Not too long ago I was discussing with someone what I find to be an interesting inconsistency in human behavior. I pointed out that most people are very appreciative and responsive to a recommendation for a new restaurant or a good movie, and have no problem asking for advice regarding such insignificant areas. However, if you try to offer advice or suggest a resource that could actually help change their life for the better, it generally falls on deaf ears. His explanation: You can lead a horse to water, but you can’t make him drink.
Now, obviously I’ve heard this saying my whole life, and I get it. But my initial reaction was, “If I had a horse that didn’t have enough sense to know it was thirsty, I’d shoot it and walk the rest of the way!” You’ve never seen John Wayne trying to dunk his horse’s head in a watering trough! I’ll admit I’ve done no research, but I’d wager that never in history has a horse died of dehydration within sight of a stream! Alright, I know I’m beating a dead horse here, but at a certain point, this analogy doesn’t hold water. (pun intended!) The only reason a horse would refuse water, is if he has already drank his fill. I know there are some people who, it would appear, think they already know it all. “No thanks, I’ve had enough!” I’ve definitely fallen in that category! But is that really the case? Or can we actually be unaware of our own thirst?
This “thirst”, or simply being teachable, I have come to believe, is one of, if not the most important character trait a person can possess. My lack of this quality was at the core of every bad decision I ever made and the ultimate cause of all the calamity that followed. In contrast, when I became willing to consider, accept, and eventually seek the advice of others, I started making some progress in life. So what caused this shift? How does a closed mind begin to open? In my case, every area of life was in utter chaos, and I had run out of people to blame. That left me no option but to consider this Truth: I don’t know. Pretty deep and profound isn’t it?! I really believe this is the essence of a teachable spirit: to accept that I only know what I know, and while it has gotten me this far, it is not enough to get me where I need to be. And I don’t think you have to “hit bottom” to come to that conclusion! We can attain a little humility without humiliation!
King Solomon wrote in the Proverbs that we should “seek wisdom as though looking for lost treasure.” Have you ever searched for anything unless you first acknowledged that you didn’t have it? Of course not! Yet most of us have spent more time looking for our TV remote than trying to find some knowledge or wisdom that could change our lives! It seems that saying “I don’t know” leaves a bad taste in our mouth. Maybe it’s just a matter of pride. We certainly don’t want anybody to think we haven’t got it all figured out. For that reason I lived for years by the motto: Better to keep you mouth shut and be thought a fool, than to open your mouth and remove all doubt! The end result was a life that resembled an Old West movie set. It might have looked good from the front, but was pretty empty once you got inside. There are times we might have to “fake it ’til we make it” but it doesn’t make for a great life plan. You can only fake it so long before it all comes crashing down. Trust me! “I don’t know” hurts a lot less!
Here’s one last example that might help put all this in proper perspective. It seems that my wife and I are always undertaking some new DIY project at home. This usually means I’m going to be doing something outside my skill set. Thankfully, I have a very knowledgeable friend who can advise me. We also live in a YouTube world where you can learn just about anything with the click of a button. Once I’ve got the needed instruction, a trip to Home Depot is always in order. It seems that I never have the tools necessary to accomplish the job. So what about the projects we want to accomplish with our lives? The really important and often long overdue improvements in our marriages and families, our personal finances, our careers? Doesn’t it seem wise to consider that we might not have all the skills or tools necessary to get the job done right? I can promise you that a trip to the library (or reading an awesome blog online!) is a lot cheaper than the Home Depot!
I’ll leave you with one final quote from the smartest woman I know (my wife!) who once said, “Everything I know I learned!”
Stay thirsty my friends!