A rebuke cuts into a perceptive person more than a hundred lashes into a fool.—Proverbs 17:10
Allow me to paraphrase the above verse: You can get more through to a wise person with one gentle conversation than you can to a fool by whacking him over the head a hundred times.
Some people won’t listen no matter what. You can tell him the same thing over and over again, but you’ll get the same response every time. Not so with those whose hearts are being trained by wisdom! If you get in tune with God and his will for your life, you will reap the rewards of being teachable. How do you know when you’re being teachable? Here are five good clues:
1. You know you’re teachable when people give you input. When you’re not teachable, people don’t generally risk telling you stuff. Why should they? Imagine their conversations: “I’m not gonna tell him; you tell him. The last time I tried to tell him, Chernobyl! Meltdown for miles!” If you react abrasively any time someone instructs or corrects you, don’t expect to get any input from others. You’ll know you’re teachable when people tell you things you need to hear. Roll out the red carpet to welcome a good word.
2. You know you’re teachable when you see measurable growth and character development. When good changes start happening in your life, you know you’re doing something valuable with the information you’re getting. You know you’re teachable when others’ advice produces tangible results in you.
3. You know you’re teachable when you don’t have to answer back to your critic with a defense. More often than I ever wanted to be, I find myself in situations where I’m giving people input. I don’t love it. It’s never easy. But I love it when the person who needs to hear a difficult thing about himself or about his situation is open-hearted and just listens. He doesn’t have to say, “Now, hold it, you just hang on there a second. You don’t understand…” I really dread those conversations. But people who are receptive to God’s transforming truth are the ones who flourish in life.
4. You know you’re teachable when you don’t have to return the favor. The classic symptom of an unteachable spirit is after listening to someone’s honest, loving counsel, you say, “Fine. Now, let me tell you something.”
You’ve got an unteachable person on your hands when he can’t humbly receive your words and say, “Thank you for telling me.”
5. You know you’re teachable when over time you hear something different for a change. If people have been telling you the same stuff for years but still see the need to remind you about it again, you’re not teachable. You should be over that by now and on to the next lesson.
Wisdom is not something we know; it’s something we do. Only when we allow God to give us teachable hearts will he show us what we need to know in order to help us change what we do. The biggest fool of all is the person who knows from God what to do and who won’t do it. That person is not teachable.
Instruct a wise man, and he will be wiser still; teach a righteous man, and he will learn more. Proverbs 9:9
How have you experienced one (or more) of these test statements in the last few weeks? If you read this and didn’t once ask yourself, “Am I like that?” you may be in trouble. Take this list of five questions before the Lord and say, “Lord, show me—teach me.” Teachability means you’re open to changing what he reveals to you.
Excerpted from Ancient Wisdom: The Book of Proverbs with Devotions for Today by James MacDonald.