The Opposite of Arrogance

September 29, 2014

Do you see a man wise in his own eyes?
There is more hope for a fool than for him.

Proverbs 26:12 NASB

When I graduated from college, I was part of a group of the smartest people in the universe.  If you agreed with me, you were part of that group too.  And if you didn’t, well, then you weren’t.

Interestingly, I’ve been getting smarter every year since then.  But the bar separating the people who are smart from the ones who are not isn’t going up.  My knowledge isn’t moving the bar up at all.  As I become smarter and smarter, the bar goes down.

I’m not gaining on the knowledge in the universe. I’m losing ground. The more I learn, the more I understand the depths of what I don’t know. When I’m really smart, I appreciate the idea that I’ll never really know what I don’t know. I’ll never become smart. And in that Catch 22 I am able to learn.

Arrogance is knowing you know.

The most foolish people know they know.   Then they’re unable and unwilling to learn. Learning means they’re wrong. And they (we) don’t want to be wrong.

The smartest people in the universe are the ones who have an understanding (not a knowledge) of what they do not know.  Only when we begin to comprehend the depths of what we don’t know can we learn. And as we learn and understand the depths of what we don’t know we are able to have an accurate understanding of ourselves, which leads to further comprehending what we don’t know.

What’s a good word for knowing you don’t know? The one that comes to mind for me is humility.  But what would you say?

To me, humility is knowing what you know and, more importantly, knowing what you don’t know and where you’re not strong. Humility is judging yourself well. A person with an accurate understanding of both strengths and weaknesses will understand some of the depths of what they don’t know. And when you begin to understand what you don’t know, then you can start learning. At least that’s been my experience.

Where do you find yourself thinking you have all the answers?  And what does it take for you to embrace what you don’t know?  Share your thoughts.