by Kyndra Steinmann
When I was a girl, I used to get stuck on a math problem and tell my mother, “This doesn’t make sense!”
“No,” she would say. “ You don’t understand it.”
Dutifully, I would reply, “I don’t understand it,” and she would help me.
I didn’t really understand what she was trying to teach me, though. What difference did it make which words I used to say that I was stuck?
Now that I’m teaching my own children, I see why the words are important.
You see, the tendency for all of us is to interact with the world in terms of our own perceptions of humility and understanding. If something doesn’t match what we think, the problem isn’t a lack of knowledge or understanding on our part. The other fellow (or the book) isn’t making sense!
We need to crucify our pride and admit: ”I’m confused.” “I don’t understand this.” “Can you explain, please?”
Humility and Understanding Go Hand in Hand
These are words that express a heart of humility that is willing to learn. We do really know that the difficulty lies within ourselves, and by speaking these words of humility, we ready our minds to receive the explanation that will make things clear.
It’s hard! Frequently, the speaking of those words comes along with tears of angry pride and arguing and justifications that threaten to derail the entire school day! It is so difficult to “die to self,” and as mothers we must exercise every bit of patience and graciousness that we can as we lead our children into humility and teachableness. We have an opportunity here to teach the hearts and souls of our children as we are teaching their minds, and we must take every advantage of it. Insist on those words: “I don’t understand. Can you please help me?” Set an example yourself; explain the importance of humility and insist on the words. The act of speaking the words will over time help the children to humble their hearts and listen and learn.
So often, we (and our children) lack understanding, not because the task or material is truly difficult but because we don’t want to do or learn whatever it is! “This makes no sense!” is a sign of an attitude of “What a pain this is!” or “Why do I have to do this?” rather than a heart that desires to serve and learn.
Recently, I had a good example of this in my own life.
I had to do some kind of health screening for our health insurance company. Not very complex, just log into their website, answer some questions and see what my score for healthy living was. We have to do this every year and I really HATE doing it! I find the system cumbersome to use, the questions intrusive, and the whole exercise somewhat pointless since there is no way for the insurance company to verify my answers.
Usually I put it off as long as possible and then fuss and fume my way through it. (“Why do I have to do this?” “This is such a waste of my time!” etc.).
This year, I’ve been trying to build habits of getting unpleasant jobs off of my to-do list as quickly as possible, so I just sat down, got the system to send me my password again (since I need it once a year, I inevitably have no idea what it is!) and filled out the survey.
Took me fifteen minutes! Not a pleasant experience–the website still requires many more clicks than it should to accomplish the task, but since my attitude was one of “let me do quickly this thing my husband asked me to do,” it was much less stressful. An attitude of humility and understanding rather than angry pride was the only difference.
Don’t we want that for our children? Someday, they will be adults, and the words they will need are “Speak, Lord, for your servant is listening…”
“I don’t understand, please explain…” is the beginning that leads to a teachable, listening adult.