“A truly humble person never behaves like a teacher; he will listen, and, whenever his opinion is requested, he responds humbly. In other words, he replies like a student. He who believes that he is capable of correcting others is filled with egotism.” Elder Paisios the Athonite (via Eclectic Orthodoxy)
The above quote really struck me when I read it this morning. When I was a pastor in my previous life, I felt it was my responsibility to always be teaching people. In fact, that was the primary reason I was a pastor. I thought I had a “gift of teaching.” I believed God has prepared me through my experience and education to share my wisdom with people. I dreamt of speaking at conferences and writing books that would illuminate others to grow deeply in their faith. And the Christian culture in which I was immersed encouraged this.
And one of my favorite modes was to shock and clarify. In order to make a point, I would sometimes make an overstatement for impact and then explain what I actually meant.
While I think my intentions were good, what I lacked was true spiritual discernment and the humility to wield it properly. What I failed to realize is that knowledge is power and power corrupts. And that corruption occurs slowly and most times without notice. In hindsight, I can see where pride crept in and easily found a haven in my heart.
Now I’m not saying teachers or pastors are bad. Nor am I saying that their knowledge shouldn’t be shared. I am saying that the mark of a “good” teacher isn’t his or her knowledge or presentation skills. It’s humility. It’s knowing what is appropriate for what context. It’s discerning what is actually needed. And many times, knowledge isn’t the primary need. And at least in my life, if my first impulse is “I need to teach this” rather than “I need to listen and learn,” then it’s an indicator that humility may not be at work in that moment.