I believe there’s a difference in understanding we should have a desire to know important things, and seeing that it’s not important to know everything. So if you’ve read my other post, Since When Was It Shameful To Say, “I Don’t Know”?, then you’ll know in that one I’m asking, “How do we create a culture that has a hunger to know more, yet the freedom to say when we don’t know something.”
Either before or after you read this one, go read that one and lend your thoughts. For here though, I present my theory on how this ideology has come about. See if you think I’m on to something here.
How We Got Here
See, they told you how smart you were while growing up. You liked that. Then you made some good grades and got in some “advanced classes.” Then you joined the quiz bowl team cause, after all, they needed a champ like you. Then you got a rep and you started defining yourself by it – not exactly a bad thing to be known as that “smart girl.”
Or maybe you were that boy that got so used to hearing how “if you just applied yourself you’d probably be president next year, own Venus, and have people begging you to speak when you weren’t busy solving the world’s disease of Lessthan Agrades” that you actually believed it.
So in secret ways you started reading the dictionary to go to sleep at night and memorizing all the best Google search methods to quickly find what you’d need to know incase somebody caught you not knowing something. Yet then we went to college and found out there were other smart people… lots of them.
So then you were depressed. You accidentally had these “smart friends” except this time they weren’t acting. They, really were kinda smart! You stressed all the more because you couldn’t let anyone know you were failing that class with a C! Failing life! Your definition of yourself was falling apart.
So you decided to change your priorities. You found Jesus who said you were valuable, and you liked that! You became friends with Christians because they were, after all, just those dumb people that weren’t intellectual and needed crutches to hold their feeble insufficient minds up. Oh, and they had Jesus who kept telling them they were still valuable. You liked that!
But, just as you were starting to advance in all things spiritual, you met this guy who you just know has a Bible chip in his brain and you coulda sworn was memorizing the Koran now since he’s so spiritually far ahead of you in the Bible. Then… you were a nobody again! Insufficient. Insignificant. Unimpressive.
Playing Smart Is A Dumb Thing That We’ve Learned
In all seriousness though, sense when was it so shameful to not know everything? Since when were you dumb for not knowing Newton’s Laws? When did the competition start to see who can quote the most verses? Since when did you fail life for not knowing who you’re governor is?
Let’s think of children here. When you ask a child a question he/she doesn’t know the answer to, there’s a very familiar “shrug and grin” and most are quick to say, “I don’t knoooow!” and forget shortly after that you ever asked them anything. Then, we begin to grow up and realize there is true value in knowledge… but we seek it for the wrong reasons.
Part of this is good and I believe represents our creator – the author of all knowledge. Yet since the fall in the garden, the rebellion of man from God, we have an unrighteous and prideful motivation for knowing things that we must guard against. A desire to be “superior” to others.
I believe this is why we gradually learn to either completely pride ourselves in our intellect and knowledge, or we rebel against it and derive our worth from being the “one who doesn’t care” – still a form of pride in that we’re so intellectual we’re beyond all that.” So either way, the point is that we get caught up in this. Neither way is healthy, and both are validating ourselves at the expense of relationships.
In this information age, with infinite knowledge at our fingertips while we google in our pockets so people think we’re smart, it’s more important than ever to know what you’re talking about it when you’re talking, but that means it’s also just as important to be honest and humble about not knowing something.
So while our capacity to do this is natural, no doubt, I believe as leaders, parents, and friends we must be mindful of the subtle ways we teach others to do this. Because, ultimately, we create the expectations for this in our families and communities, and this is as contagious as it is silly.
I’d recommend, again, that you read the other article in which I ask how we deal with this and create a culture that is unashamed to admit they don’t know something.
While you’re here though, I’d ask you this: Have you dealt with this feeling that you need to know everything? Have you dealt with others that have this complex? What do you think causes this in us?