As a professor, therapist, pastoral minister, workshop facilitator, and spiritual director I spend a significant amount of time “teaching” even if it isn’t always in the traditional sense of the word. Sometimes I’m more a facilitator than teacher, but I do spend time sharing what I know, my experience, and what life has taught me in the hope it becomes a transformative experience for others. I enjoy doing this and believe it’s part of my calling. It’s a way I can encourage people to be the best they can and reach the heights of the human condition. What always fascinates me is even when I’m well prepared and willing to twist myself into knots, do a wonderfully choreographed dance, or sing a song that lights the stars in the sky in an effort to convey the depth and meaning of the material I’m presenting, there are just some people who will not learn. I’m not negating my responsibility in the educational process, I’m merely stating one can desire to give all they are until they’re exhausted, but if those individuals in your classroom aren’t willing to learn, you cannot teach them.
Given this truth about the educational process I will still argue that 98% of the responsibility falls to me. I must create an environment in which the individual in the classroom, counseling office, workshop, etc. knows they are respected, loved, important, and safe. Only when an individual understands they are welcome, supported, and valued can I as the one responsible for challenging them do so. However, that last 2%, while small, is exceptionally important. That 2% is a willingness to be changed. It’s a willingness to be taught which means a willingness to take risks.
Learning, growing, becoming more than we are requires a willingness to be vulnerable. We must be receptive to the one who is counseling us, teaching us, or ministering to us. It means being willing to fail, to put yourself on the line, and most importantly, to realize we really don’t know as much as we think we do. It requires humility, confidence in oneself, and trust in the one who is teaching and or mentoring you.
There are plenty of reasons someone can’t fulfill that 2% commitment to the process. Dr. Carole Dweck did a significant amount of research on the power of a “Growth Mindset” in comparison with something she labels a “Fixed Mindset.” People with a growth mindset find learning to be a process that’s fun and challenging. Failure for them is merely a way to learn how to do things different the next time. Most importantly, failure doesn’t make a statement about who they are, it merely gages where they need to direct their effort in a more accurate and targeted way. A fixed mindset is the complete opposite. It assumes the reason one is capable of doing whatever they do well is because these skills are fixed in them and their effort has very little to do with how good they are at the things they excel in. The worst aspect of a fixed mindset is failure becomes a judgement about who the person is not a way of understanding how to do things differently. Because of these features fixed mindset people are not willing to be taught. They spend much of their time showing you what they know, not allowing you to transform them. In the end, no matter how much of the 98% I give to the process, that 2% can derail the whole thing.
While this can be frustrating for many, it’s also important to remember Christ dealt with the same thing. God himself knows how we feel. He was charged with the transformation of others in ways we could never imagine. God gave humanity a free will. That free will is very powerful. It can stop the power of God from doing the one thing he desires most and that’s to save us from our sins and enter into a deep and profound relationship with those he is willing to die for. Free will is that 2% and it’s free will that keeps us from saying “Yes” to God. If you are an educator, pastoral minister, counselor, or any other individual tasked with investing yourself into the life of another person, give that 98% like your life depends on it. If you’re a student or someone who has entered into an educational relationship with someone else, give that 2%. Yes, your 2% does not seem like much, but it can be the one factor that leads you into a fulfilling, transforming, and challenging experience in which you grow to be a better human being. You have the power to be transformed by those God places in your life, just trust the process enough to be vulnerable to the learning experience. Amazing things can become of it.