When I was around 12 years old, I started taking a special ballet class that would help me develop as a dancer and become strong enough to dance with pointe shoes. The only problem with this class was that I lived far away, and the dance class ran late. On some days, I had two dance classes back-to-back, which meant I would leave the house by 3:30 p.m. and would not get home until around 8:30 p.m. That was a large portion of the day, and my mom could not devote it to sitting around waiting for me to finish. She had things to do around the house, and she had to take care of my younger siblings, who also had things to do. My parents came up with a solution: My mom would drive me to class, and my dad would pick me up on his way home from work.
On one of these drives home, my dad and I were having a conversation. I do not remember exactly what we were talking about, but I had been explaining something to him. Most likely it was something about dance, or perhaps it was something I had learned at school that my dad had never heard before and found interesting. Whatever it was, I had a keen sense of pride at having explained something to the man who always seemed to know more than I did. Of course, he did know more. He was my dad, and he had been alive for much longer than I had. But, in that moment, my sense of pride was overwhelming.
“You know Dad, I think I know more than you do.”
I saw his slight smirk from the passenger seat as he continued to watch the dark road. Then he said, “How very myopic of you.”
My heart clenched, and my mind froze. I searched my memory and could find nothing. No explanation, and no definition. I looked back at my dad. His face was the picture of calm, and I knew what he had just done. For a few more moments of silence, I wrestled with myself. I wondered how to best handle this. But no matter how hard I tried, I knew that I could not keep my pride intact for this one.
I swallowed the lump in my throat and asked the question. “What does myopic mean?”
That question forever changed how I think about learning from other people. In that moment, I thought I knew everything. I felt high and mighty, believing that I had reached point in my life where not even my own dad knew more than I did. I was at the top of the world. I was all-knowing and wise, and I was invincible.
With a single word, my dad smashed that delusion. With a single word, he proved that I was not all-knowing and wise. I was not invincible.
That question taught me that we all have things we can learn from others. We can learn from our teachers, supervisors, siblings, peers and even from people we do not see eye to eye with. Other people’s experiences have taught them lessons that they can share with us, and we can share our own experiences and lessons in return. A person’s perspective can present us with a new way of approaching a subject. But if we think we already know everything, we will not have any room to learn from a person’s experiences and perspective—nor will we have any experiences to share with them. If we assume we know everything, we will never learn anything.
The definition of myopic is: “nearsighted; lacking imagination, foresight or intellectual insight.” In the words of my dad as we drove home that night, it means: “You think you know more than you actually know. It means that you lack the vision to learn anything more.” Because I thought I knew everything, I lacked the vision in my young mind to see that I didn’t. My mind was closed off from the notion that there was anything new to learn, and if my dad hadn’t been smart enough to see that and rectify it, I would have continued in my ignorance for a long time.
It does not matter how old we are—there is always something new to learn. My dad knew more, just as God the Father will always know more. The minute we decide we know everything is the minute God cannot teach us anymore. He looks for a poor and contrite spirit (Isaiah 66:2)—someone who is humble, childlike and easily moldable and teachable (Isaiah 64:8).
So if you ever feel like an experience or a conversation is useless because you already know everything, remember this word. Remember that there is always something new to learn. And remember that if you don’t know the definition of “myopic,” chances are you probably don’t know everything after all.