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A Learned Lesson

Another situation when we sometimes withhold the truth from someone is when they must learn something for themselves. This goes with the proverb “[…]if you give a man a fish he is hungry again in an hour. If you teach him to catch a fish you do him a good turn.” (Mrs. Dymond by Anne Isabella Thackeray Ritchie, 1885) If we give someone the answers they never have to learn for themselves. However, if we don’t always answer their questions or show them how, then they have to learn how to approach their problems, assess them and find answers on their own.

I’ve tended to avoid giving people advice unless I hear them say that they have no idea what to do or seem like they are asking for help. More often, this is because I know that until someone is ready to listen, all advice is useless. However, sometimes it is also because I need to listen for whether or not someone wants real help or just relief. A person who wants relief doesn’t want to solve their problem (or problems). Instead, they want someone else to take over or otherwise remove burdens. For some people, I can completely understand a need for relief. For others, their distress is the message they need to hear to realize that they are preventing the solution they need. Usually, it’s because they fear the outcome whether or not they know what will happen. While some choices are difficult, they still need to be made. If we step in and take over for them, they don’t ever really learn or grow from their problem.

On the other hand, I’ve also had to learn how to stay quiet when I know someone needs the knowledge I have. I train people on a regular basis on how to publish content to their website. I”ve had to learn how to let some students struggle a little and take time to think through what I demonstrate for them in class. It’s only through their practice that they can improve and gain skill in what I teach. Of course, I don’t let anyone sit anxiously for too long, but I’ve finally learned to give students at least a little time to try to figure out what they need to do when it’s their turn.

The problem of learning is similar to the surprise in motive and when keeping the truth to ourselves is better. There are times when saying anything about what we know is giving someone too much information anyway. The other person could hurt themselves or someone else. In general, teaching someone means letting them figure out some of the lesson on their own. You need to give students the tools to find answers, not just hand them the answers. Just like with a surprise, it is important to have the well being of the other person in mind. As long as we do, we can truly help others learn what we know.

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