Learning about Learning

I don’t know if you have ever heard of the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI), but I am slightly obsessed with it. Part of this probably comes from the fact that it is part of the curriculum for the course that I teach. Another part is that I find a new way to understand life and the way that I relate to people because of the MBTI. And there is no doubt that the MBTI saves my marriage on a daily basis (maybe I should say that the understanding that the MBTI gives me saves my marriage). I promise that I’m not being paid to talk about the MBTI, but I highly recommend you take it if you have not! But one thing that the MBTI has taught me is that people are different from me. Pretty simple. But important. I have also learned that it’s important that I process things externally. This comes naturally to me. But sometimes, my internally processing wife finds it too much to externally process all of life with me.

For this reason, writing in my journal is one of the most helpful things for me. I recently ran out of pages in my journal though and it felt like I was going to die! I became an instant creative and took blank sheets used for the printer and folded them over to make my own miniature journal! Of course, this was only a temporary fix and I had to buy a new one. My new journal was a bit of a different kind for me. Normally, they are the fake leather journals or Moleskine journals. I love the latter; I just don’t love the price (my wife is a firm proponent of the idea that you get what you pay for…I’m learning). But this time, I found myself a fairly inexpensive journal at Target. The cover has a phrase on it that I find fairly funny. It reads, “Whatever happened to the #1 pencil?”

If you grew up taking standardized tests and you practiced perfectly filling in bubbles with your #2 pencil, you know exactly what they’re talking about. But did you ever question why it was called a #1 pencil? I thought that this was fairly odd as a child, but I never looked further into why it was called a #2 pencil. I think that the truth is that we can sometimes become familiar with knowledge but lack understanding. Here’s another example. In high school, I had a friend whose last name was “Snow.” It took me forever to realize that his last name was snow–like the fluffy white stuff that falls from the sky when it gets cold outside when you live in places other than the sunshine state! I had become so familiar with knowing that his last name was Snow and yet I didn’t even think about the fact that his last name was Snow. This was also the case with my friend whose last name was King and my Senior class president whose last name was Pope.

But lately, I’ve found myself wondering, “What else have I done this with?” What other realities of life have I learned to just become familiar with without really understanding what I’m doing? Of course, I will never fully understand all of life. This would be a futile and exhausting pursuit to believe that I could possibly understand everything. But at the same time, it would be sad and potentially damaging to myself, others, and God if I went through my life going through the motions without understanding why I do the things I do or seeking to understand the world around me.

I think that one of the things that I keep realizing is that life works better when I seek to learn from others and the world around me rather than seeking to plow forward making assumptions. I want to approach life with a learning posture. Certainly, this doesn’t mean that I don’t have anything to offer to the world, but it does mean that everyone else has something to offer to the world. In one of Parker Palmer’s works on education, he writes, “The teacher who lacks humility will be unable to create a space for any voice except his or her own” (To Know as We are Known, p. 109).

I want to be this person. I want to learn to create space for the voices of others. Even if what I hear I find that I disagree with. Even if what I read I am challenged by. Even if what I see is slightly different from the way that I have seen it before.

Perhaps Paul sums up this idea best in one of his letters to the church(es) in Corinth: “We sometimes tend to think we know all we need to know to answer these kinds of questions—but sometimes our humble hearts can help us more than our proud minds. We never really know enough until we recognize that God alone knows it all” (1 Cor. 8:2-3, The Message).

Learn to ask questions. Learn to listen. Learn to dialogue. Learn to speak up. In all you do, learn.

I’d love to hear your thoughts on this. Here’s some questions for discussion:

  1. What are things that you have been learning lately?
  2. How have you experienced learning before? Purely as an academic discipline? Through life experiences? Reading books? Friends? Family? Other ways?
  3. What’s something that you want to learn more about in the next 6 months?

One comment

  1. Sarah Blume · September 26, 2014

    Your blog is great! I enjoyed this one. I too have benefited from being a learner, not an “assumer”. Life’s just a lot more fun that way. Keep up the good work of writing!


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