Are You A Life Learner?
Are You a Life Learner? . . . Or Is Your “On” Switch “Off?”
Some time ago I had a coffee with a retired doctor who was learning Urdu—the language spoken near the India/Pakistan border region. His aspiration? To invest his medical knowledge in this remote mountainous setting and bring hope to kids victimized by years of conflict. For him, new learning, new experiences, and yes—some new risks, but there’s exciting movement in his life! On the other hand, I suspect we all know people who seem to have shut off their learning switch. For them, embracing life change has little appeal. Romans 12:2 presents an ongoing imperative to non-conformance, nothing less than a radical “renewing of your mind.” But not just in a theological or academic sense, but rather in a liberating and challenging approach to life learning. What an exciting and freeing proposition that each of us not only has a mandate to change, but also the opportunity to thrive in new experiences of life.
Surely you recall Jeff Foxworthy’s entertaining call to men and women in his comedy routine, “You may be a redneck if “ . . . and then he fills in the blank with some good ‘ol country wisdom. Well, coming at Foxworthy’s challenge from another angle, may I suggest that “You may not be a life learner if “ . . . you find yourself in any of these familiar patterns of our society.
1) You may not be a life learner if . . . you’re not enriching your mind with a broader, more informed understanding of contemporary issues—be they social, political, technological, theological or behavioral. One of the wonderful benefits of “renewing your mind” is the discovery that our mindset is wonderfully malleable and adaptable. Life learners are fun people to hang out with; they’re always plowing new ground (maybe learning to sky dive!), experimenting with things inherently unfamiliar, and testing long-held habits and ideas. Because they’re change oriented, they’re comfortable in a variety of cross-cultural settings and are valuable sources of wisdom and life change.
2) You may not be a life learner if . . . you’re not routinely reading or listening to something new that challenges the status quo in your life. Think about it, “learning” is either hindered or enhanced through passive or dynamic habits. (Think Fox News and CNN!) Passive endeavors are typically characterized by more of the same diet from the same sources. Dynamic, on the other hand, moves you into the realm of opposing views and the disquieting discovery that you may have to change your thinking. Life learners tend to be more transformation than information oriented; they’re taking risks, are always scratching something off their bucket list, or reading something new that might make them fidget.
3) You may not be a life learner if . . . you are unaware of your impact on people and assume everything is wonderful because no one has told you otherwise. Anyone who has ever chopped wood knows that a sharp axe is much more safe and effective than a dull one. Life learners know this is true with relationships, as well. They keep relational dialog sharp and effective (but very safe) by signaling that hard news can be freely delivered to help them be a better friend, husband, workmate, or ministry partner. Life learners create and nurture these “feedback-rich” environments in all walks of life because they freely infuse the gift of wisdom into their lives.
So where are you on the life learning curve? Are you intentionally enriching and renewing your mind . . . or are you hanging out on a safe plateau? If stalled on a plateau, how might you take a leap of faith? If you’re more information oriented (Here’s where I stand!) . . . than transformation oriented (Help me learn something new?), how might you incorporate a new practice or attitude in your life? Apply that to your relationships (in your family, work, and community settings) and in short order, you’ll marvel at the positive change you can generate.