Imagine you were given this teaching assignment: teach people with a snake phobia (Ophidiophobia) that many snakes are safe. But, the learning objective is that as a result of your teaching, they would be able to calmly rest a large snake on their shoulders, allowing it to kiss their cheek if it desires. How would you teach this lesson?

This was precisely Dr. Albert Bandura’s goal. He ran an ad in the Palo Alto news asking people who had a paralyzing fear of snakes to descend into the basement of the psychology department to receive their healing. What did they find there? A speech? Slick 4-color brochures? A presentation?

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Mind you, these were people with serious ophidiophobia. Their fears were as debilitating as they were unreasonable. “Most had horrible nightmares, many were veritable shut-ins, and since their irrational fear extended to even harmless garter snakes, the possible subjects suffered endless ridicule and indignity.”

How do you teach people like that to handle snakes? What if we upped the ante? What if we said you had to get it done in three hours? What would you do?

Bandura asked snake-phobics to watch people handle snakes. (Many of these people couldn’t even be in the same room as the snake handlers did their thing.) They watched and breathed. Slowly, their heart started pounding a little slower. Their hands got a little less sweaty and their mouth a little less dry. They took a step closer. They paused. They breathed. They took another step. By the time they stepped into the same room as the snakes, some had to wear hockey gear and similar protection. They kept watching the example of the snake handler. They kept getting a little closer. Eventually they could touch the cage where the snake was held. Eventually they could put their hand in the cage. Eventually they could hold the snake. It only took three hours. Three hours. It started with an example.

Josh Hunt. Teach Like Jesus.