Monday Memo: A Teachable Spirit

Terry Walton


A Teachable Spirit

I was thinking...

Perhaps you have seen this quote recently… “Knowledge is knowing what to say. Wisdom is knowing whether or not to say it.” It caught my attention because from where I sit there seems to be a whole lot of ‘know-it-all’ mentality with very little wisdom these days. In one of my earliest church appointments a lady said to me “If you think it, you might as well say it”. She caught me off guard so much so that my response was silence. I knew in my heart of hearts that what she was telling me couldn’t be correct because I’d thought a lot of things, I was glad I had not said. But my insecurities kicked in and I began to wonder if what I was feeling was lack of transparency and chicken-heartedness or was it something else?

I have processed her comment across the years and know that, while she was well-intended, she was wrong. We don’t speak everything we think. Why? Because not everything we think has been processed by our mental acuity nor has the Holy Spirit done the important work necessary for our thoughts, opinions, conclusions, and words. I do not know about you, but I need to pause more than I do when it comes to speaking. I need to pause, more than I sometimes do, before I hit the send button on my email. I need not respond to every Facebook comment, tweet, or Instagram post. I need to pray more than I speak on most occasions. How about you?

I am most certain you have read or heard the phrase “Show me how much you care before you tell me how much you know.” Whoever said that was a wise soul. I have known some eloquent speakers (and preachers) who had difficulty expressing care for persons and then therefore were left wondering why nobody really cared what they had to say. Lord, forgive me when I have behaved in such a way.

Our Lord cared more for relationships than casting knowledge. Another way of saying this is that Jesus spoke out of relationships in the Gospel. As he touched and broke bread; as he met people climbing a tree or begging on a street corner, it was there that he cared enough for people to hear what he said. Those who refused his relationship resented what he had to say. In such situations, Jesus had enough wisdom to wipe the dust from his sandals and move on to those who wanted a relationship.

I am amazed these days at the number of people who are so certain about so many things. It seems that humility is short in supply. Perhaps a teachable spirit is what is most needed in our world. I have often said to groups of which I was responsible to lead that if you meet someone who has it all figured out, run as fast as you can in the opposite direction. We are all on a journey and we need each other (those who think and believe as we think and believe as well as those who do not think and believe as we do). 

It was James who spoke into the early church with these words… “Who is wise and understanding among you? Show by your good life that your works are done with gentleness born of wisdom. But if you have bitter envy and selfish ambition in your hearts, do not be boastful and false to the truth. Such wisdom does not come from above, but is earthly, unspiritual, devilish. For where there is envy and selfish ambition, there will also be disorder and wickedness of every kind. But the wisdom from above is pure, then peaceable, gentle, willing to yield, full of mercy and good fruits, without a trace of partiality or hypocrisy. And a harvest of righteousness is sown in peace for those who make peace.” (3:13-18, NRSV)

I need you and I think you need me. We are all valued by God…and thus to each other. So, I want to work to temper my arrogance with humility. I need to make sure people know I care about them…and if by chance I have any knowledge to impart, I hope I’ll have the wisdom to know whether or not and when to impart it. Maybe you would like to join me in that journey…

Always thinking...

The Rev. Dr. Terry E. Walton
Executive Assistant to the Bishop

comments powered by Disqus