Animal trainer, John Fitzherbert, believed that you needed to train a puppy when it was young “for it is hard to make an old dog find a new scent.” He wrote that in 1523, and today we’ve edited it to “You can’t teach an old dog new tricks.” It’s a common expression, but is it true?
According to the TV show Mythbusters, it is not. The hosts of the show found some stubborn 7-year-old canines that were not well trained. After four days of working with them, the dogs were able to heel, sit, lie down, and shake a paw. So according to Mythbusters, you can teach old dogs new tricks.
While our bodies continue to grow older and sometimes decay, our capacity to learn new things doesn’t diminish as we age. It gets harder, and sometimes it is more work, but we all have the capacity to grow in new areas. We all have a choice between having a fixed mindset or a growth mindset. We should never give up and say, “I can’t change, that’s just the way I am.”
As Christians, we should expect to continue growing in our life in Christ. Peter writes, “But grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.” (2 Peter 3:18) We haven’t arrived and we aren’t perfect. Far too often, we seem to take the approach of ‘good enough.’ We stop growing and we stop trying.
There are at least three areas where we can begin to grow again:
- Grow in character – Pick a fruit of the spirit (Galatians 5:22-23) and focus every day for a month on growing in that area. For example, work on being more patient – with yourself and with others.
- Grow in knowledge – Study a theological topic that you would like to know more about. Read a commentary or listen to a podcast that gives you more insight into this topic and the supporting Biblical passages.
- Grow in service – Help out in your church or the community in some ministry that you haven’t worked in before. Join a team that serves the needs of others and stretch yourself with the experience.
It’s never too late to learn and grow. Make spiritual growth an intentional part of your year ahead.