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Pointers along the way #118

Learning from others
- Jacob Ninan

Have you ever had the experience when you learned something precious from someone from whom you didn't expect that sort of thing? I have, several times. I am ashamed to say that I "didn't expect much" from some people, indicating some kind of pride on my part. But God has been gracious to open my eyes to see how precious each one of His created beings is to Him.

"Can anything good come out of Nazareth?", asked Nathaniel, and he was a man without guile! (Jn.1:46,47). We have this despising attitude not only towards individual people but also to communities and even races as a whole. Why do we consider ourselves to be superior? Of course, when we look around at people we do find certain despicable characteristics in many of them. We can't pretend otherwise. But we too have some things wrong with us, don't we? If we were to compare ourselves with some people and say that we are not like them, but better, don't we also have to say that in certain other things they are better? That recognition should keep us in our place.

I am not trying to take a philosophical approach and conclude that there is good in everyone, sort of glossing over some of the wicked or evil things that there are in some people. I am writing about a practical approach where we do recognise that all is not well everyone we meet, but where we also realise that there may be some things we can learn from them. Sometimes, praise God, the things we learn may come in the form of a challenge for our own life, where we see we need to change. But sometimes we may also learn to avoid some viewpoints, attitudes or approach that others have taken. But there can be something we can learn.

But I am thinking more about our own attitude that writes off certain people, keeping ourselves shut off to the precious things that we can receive from others. Who do we think we are, anyway? If there is anything good in us that makes us better in any way from some of the others isn't that a work of God? (1Co.4:7). Do we think, God forbid, that there is nothing that we need to learn from the others? Sometimes we may think that we can learn only from 'spiritual' people. But we can become spiritual only if we are willing to learn. The more spiritual we are, the more eager we are to learn, because we know there is so much more to learn than we know. The more mature we are, the more eager we are to become better, because we know there is so much in us that needs to be changed.

There is no condemnation when we see our faults or lacks, because we know that our Father has accepted us just as we are (Ro.8:1). We don't become any less when we acknowledge our lacks or faults, for the same reason. Therefore let us not shy away from looking squarely at our faults. An objective awareness of our faults and lacks will give us a desire to change, and that will help us to be more willing to learn from others.