What is a ‘Teachable Moment?’

Much has been said and written about how people will not listen to (much less heed) what does not mesh with their currently held beliefs.  Generally, people will not change their beliefs or behavior except during times of crisis.  These times of crisis or moments of upheaval are what I mean by ‘teachable moments.’

I conject that when a parent takes a switch to the rear end of a misbehaving child, the action works not because it is conditioning a change in behavior but rather the switching brings about the crisis mentioned above; the child is then open to new information that may change their future behavior.  If the parent fails to follow through with corrective instruction once the parent has the child’s attention, the teachable moment is lost and all that took place was a bit of physical harm.

If one wants to teach others a truth or show others a different (better or worse) way to behave, one must be present at such teachable moments.  Christ’s most indelibly imprinted lessons happened at teachable moments:  The threatened stoning of the woman caught in adultery was one such moment (“He who is without sin, cast the first stone.”)

Cold-call preaching…whether from a pulpit, a street corner, or the internet…does not reach anyone unless that person happens to be experiencing a crisis…living a teachable moment.

There are many opportunities to be present at teachable moments:  Volunteer for the Red Cross; Be a chaplain in a hospital; Visit the Emergency Room; Be a fire fighter, police officer, or a sheriff’s deputy; Work for social services or Social Security or the IRS; …

Athletic coaches from peewee leagues to collegiate sports have unique opportunities to influence the growth of the youth because sporting matches are planned and somewhat controlled teachable moments; when the game is not going their way, the youth are open to see, hear, and learn a new thing.

Whatever the game is…football, baseball, finances, relationships, life, health, politics, weather, climate, freedom,…when that game is not going the way one would like, one finds oneself in a teachable moment.

It may seem that one is better able to reach a greater number of people by writing a book or a blog or by preaching a sermon to a crowd or a congregation but I daresay one has a better chance to influence someone while sitting by that person’s bedside.



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