One of my all-time favorite quotes is from Coach John Wooden: "What really counts in life is what you learn after you know it all.
After the initial chuckle, that is an ouch-maker for most of us. The older we get, the more set in our ways we are likely to be. The older we get, the harder it is to master new skills and adapt to new paradigms. The older we get, the more likely we are to tune out ideas that would require re-thinking a point of view.
I wonder how all you older accountants and CPAs felt about replacing those pale green ledger sheets and sharp pencils with computer software. The software required one of those newfangled machines called a computer! Do you know anybody who said it was just a fad that wouldn't last?
How does a physician stay current with new medications, diagnostic tools, and therapies? How does an attorney stay abreast of changes in the law? How does a professor stay current in her area of scholarly research?
A key to success in every profession or business is teachability. You can get left behind pretty quickly these days. So a really good educational experience bears little resemblance to indoctrination - the memorization of fixed right answers. It is instead the mastering of good tools that allow one to do credible research and the fostering of a mindset that is willing to test everything.
In one's personal spiritual life, pride is among the deadliest of sins for the simple reason that it prohibits learning. The idea is not that we should vacillate as doubting, ambivalent souls. Conviction is admirable. But informed convictions are eager to entertain questions, new ideas, and challenges. It is rigid dogmatism that is offended by them. And Jesus rebuked folks who wouldn't think or grow.
Don't you suspect openness to instruction was a big part of Jesus' charge that his followers be child-like? "Unless you change and become like little children," he said, "you will never enter the kingdom of heaven" (Matthew 18:3).
More good ideas have been killed with "We've never done it that way before" than with good reasons as to why it shouldn't be done some new way.
Maybe the young learn with more eagerness because they aren't afraid to fail. Perhaps the reason older people or firms or churches learn so little so slowly is that pride makes us unwilling to take the risks necessary for progress.
Prejudice against all things new is self-defeating and unworthy of people in God's image. There are no uninteresting ideas, only disinterested people.
Rubel Shelly has preached for the Woodmont Hills Church of Christ in Nashville since 1978. During that time, he has also taught at David Lipscomb University and Vanderbilt University School of Medicine. He is the author of more than 20 books, including several which have been translated into languages such as Korean, Japanese, Portuguese, Italian, French, and Russian. He is married to the former Myra Shappley, and they are the parents of three children: Mrs. David (Michelle) Arms, Tim, and Tom. To contact Rubel or to subscribe to his newsletter, Fax of Life, send email to faxOfLife@woodmont.org