth. Surround yourself with people of wisdom, experience, and spiritual insight; and then ask God to allow some of it to rub off on you.
7. A Willingness to Apply What they Learn
Teachable people not only pursue truth, they find ways to implement truth in their lives. John Maxwell said, “The true value of teachability comes when we take something that we learn and apply it.” We are instructed to be “doers” of the Word of God. The only way to be a “doer” is to be a learner, and the only way to be a learner is to have a teachable spirit.