Watching Gives Confidence, But Skill Comes From Action

Watching Gives Confidence, But Skill Comes From Action

“Watching experts perform a skill, watching them over and over again, improves people’s confidence but not their ability.” That’s the conclusion from a study by Ed O’Brien and Michael Kardas at the University of Chicago. We watch YouTube videos, gain confidence, and then fail miserably. There’s a lesson there…and a spiritual application as well.

Watching-learning-confidence isn’t new. People have been learning by watching for a long time. In 19th Century England, students learned to dissect corpses by watching surgeons as flutes played in the background. Benjamin Franklin’s father made him watch bricklayers so he would learn a skill. Bob Ross told millions of viewers it was so easy to take a painting knife and “just float right down the mountain…with a tiny bit of blue.”

It all seems so easy! We think we can…because we saw someone do it. So O’Brien & Kardas tried an experiment. 400 volunteers watched videos of things like magicians teaching the tablecloth trick or dancers teaching the moonwalk.

They watched the videos repeatedly until their confidence was high. In the dancing version, participants entered a “competition” where they would win a prize for the best moonwalk. The results were, apparently, laughable. They had high confidence, but failed. They didn’t have the muscle memory or skills of an actual dancer!

It brings to mind the time Jesus’ disciples tried to drive out a demon in Mark 9:17-29. They failed. Even after being with Jesus, and watching Him work, they failed.

And why? Jesus told them that they were missing a skill – significant prayer (and, although not present in some manuscripts, Matthew adds “fasting” 17:21). They were confident after watching Jesus, but they hadn’t practiced enough to know how to handle this difficult situation.

Watching and learning from Jesus is the first step (Acts 1:1). But improvement requires moving from couch to action. As Paul taught Timothy, “do the work of an evangelist” (2 Timothy 4:5).

We may fall flat on our faces. But God’s Word will accomplish its purpose. So…gain confidence by watching, but true growth comes from doing the work. Give it a shot!


By: Greg Wanderman