Lover of God, wife, mother, British missionary in Peru... click here to learn more about Anna and this blog and how it can serve you.

Why being passive is bad for you

Why being passive is bad for you

Awaking from a dream this week I was stressed out.  I hadn’t been chased by hooded phantoms, nearly flattened by an elephant or had to pack up my whole house to move in 5 minutes time.  I wasn’t freefalling into a pot of glue. I was just having to sit in a classroom at school. 


And not for the reasons you might think.  

My children's learning does not go on in a classroom because they are homeschooled. I get to choose how they are educated, but the model I know best, the classroom, is a model which often caused me boredom and stress.  I have been trying to examine which circumstances particularly caused the stress and boredom and why - not only to create a less stressful environment for my children, but also to aid my own learning.  I ruminated on it all week until I read this: 

‘An oppressive system is one in which the teacher is active and the students are passive’
— Paulo Freire in Pedagogy of the Oppressed.

I understood why my dream stressed me out:  I was stuck in a classroom whilst the teacher slowly and pointlessly lectured on about something that could a) be transmitted 100% quicker and so was, in my opinion, wasting time and b) of little interest or relevance to my current life. (The first five scenes in this cartoon expresses how I felt in such lessons! Just replace 'I hate work!' with 'I hate this class!')

Maths formula blacked out the view through the windows of the classroom in my dream.  How often do schools / churches / institutions try and hold their audience captive blacking out the windows so that learners cannot see or enjoy a greater perspective? How unnatural (and ineffective!) are the methods of learning that are used?

In the dream I got up and left the classroom. Downstairs there was a hall full of creative, fun, engaging hands-on activities.  I desired to join in those instead.  


Overturning education or church systems is not the aim of the post, but rather I want to think about the things that are relevant to my own life.   Am I ever oppressive in the ways I teach others? How do I teach my children, preach on a Sunday, lead a prayer meeting, give a lesson in the ministry school, encourage someone in a conversation? Do I create environments that support their learning by ensuring they are active in their learning.  How do I disciple others? How can I create environments of freedom not oppression where those I am discipling are active and not passive?  


Two trees sat in the garden of Eden whose presence made the difference between an oppressive system of robot religion and an invitation to relationship.  We would never have been free if the tree of knowledge of good and evil had not been present in the garden. It is the freedom to choose that makes the difference between a system that is oppressive and one that is free. 


What does that look like in my homeschool day? It doesn’t mean my children never have any structured learning and play Minecraft all day every day.  It means that if the focus is writing, they get a choice about what they write about.  It means they choose whether to do their handwriting now or before lunch.  It means that I choose one book to read and they can choose another.  They have some choices and therefore ownership in their own learning.  They have a say in what we are doing.  It means that I don’t sit and lecture them, but come alongside them in their learning and help answer the questions they have and guide them to resources where they can find out the answers for themselves.  It is not a question of what curriculum we use, but rather how we use the resources we have in an active, meaningful and relevant way, rather than being enslaved to them. 


What about in my teaching and preaching? It means trying to present the truths that are being focused on in an interactive way - getting people moving, engaged, doing activities.  Our Sunday church group is still small enough to interact with, but if it was larger, it would mean using different creative methods to appeal to different senses, to challenge them, to share in such a way that provokes an active rather than a passive response.  It would mean teaching for a response and having practical ways people can respond (times of ministry, encouragement to reach out to someone this week etc.). 


How is it relevant to the mentoring conversations or friendships I have with others? Sharing ideas and suggestions yes, but more often than not, asking questions.  Loving questions (not questions which are hidden judgments!) encourage others to think through their decisions and struggles and to face the obstacles.  They highlight areas where faith needs to be embraced.  They encourage others to take responsibility and ownership for their lives and to choose to embrace God and His help.  Questions acknowledge the freedom someone has to live their lives differently from us, whilst challenging them to grow in their own personal relationship with God.  The question: ‘What is God saying to you?’ empowers them to engage with God themselves.  


Think about those who you disciple and / or encourage in friendship.  Examine whether you are good at creating an environment where those friends and/or disciples are encouraged to be active in their relationship with God and in their learning.  How about you? Are you maximising your freedom to choose wisely? Are you experiencing lots of stress in your life because you are choosing to be passive about your life rather than actively taking hold of it to make better decisions? Are you embracing your freedom in Christ? 

But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves. … But the one who looks into the perfect law, the law of liberty, and perseveres, being no hearer who forgets but a doer who acts, he will be blessed in his doing.
— James 1:22 & 25
For where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom
— 2 Corinthians 3:17

Book recommendation: 

Sally Clarkson is a former missionary to the Czech Republic, a former homeschool mom to four and an amazing encourager of mums to embrace discipleship and family on mission.  Her recent book, ‘Own your life’ is definitely work checking out.

Thank you for taking time to read this post.  Please do share it with anyone who you think might enjoy it! And do leave a comment and let me know what you think! 

In the next post next week we will take a look at the importance of questions in leading others.  If you would like to receive new posts directly to your inbox, you can sign up here.  (I currently post once a week and you can unsubscribe at any time.)

Why are questions so important in leading others?

Why are questions so important in leading others?

2 more lies that destroys relationships & what you can do

2 more lies that destroys relationships & what you can do