Avoid foolishness: be a humble learner

April 24, 2024
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by Shannon Caughey

When talking with individuals who have coached for many years, I’m interested to hear their thoughts on what is different about coaching today compared with when they started. Multiple times these coaches have expressed something like this: “When I began, I was aware of how little I knew about coaching. I wanted to learn from older coaches. These days it seems like a lot of young coaches think they already have it figured out. They’re not interested in being mentored by older coaches. They just want to be in charge and call the shots.”

According to Proverbs, people (including coaches) of any age who adopt this mentality—“I have it figured out; I don’t need the input of others”—are foolish. As we’ve seen in this series of devotions, a fool is someone who refuses to listen to God and live according to his design. The consequences of foolishness are destructive, bringing about shame, grief, strife, and even ruin. Proverbs urges us to avoid foolishness and instead pursue wisdom, which is simply understanding practically how to live as God desires for us to live.

Another “how to avoid foolishness” theme in Proverbs is this: be a humble learner. Proverbs 26:12 speaks to the “I have it figured out” perspective: “Do you see a person wise in their own eyes? There is more hope for a fool than for them.”Instead, we must follow the directive that Prov. 19:20 gives: “Listen to advice and accept discipline, and at the end you will be counted among the wise.”

How can you grow in this dimension of wisdom? It involves practicing both the “receiving” and the “seeking” aspects of being a learner.

1. Humbly receive input given to you.

When on the receiving end of unsolicited input—especially when it comes in the form of correction or criticism—it’s tempting to tune out or even be offended. Because of our pride, we don’t like to be told what to do or how to do it. Proverbs 12:15 says, “The way of fools seems right to them, but the wise listen to advice.” To grow in wisdom, we must be genuinely open to listening to the advice of others rather than assuming we are right. God may be using this unsolicited input to address an issue in our life or to increase our understanding of how he wants us to think, speak, and act.

As a coach, be willing to humbly listen to what your fellow coaches, athletes, and even your athletes’ parents are saying. Ask God to help you discern what he might be speaking to you. There are certainly times when input from others is not helpful. But don’t just assume this is the case, even when the motivation behind the advice seems questionable. Practice receiving input with humility rather than giving into the temptation to pridefully ignore or reject it. You will then give yourself a chance to increase in wisdom rather than going the way of fools.

2. Intentionally seek input out of a desire to learn and improve.

Every coach loves athletes who not only listen when being coached but also take the initiative to seek out their coach’s input regarding what’s needed for improvement. Proverbs encourages us to be like these athletes. According to Prov. 15:14, “The discerning heart seeks knowledge…” Growth in wisdom comes as we’re both humble learners and motivated learners. We recognize our need for the knowledge and understanding that others have, and we intentionally seek their input. 

Who are some wise and knowledgeable people around you that you can you learn from, whether about coaching for Christ or about other areas of your life? Seek out their input. Ask good questions and humbly listen to what they say about how you can improve—even when their advice to you may be hard to hear. You can seek input not only through conversations with wise people but also through reading good books. This, too, takes intentionality. The fruit of consistent, disciplined learning through personal interactions and regular reading is worth it.

Never allow yourself to arrive at the “I have it figured out” perspective, whether in coaching or any other aspect of life. All of us continually have need for growth in understanding God’s design for how we are to live as followers of Christ—and for growth in putting this design into practice. This growth will only come as we are humble learners. Hear again the encouragement of Prov. 19:20—“Listen to advice and accept discipline, and at the end you will be counted among the wise.”

For reflection: In what ways do you need to grow in humbly receiving input? In intentionally seeking input from others who are wise? Talk with the Lord about these things.



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