Thursday, March 12, 2015

What I Don't Know

How do you know what you don't know?  Now that's a ridiculous sounding statement, how can you know something and not know it at the same time.  Short answer, you can't unless you are a martial arts master from some of those old movies.  "You knew without knowing, that is the secret!" That is not what I mean.  Think of a blind spot in your driving.  You can't see in your blind spot (I think that's why we call it that!), but you must be aware of where it is.  If you change lanes without looking over your shoulder, you've just followed a recipe for putting some new paint on your car.  Knowing what you don't know means knowing where my knowledge is deficient.

The lack of awareness of my knowledge "blind spots" can lead to much worse than a little fender bender.  The most common occurrence of this phenomenon in my life is with other people.  I am completely aware that I don't know what makes my phone or computer lock up when I most need it.  I also know that my knowledge of the machinations of the stock market is woefully incomplete.  However, with other people I have this curious behavior that seems to "fill in" my blind spots.  I simply assume.  (Yes, I know that old joke too!)  It's easy.  "They are just being mean."  "He's just plain lazy."  "You don't have any idea what I'm going through."  This last one is probably true but we rarely apply it in the other direction.  I always know what you're going through and it's not as bad as what I'm going through.  Just in case it's not clear, that last sentence has some sarcasm to it.

We would never say this out loud but it happens all the time.  It leads to lots (most?) of our hurt feelings and broken relationships.  What to do?  How can we fight this?  The obvious answer is to ask questions and seek to really know but that will take considerable time.  Is there anything to do right away and for the people I only interact with for a limited time?  Happily, I think there is.  Try making a different set of assumptions.  What if you assumed everyone you interact with has it worse than you.  Assume they are a little busier, a little more worn out, and a little more hurt than you are.  I don't think this will cause you to be silent about your own needs but I know it leads me to ask more questions rather than be demanding, be more respectful of others' time, and extend more grace rather than walk away hurt.

Is everyone busier than me?  In more dire straits than me?  Putting in more effort than me?  No, no, and no.  That will become evident as we really know each other.  In that context, however, these disparities will lead to generosity, sacrifice, and love.  Here's the thing.  Jesus said that I must love my neighbor as myself.  The "trick" to this is that I can never aim at equality.  I am so naturally good at looking out for and loving myself that the only way I can love someone else equally to me is to work at putting their needs above my own.  It requires a new set of assumptions.  Ones that don't fulfill that old joke!

P.S.  I read some old posts to make sure I hadn't already written on this.  I ran across a post that said there were some folks in my life who would consider this post written to them.  That is once again the case but, as with the former post, a conversation reminded me of how badly most of my friends and me need a reminder.