You have crash landed on an alien world. It is nothing like anything you have ever seen before. You were sent to this place by the spirit of your dead master, and all you have found is a crazy little local. This fabled Jedi master that you seek is nowhere to be found. You sit in a small hut, eating disgusting food, with seemingly no place left to turn.
Hopefully, you have never been in this spot, but this is the exact place Luke found himself in during Episode 5. Sitting, trying to be patient as he talked with this small man (who seemed to be a few bricks short of a full load), Skywalker became more and more frustrated. When it seemed as if the conversation would never end, Luke finally “lost it” and in that one instant, quickly realized that this little man was not what he appeared to be. Yoda was in fact, something (someone) much, much more. In reality, there sat the very master he had been looking for all along.
At this point in the story, Obi-wan’s spirit chimes in and begins to debate with Yoda about whether or not Luke should be trained. Yoda saw no patience, little understanding, an unfocused mind, and a young man dealing with anger and frustration. He saw a young man full of his own ideas and opinions – one he was not sure was ready to listen and learn from a simple, backwoods creature.
Yoda, even in this, was trying to convey to Luke an important message – to be taught, you must first be teachable. After Luke’s little outburst, the first line out of Yoda’s mouth was a simple statement of resignation, “I cannot teach him…”. Yoda understood that if Luke did not come to this process with patience and a heart to learn, nothing would be accomplished. Instead of making excuses and justifying things, Luke had to be willing to listen and hear what his master was saying.
This was not the first time Yoda had been presented with this concern while serving in the Jedi order. As the events of the prequel trilogy begin to unfold, there is a conversation in Episode 2, Attack of the Clones, in which Obi-wan, Mace, and Yoda all share some concern that many Jedi have become overconfident, prideful, and in this, they have lost some of their ability to be taught and to continue to learn and grow. Their concern was for young and old Jedi alike.
This lesson is not just important in the Star Wars universe, or even just for kids, but also in every person’s daily life. The though of being “quick to listen, slow to speak” is a lost art. Such an abundance of time is spent trying to shout over the other person and coming up with a defense of actions or words, that little listening ever takes place. There can often be so much pride, that listening and learning from another, especially one who we think might not know anything, is next to impossible.
This is the position that many children and adults find themselves in today. Having two children and working in a school, I see this attitude creep into many conversations. They are kids, and they know everything (sometimes, this is true of us adults as well). They want to do things their own way. When I talk with them, I am just the “crazy old fogy” that does not know anything. I often joke with my wife that I look forward to the day when I am intelligent again. Whether it is kids, other adults, or even our own life, this is a heart and attitude that each of us must battle at some point or another.
Having a teachable spirit is essential in life. Our own ideas, thoughts, and opinions can only carry us so far. At some point, we will all bump up against the ceiling of our own knowledge and understanding, and in reality, this will happen over and over again throughout our entire life. None of us knows everything (please do not share this with my wife), and we all need to learn and get assistance from time to time.
This is the exact place that Luke found himself in with Yoda. Luke thought he knew how his training should go and what things should look like. He thought things should progress on his timetable, and when it did not, he lost patience and was frustrated. When he failed or could not do something, he lashed out, excused his failure, or simply thought it was impossible.
Being teachable, and having a heart to listen is something we all need to instill in our children, and something we need to model in our own lives. To begin this process, we must first build a relationship with those we teach and influence. If you notice in these movies, and even in the first interactions with Yoda, what influenced Luke to listen to Yoda – Ben Kenobi. When Luke is ready to give up on this “little nuisance,” Ben steps in and Luke listens.
There was a relationship that enabled Luke to trust and hear what Ben was saying. That relationship provided the foundation for the teaching and instruction Luke received from Ben. As the relationship with Yoda grew, so too did Luke’s ability to listen and learn. As their relationship grew, so too did a teachable spirit in this young Jedi. This has to be the foundation with our children and the adults around us. Those I listen to most are those with whom I have the deepest relationship.
As Luke’s training progresses, we see Yoda use another important tool to help Luke learn and develop a more teachable spirit – he allows Luke to fail. Think of Luke’s experiences in training. In the cave, Yoda told him not to take his weapons and that the only thing that was in there was what he took with him. When Luke failed, he more fully understood what Yoda was saying. Through this their relationship was deepened, and this helped him be more open to Yoda’s words.
We also see this when his ship was stuck in the swamp. Yoda gave him instructions and lessons to help him. In these, he never fully believed, and ultimately ended up failing. When Yoda showed him what the reality of belief looked like, he became much more willing to listen, and took more steps forward in his training.
Failure and its results are something that is quickly disappearing in today’s world. Our children are sheltered from any failure, and consequences are softened, and in this, lessons are lost. Some of the most important lessons I have learned come from failure. And in those failures, I learned to listen more to those around me, who tried to stop me in the first place. Failure helps people learn to listen, and helps them develop a teachable and more humble heart.
As our younglings fail, we need to walk with them trough it and help them overcome the failures that are a natural part of growing and learning. This is exactly what Yoda did. When Luke failed he did not just send him on his way and end his training. He did not chew him out and belittle him. He simply taught the lesson and kept moving forward. In this process, Luke’s trust in Yoda was built, and it helped him grow as a Jedi. This same attitude needs to be present in us as we guide our children. When they fail – and they will – we need to walk through it with them and help them learn. In this, trust is built and we will have more ability to speak into their lives.
One final example we see in Yoda is found in how he interacted with Luke. When we have the opportunity to speak into someone’s life, we need to be sure that we are speaking to them and not at them. This may not seem like a big difference, but in reality, it is. If I just spend my time preaching at my children, eventually, I will be tuned out and there will be no possibility of learning. If instead, I talk to them, and with them, learning can occur. This goes back to relationship – and this is often the difference between talking to and at someone.
Each of us, sometimes on a daily basis, will find ourselves in the situation in which we have the choice to be teachable or to be a know it all. We ourselves need to have a teachable spirit, and through this, model for our padawans what this looks like. We, in turn, have to help them develop a spirit for learning, and a heart to listen. This can only be accomplished through relationship, and as this occurs, that relationship will be strengthened and grow. Just as Luke needed to listen and learn, so too do our children. As school years around the country begin, this timely lesson is even more important for us and for our children. The only question for us, is will we help instill this teachable heart in our children, just as Yoda did, or push them away?
Lessons From A Galaxy Far, Far Away: Celebrate Freedom, As Only An Ewok Can
Lessons From A Galaxy Far, Far Away: Passing the Flame (an introduction)
Lessons From A Galaxy Far, Far Away: A New Hope