“What you’re looking for is someone who is F.A.T. – Faithful, Available and Teachable.” Maybe not the most politically correct acronym, but it sure is memorable.
Six or seven years ago, one of my college mentors taught me this as I was talking about my frustration with someone who had asked me to mentor them and hold them accountable, yet consistently bailed on our meetings and was closed off to my perspectives. I realized that they weren’t really teachable and therefore were not going to change. My investment was leaking, with little of my effort actually producing results in the life of this individual.
Teachability is an undervalued quality in our culture, especially in my generation. I graduated college and began working at my church a few months later. While I had seen the importance of teachability in others, frankly, it had not taken root in my heart. Within a couple of years, I was fighting with cynicism, anger, frustration and burn-out. One of the reasons (and there were many) was that I was not teachable, not nearly as teachable as I needed to be.
As I worked my way through that season and back towards health and hope, God used several experiences in my life to show me two important truths.
First, I was saddened to discover that I could easily identify a deficiency in someone else, while simultaneously doing nothing to address that deficiency in my life. That made me very dangerous. In those places, I was the embodiment of hypocrisy. I called other people out for what I was doing myself. Becoming teachable is a difficult journey for all of us. We all like to think we’ve figured out more than we actually have. Facing our weakness is difficult. Taking direction from someone else? That’s tough.
Second, several unlikely people shocked me, as I realized that I could learn important lessons and inherit powerful values from them. Why the shock? Because I felt like I was better than these people and I constantly focused on what they did not know. I focused on what they needed to learn from me. I failed to comprehend this simple idea – if you’re open and teachable, you can learn from anyone. During this season in my life, I began to open my eyes to all of these previously ignored teachers and I found myself learning and discovering truths at an unprecedented rate. By becoming teachable, I was going further faster as a leader and follower of Jesus.
If you find yourself in my experience, consider this. The prerequisite to teachability is humility. And humility fosters maturity, especially in terms of spiritual growth. Arrogance and maturity relate to one another like oil and water. In my experience, when I began to humble myself, my teachability increased. As my teachability increased, so did my humility. The arrogance burned off and maturity began to take root and bear fruit. And that maturity was noticed and affirmed my people around me who were watching my life.
If you want to gain influence and make a difference in this world, you must be teachable. If you’re not in the position you aspire too, you must cultivate a teachable spirit to learn from those who are currently where you want to be ultimately. You might not do everything the way they do, but they are leading and living where you want to be. Ask questions and pursue their mentoring, so you can go further faster and see your dreams become reality. You may not embrace all of their values and practices, but you will find wisdom and insight that come from opportunities you haven’t been given.
As someone who thought he knew more than he did and squandered time in arrogance and pride, I encourage you to humble yourself, become teachable and allow God to produce maturity in you as you learn from everyone and everything you can.
Trust me. It’s better this way.
(This post is a part of a three-post series about traits I have discovered to be invaluable in my work as a pastor. They are not traits that I had when I began working at a church and I discovered my need for them the hard way. Whether you’re a pastor or not, I believe these three will help you invaluably. To read the other posts in this series, click here.)