eggs and humble pie

this will be rambly. it’s two in the morning, forgive me, I have rambly thoughts. they’re about how I’ve learned stuff. about how I’ve learned to learn…

someone told me how he appreciated my humility. and I know he wasn’t just saying it – but unlike him, because I’ve actually lived with myself all these years and I know what the inside of my head and my heart really looks like, I know how hard it’s been for me to learn humility. And still it’s only there on a very part time basis…

but without humility, how can you learn anything… you need to be able to acknowledge that there’s stuff you don’t know, and that there are others who know stuff you don’t know. which is hard to do if you’re used to assuming you are the smartest kid on the block.

part of the problem in my case was that I happen to have a high IQ, so in many situations it’s factually true that I’m smarter than others around me – but, yanno, intelligence ≠ knowledge. I haven’t read all the books in the world, I haven’t swallowed an encyclopedia, I haven’t studied all the things… my IQ means I have the ability to understand stuff that others may find hard to get their heads round, but there’s plenty of stuff I haven’t even tried to get my head round. Wisdom means you have the sense to turn to a good source of information when you need it, and not pretend you can manage just fine on your own.

but I was brought up at home not just knowing I’m intelligent, but also with a disdain for the teachers at school. long story, I won’t go into the details here, but that was the atmosphere at home when I was a kid: the teachers don’t know everything, there’s stuff they teach that’s actually wrong and we – our clever family – know better.

fast forward several decades and there’s me as a church member when a new pastor arrives. and while I’m generally impressed with him, I’m kind of listening to his sermons with a virtual red pen in my hand, ready to notice stuff he gets wrong.

because I know better, right…

it’s particularly tempting for me when it comes to the meaning of Hebrew words and phrases, or stuff to do with Jewish customs – I’m Jewish, and a Hebrew speaker, so these are areas where I tend to feel knowledgeable. Or, well, tended to…

I’ve been learning. The lessons have sometimes been painful – it’s not very pleasant to get egg on your face when you’re a proud person.

not pleasant, but so so useful. because I had to learn these lessons so that I could learn! I had to learn that my pastor does generally know what he’s talking about, so that I could start learning from him!

it wasn’t instant, it took me a while, it took several helpings of humble pie before I got it: I learned that even when it comes to areas I felt knowledgeable about, I still had plenty to learn and I could, and did, get things very wrong sometimes. And I learned that some ideas that sound crazy to me at first glance are actually true – I just need to listen to the whys and wherefores, ask questions when I don’t understand, rather than just shaking my head and saying it’s nonsense.

I had to learn to listen respectfully – and this got easier and easier over time, because again and again I saw that (a) he does generally know what he’s talking about, and (b) he’s happy to explain, to patiently answer my questions – and without needing to win the argument. I remember one time early on when I emailed him with a question and he invited me to come and see him so we could talk it through – we spent three hours talking, we ended up agreeing to disagree on that particular issue, and it was fine, I came away feeling how great it was to talk without anyone’s ego getting in the way – and since I know what I’m like, I know what a miracle it was that my own ego didn’t get in the way…

this goes back several years. a year after this pastor arrived, we got a new assistant pastor, and I got to practise this with him too – he’d say something that sounded like nonsense so I’d ask him, and usually it turned out I just hadn’t got what he meant, but he was happy to patiently explain, so I learned…

of course neither of them is infallible – but then neither am I… and I’ve had enough eggs landing on my face over time, so I’m a lot less quick now to assume I know better… and thanks to that, I’ve been able to learn so much! so I’m thankful for the humble pie, I needed it badly!

and now maybe I’ll get some sleep. it’s now three in the morning, and even night owls have to sleep sometime…


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