“Those who think they know it all have no way of finding out they don’t.” – Leo Buscaglia
The insatiable thirst for knowledge may very well be one of the most notable attributes setting the human species apart from any other in the animal kingdom. Although it may be difficult to prove in non-humans, it is perpetually evident by the copious amounts of ways to gain knowledge. Whether it is in a classroom, from a book, online browsing, or basic curiosity, we are constantly drinking from the fountain of knowledge which seemingly has no end.
Scholarships are offered to those exceeding in this endeavor and the ones with a propensity to retain and recall information quickly are marveled and held in high esteem. Many take pride in their ability to recollect facts and recount remarkably trivial information.
The one characteristic which is unfortunately not a side effect from increasing knowledge is the ability to be discrete. It doesn’t take much effort to spot those who are unencumbered to “share” their knowledge with you and even let you know when your understanding is erroneous; eagerly anticipating the first opportunity to remedy your misconception.
If only these know-it-alls were aware that this behavior is more often interpreted as obnoxious rather than helpful. These actions are rarely done to benefit anyone other than to promote the brilliance of the perceived omnipotent.
Truthfully, this is a concern running through my mind each time I compose these articles. It’s the classic conundrum of wanting to sound authoritative without being conceited or condescending. Am I encroaching on the arena of arrogance even as I fight to expose its cruel consequences? How much do I struggle for what I believe in without becoming a victim of my own teachings? The subjects are highly subjective; my hope is the writing is highly objective.
Knowledge obtained in virtuous ways is intended to be shared for the benefit of humankind; not to be traded on the exchange of corruption, greed, or indignity. Researching thoughts from educated people typically leaves one understanding that the more one knows, the more one realizes there is so much more to learn.
The opening quote points to this very idea. I’ve often made a similar claim which states: The problem with always needing to be right is that you won’t know when you’re wrong. Knowledge frequently sheds light on what’s mistaken about our beliefs and opinions. It can expose fundamentally incorrect values or viewpoints. Initially, this awareness may feel embarrassing, but changing and accepting this new knowledge should now become a moment of growth. Rather than be humiliated, we ought to embrace this new knowledge.
As with countless other philosophical topics, being “right” is always a complex issue. Certain facts will always be a given, such as 2 + 2 will indisputably equal 4. However, there are certain subjects which at their slightest suggestion, bring complete strangers to fisticuffs at a moment’s notice.
In regard to these heated and controversial subjects, what is the conclusive factor on who is right? And, it’s not like this question hasn’t been asked before so what makes my view any more credible than the next one?
The approach I’ve learned is to ask questions and frame them in a way which demonstrates an eagerness to get to the truth. For instance, beginning the question with, “which of you ignorant people out there believe….(fill in your controversial subject)” This is no endeavor for truth but rather a brazen attempt at making someone feel poorly about what or how they believe.
This style of questioning is frequently used by those in a position of power; many who are unfortunately highly practiced in this art of duplicity. Employing this kind of rhetoric is both a sham and shameful. Undoubtedly deceit was the key to their rise and sharpening this devious skill is what aided their ascent to treachery.
Shame is a profoundly ominous tool and those who’ve been its worst victim learn to manipulate it so they won’t have to look inside themselves and become aware of how awful they actually feel about themselves. Their denial to reflect upon their own lack of virtue is outweighed by the shame in their own lives; leading them to believe they are owed much more than others. They will not believe for one moment they are wrong nor entertain any idea of being remotely incorrect.
Being in this state of delusion is what I call “Benevolent Ignorance.” When the notion that what you believe is without debate and indisputable. Anyone who would consider anything otherwise is also worth less than the air they breathe. Those are the kinds of people whom I will never hesitate to vex.
Here’s a little test which may help you reveal if you have any benevolent ignorant tendencies. If your only answer to why a question is correct is “because,” you may want to reconsider your belief. Additionally, if you refuse to listen to an alternative view to your “because,” this is even a greater cause for concern.
Beliefs don’t always require an answer since sometimes it takes faith to move forward. However, it borders on arrogance when you’ll only accept “because” for an answer and refuse to listen to other points of view.
Benevolent ignorance is often exploited by those in positions of power. Its use is shrouded with threats and horrific consequences. It is shame at its highest level. Nothing wields more power than:
A. Making others feel terrible about how they believe.
B. Usurping the ability of others to think for themselves.
What gives these despots even more power is when it’s coupled in groupthink. Thankfully, there is a defense; which is not to concede to demands. However, even if you have been guilty of this concession, I believe most still have the power to recapture their own reasoning.
This week try to become aware of any unseen need to be right or benevolent ignorance. Awareness is the first step toward setting it straight. Next week, we’ll talk about some of the remedies and replacing it with self-confidence.