“Dude, sucking at something is the first step towards being sorta good at something.”Jake The Dog
My father is one of the smartest people I know, yet he can’t operate anything involving a mouse and keyboard. He can talk extensively about how the eye works and different ocular diseases and he can prattle on about interesting things he learned in his chemistry courses when was in college. Give him a smartphone, though, and he’s completely lost. (In his defense, he’s getting better!)
I think the fear of being labeled as ignorant has irrecoverably damaged our curiosity and willingness to learn.
Healthy Versus Unhealthy
In my mind, there are three forms of ignorance. One that should be criticized, one that would be understandable to chastise but unproductive, and one that should not be admonished. The order presented has no significance.
1. The first form of ignorance involves those who do know something is the case, but refuse to accept it. AKA, Willful ignorance. It’s nearly oxymoronic. You’ll really see this happen when the truth is inconvenient and doesn’t further a personal cause. This is denial incarnate. This isn’t healthy.
2. The second form of ignorance is something some should know by now, but simply didn’t. It’s unfortunate that their lives lead them up to this point and now their lack of knowledge about something has upset someone or caused some major error. “I didn’t know I was supposed to separate whites and colors, my mother always did my laundry.” sigh… It’s totally understandable to be frustrated. Remember, though, we all have blind spots. Treat these individuals with care and show them the right way without seriously mocking them. *poking fun is all well and good if It’s taken in good faith*
This could be either healthy or unhealthy, but most likely just an unfortunate circumstance.
3. The third form of ignorance is justifiably ignorant. I know nothing about deep sea biology beyond the fact that angler fishes are cool. It would be fair to call me ignorant on this subject, but as mentioned, the word has come to be used as an insult. It’s fair to say I know nothing of the subject. It’s not fair to say I’m stupid.
A Matter Of Perspective And Culture
When you consider that we’re all different, in terms of our nature and our nurture, it’s obvious that some things will not be obvious to some people. Someone who grows up on a farm is going to have a way different set of self-evident facts than someone who grows up in the inner cities. What’s obvious for you could be something new to someone else. Yes, this can be frustrating, but no, it doesn’t mean someone is stupid.
The Fear Of Appearing Stupid
I have this fear and there’s no question about it. It sucks. If there’s a situation where I need to step up in a situation where I don’t know what I’ll be doing, my performance anxiety will skyrocket. Thoughts of being considered an idiot by others overwhelm me. No one wants to be the fool genuinely. To be the court jester is fine by choice; to be made one is not.
I try to combat this by remembering that we’re all human and that we all make mistakes. That it’s inevitable. I’ll look like an idiot at some point sometime soon. Maybe even today. Maybe even right now in this post. The point is that it’s a survivable event and, while it might suck in the moment, the takeaway should be to see it as a chance to improve more-so than a spotlight of shame. If you take your failures in stride and admit up to your mistakes, show people you realize that you screwed up, then they’re much more likely to be sympathetic and understanding.
“Real knowledge is to know the extent of one’s ignorance”Confucius
Ignorance And Learning
This is the best part of ignorance. The potential for growth is greatest when you’re just starting out learning anything. Mistakes will definitely be made, but these are blessings in disguise. These highlight areas for improvements and give you insights into concepts that are difficult for you to intuit. This information is gold, as it shows you more about who you are as a person. For example, I know from consistent attempts that things involving numbers don’t come naturally to me. This doesn’t mean I can’t be a mathematician, It just means that now I know that I should work twice as hard.
Being Kind To Those Who Know Less
In my field, computer help desk, there’s going to be people like my father who simply know nothing about computers. I’m never rude to these individuals because I know they probably know a lot of things that I don’t know. I treat them with the same respect that I’d like to be treated if they had to talk me through something that they feel is muscle-memory knowledge.
Knowledge is a gift and we should cherish our ability to give it any chance we get. If we consider that we’re all on a team, as we should, then when we share knowledge with others then we’re helping everyone. Not all ignorance is stupidity and even stupidity is not something deserving of hatred.
What do you think? Do you enjoy teaching others? Can you think of cases where someone has been surprisingly ignorant?
♫ Remember~ Mediocrity~is not a mortal sin~ ♪
Brotherhood Of Man – How To Succeed In Business Without Really Trying