Successful students rely fully on their teacher, but also fully on themselves. This applies to students of mortal teachers and of the Master Teacher.
Yesterday in church we had a meeting to discuss self reliance. The instructor raised an apparent paradox for our consideration: how is it that we can strive to be at once both self reliant and reliant on God? Conversation and examples followed, with which I have no disagreement, but to me they were not as clear as an analogy from my own line of work.
education I am a teacher. I often find myself teaching students who know almost nothing about a topic which it will take them years to learn well. The implicit contract of teaching runs as follows:
As the teacher, I will lay out a set of achievable steps to learning the topic, creating a pace and means whereby the student can build ability in a manageable way. I will also strive create an environment where the impact of failure and setback are limited and students are not punished for not yet being masters of the field.
As learners, students will strive to do their best at every step of the path I lay out, actively striving to build their own knowledge and ability. They will also treat each task as significant and important, never using my promise to contain failures as an excuse to fail to try.
Neither I nor my students are perfect at executing this contract, of course, but it does suggest a kind of dual-reliance that I think reflects the dual reliance of mortals on deity and self.
To the degree that students do not rely on me, they struggle. They may struggle by not relying on my layout of the topic, striving to learn things in an order or way that gets them tangled in a score of complicated and interdependent new ideas. They may struggle with the distraction and pain of unnecessary stress as they fear that the consequences of failure in an exercise doom them to failure in the field. Without the guidance of a teacher This teacher need not be present in person; many teachers guide well by writing down their map and exercises for others to read. , many fields are all-but impenetrable to the would-be learner.
To the degree that students are not self-reliant, they languish. No matter how skillful the instructor, no topic worth knowing can be learned by those who passively expect their teacher to pour knowledge into their heads without exercising their own attention and learning to the task. No exercise has the ability to build mastery of a field if the student treats successful completion of the exercise as unnecessary and thus fails to strive to succeed.
So with us, the students of the great Teacher. Without complete reliance on God, we often flounder down confusing avenues or dread the consequences of bad decisions. Without complete reliance on ourselves, we often stagnate and regress, missing opportunities to grow and failing to strive for mastery of the exercises of life.