PhD Reflection: Surround Yourself with Better

I am experiencing a deep sense of satisfaction and fulfillment knowing that the people around me are going to make me better over the next few years.

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I am supposed to be working on my PhD thesis. However, I just finished a meeting with my doctoral supervisor and wanted to jot a thought or two.

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In the School of Divinity at the University of Edinburgh, it doesn’t take long to realize that you are just one of many. I had to quickly face the fact that I am not one of the smartest people here (understatement!). You don’t come to a place like this to rule the roost. But I find that there is great peace and joy in confessing this truth. I am here to learn. I am here to grow. I am here to get better. I am here to make connections. I am here to prepare for what God has planned. Besides, being the best is not what this is about. Rather, I want to maximize the abilities that God has given me. This is about faithfulness and preparation.

Regarding intelligence, you may think that I am referring to various professors and lecturers. I am, but my comments are not restricted to that group. I have met several PhD candidates that are several steps ahead of me from a theological perspective. Because my past education is in psychology and philosophy, I have some catching up to do. On the other hand, all of our projects are different, so there is nothing wrong with having different areas of expertise.

Today my supervisor sat with me and discussed my work for over an hour. It always amazes me when he takes this much time to discuss my research. The dialogue is always challenging, stimulating, and enjoyable. It is also humbling. I told my wife the other day, “If I studied the next ten years, I don’t think that I would know as much as this guy.” He is that intelligent and articulate. But this brings me to the main point of this blog: I am experiencing a deep sense of satisfaction and fulfillment knowing that the people around me are going to make me better over the next few years. To get better (no matter whether you are speaking of a skill, virtue, intimacy with God, etc.), you need people around you that are better than you in that specific area. Now, I could feel insecure and threatened. If I let insecurity rule, it would steal the opportunity to glean from those around me. And notice I said, “If I let insecurity rule…” I chose this wording on purpose. When you step out of your comfort zone, of course you will experience insecurity at times. But who cares. It is not the end of the world. The question is not, “Will I experience insecurity?” but rather, “Will I let it take control of me or will I set it aside and move forward?”

The bottom line is this:

Better people make you better. 

You can apply this to motherhood, fatherhood, pastoring, teaching, studying, playing a sport, learning a language, starting a church, cooking a new recipe, repairing a car, getting better at your job, etc. You fill in the blank. So you can hold on to your pride if you want. Or, you can put a little humility in your pocket and glean and grow from other people’s strengths.