Knowing more doesn’t mean you’re always right

Have you ever been in a situation where you had to teach somebody something? Maybe at work or at school or even on a project at home? Have you experienced that brief moment of excitement where you grasp the fact that you know something someone else doesn’t?

Maybe it’s just me. But I like that feeling. Just being honest. There’s something really empowering about realizing that you have knowledge other people don’t.

But just because you know something others don’t doesn’t necessarily make you smarter or more powerful. It just means you’ve had different life experiences that have allowed you to learn things others may not have been exposed to. Knowing more than someone else doesn’t make you superior. It just means you have something to teach.

Peacock in the sun at the Sedgwick County Zoo, Wichita, KS

Peacock in the sun at the Sedgwick County Zoo, Wichita, KS

Today’s verses are Philippians 2:3-5.

Don’t be selfish; don’t try to impress others. Be humble, thinking of others as better than yourselves. Don’t look out only for your own interests, but take an interest in others, too. You must have the same attitude that Christ Jesus had.

As a child, I loved Bible trivia and sword drills. I loved being able to show people that I knew all the books of the Bible, that I had memorized big passages, that I could hold my ground in nearly scriptural discussion. And there’s certainly nothing wrong with any of those things. We need to know the Bible. We need to know what it says and what it means and how it applies to our lives.

But so often that sort of knowledge becomes a competition where people who have a proclivity for retaining that type of information excel. And it’s not a competition. It shouldn’t be.

I’m not knocking sword drills. I’m knocking the attitude behind them.

I’ve seen too many new believers who couldn’t find the Book of Amos to save their life–but they have a better grip on God’s grace than any sword drill skills could provide. Which is more important?

I guess I’m just thinking about teaching today because I’m approaching a day where I’m going to have some teaching moments. And when it comes to teaching–especially when I’m teaching writing–my tendency is to think I know all the answers. I’ve been writing for a long time, and I have specific opinions about how it should be done. And that’s great. But that doesn’t mean my way is the only way. That doesn’t mean the people I have to teach are wrong.

Writing is funny like that.

The best teachers in my life haven’t treated me like a dummy. The people I’ve learned the most from in my life have treated me as an equal, as someone searching for answers, just like them. And that’s the kind of teacher I want to be.

I have so many friends who are teachers, and I have so much respect for what they do and how they do it. Nowadays, teaching is a thankless job. I appreciate all that our country’s teachers do to help their students succeed when all the odds are against them.

The best teachers aren’t teaching to do themselves a favor. Teachers teach because they’re putting the needs of their students above themselves. That’s where I want to be, not just in teaching but in life.

Are you facing a situation today where you have to teach somebody something? If so, remember to be humble about it. Just because you had the privilege to learn it doesn’t mean you know more than the person you’re teaching. They may know more than you do about something else, and you wouldn’t appreciate it if they talk down to you.

The funny thing about teachers who are humble is that they are always learning. They never think they’ve learned it all. They’re always willing and open to learn something new.

Be humble about teaching others what you know. You’ll be surprised. Who knows? You might learn more from your students than you teach them.

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