Sunday, November 1, 2009

Tackling, Conquering and Accepting our Learning Disabilities

“Why do we fall, Bruce? So we can learn to pick ourselves up.”

–Thomas Wayne played by Linus Roache (Batman Begins, 2005).

In his book Failure to Learn: the BP Texas City Refinery disaster, Andrew Hopkins[1] explains how organisations like BP often fail to incorporate the repeated lessons of accidents and incidents; 20/20 hindsight indicates when they have catastrophes in the presence of known hazards and warning signs, a ‘learning disability’ is apparent. In the sight and knowledge of problems or a better way, the same flawed follies are repeated despite the dangers.

Now, there’s some personal application using the same principle... believe it or not, we’re also intrinsically prone to the learning disability from an intrapersonal viewpoint.

Whenever we mismanage our diets, mishandle our relationships, get impatient on the roads, allow ourselves precious little rest, or get stingy with our money (and a myriad of other “sins”), we fall yet again for the learning disability.

I hear many of you groaning with contempt within. And I agree. It seems some things are impossible to manage and we therefore settle for second best—we compromise, letting ourselves ‘off’ or perhaps we promise ourselves to tackle that problem of personal dysfunction “later.”

I know, I know... I have some of these infernal things that plague me; I hold out hope that I’ll eventually learn and improve and adapt better in these areas of life—some which are very personal. I’m sure you can relate.

The good thing about God, however, is he doesn’t let us off the hook so easily. (You’re probably thinking, ‘Good thing?’) Yes, good thing! Ever patient and full of grace is the nature of God, he gives us a lifetime of opportunity to learn, and to reconcile this propensity we have for learning disabilities—a problem we’ve had since the dawn of time and the Fall. I’m sure he loves us that much he doesn’t want to rob us of the opportunity of eventually conquering these problems.

Life is the learning ground. Even though it might sound like an overly simplistic thing, it doesn’t get much more complicated really. God keeps it pretty simple for us, and yet we still struggle.

In the quote at top, Bruce Wayne’s father nails the concept of resilience with one blow of the hammer. It’s God’s design, I’m sure, that we’re intended to fall in order to find out how not to, so we can then apply that learning the next time, and the time following etc. This is the principle of simple repentance, yet we’ll normally associate that word more with responses to overt poor behaviour. Nonetheless, it’s just as applicable here.

Of course, such is God’s grace he knows we can never overcome everything, and therefore it is also up to us to determine what we need to accept—some level of learning disability will remain with us until the very end.

This acceptance, paradoxically, brings us a lot of peace, but only when it’s melded with the conquering of those things we can overcome.

© S. J. Wickham, 2009.

[1] Andrew Hopkins, Failure to Learn: the BP Texas City Refinery disaster (North Ryde, Sydney: CCH Australia Limited, 2009). A previous article discussing BP’s learning disabilities is available at:

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