Training Trumps Teaching

In every interaction, in every conversation, in every social media post or like, someone is training someone.

Who is training you? What are they training you to do or think? How are they training you to behave? And in what ways are you training other people?

This is a huge responsibility for all of us, and one that most of us don’t even think about, but it is true – we are all trainers. By our actions and words we train other people; and by their actions and words they train us.

When we search for something on the internet, or visit a website, we are training internet algorithms in our preferences. It is not a coincidence that our newsfeeds fill with ads about things we were just looking for yesterday.

When we click on likes or shares, we are training our friends in the things that we like, support, or believe in. In our comments, we let people know how strongly we hold our convictions. We train people in how to interact with us, the subjects to bring up, and the ones they may want to avoid.

When our leaders regularly fail to begin meetings on time, they are training us to show up late. If they always begin on time, we know we must arrive early. As they adhere to pre-established agendas, we come prepared. When they meander around unorganized, they train us that it is OK to waste time.

I have a bookshelf full of books that are full of knowledge. I study them, I teach from them, I love learning from them, but they don’t train me.

Teaching, according to Webster, is to impart knowledge or skill; to give instruction, to cause to learn by example or experience. Teaching seems to rely heavily on an exchange of words.

Training, again according to Webster, is to coach in accustom to some mode of behavior or performance. Training can be accomplished with words, but it doesn’t rely fully upon them, we are adept at training people into behavior or performance expectations by what we do.

As the adage goes, more is caught than is taught; in other words, training trumps teaching. No matter what we may attempt to teach with our words, our actions are powerful trainers and can support or negate every spoken word. We must be careful that our walk always aligns with our talk.

This is a complex situation because there is another trainer at work: The world – the culture in which we live. For example, we’ve all been trained through movies, books, tv, etc., that people are supposed to respond in certain ways to specific circumstances and situations, and when they don’t, something must be wrong with them.

We hear it all the time – it’s in every detective show – she looks guilty because she isn’t crying. He must have done it because he isn’t acting like a grieving spouse. Hollywood does a really good job of training us to think like they do, to accept what they accept, and to reject what they reject.

So how do we train ourselves to think differently, to think independently? How do we train others? Our actions begin with our minds – what we think is what we do – so if we want to be effective trainers, we must first train ourselves effectively. How do we do that? By transforming our minds. By letting the Word of God teach us what is appropriate so that our actions follow.

Don’t copy the behavior and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think. – Romans 12:2

As Christians, we are training the unbelieving world and other Christians what Christianity is by the way we speak, behave, and react in all of our circumstances. We should not look like the world. We should look considerably different. But that is hard, really, really hard.

We’ve been trained that different is not better. Different stands out. Different makes waves. Different is rejected. Different is less. No one taught us that! As a matter of fact, we’ve probably been taught just the opposite: it’s good to be different. Nevertheless, that’s not how we’ve been trained, because very few people model that philosophy. Is it how we’re training our children? our friends? other Christians?

Are we training them by our own actions that they are to be just like the world, to listen to the world, to walk like the world, and to fit into the world’s patterns because that is exactly what we do? Even though we attend Bible studies out the wazoo, and go to church every Sunday, would any stranger who observed us for a few days know that we are Christians? Are we fooling ourselves?

But don’t just listen to God’s Word. You must do what it says. Otherwise, you are only fooling yourselves. For if you listen to the word and don’t obey, it is like glancing at your face in a mirror. You see yourself, walk away, and forget what you look like – James 1:22-24 NLT

 This is a great responsibility for Christians. What does the way you live say about your faith? Are you training the people in your sphere of influence to trust God and live beautifully different lives? Or are you training them to follow the world’s expectations? Does your training align with what you are teaching?


For information on Marcia’s book 365 Days of Grace, click here

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