I am not ashamed to confess that I am ignorant of what I do not know. – Cicero
What does that mean?
I’m sure you’ve heard it before. Someone brings up an interesting fact, and someone else is quick to say “I knew that!” How often do you believe them?
Better yet, how often have you been that person? Be honest, no one is watching, no one will know. There isn’t anything wrong with it, but it is hard to learn when you’re busy lying to yourself.
Shame, or fear of being shamed, is the reason many lie about what they know and what they don’t know. It isn’t always easy to admit to not knowing, but it is hard for you to ask for help if you claim to know. It’s hard for others to help you if you already know it.
However, if you can get past your fear and the potential of ridicule, you can actually learn. While there will be some who act like jerks, there will also be those willing to help, if you can ask. And that, I believe, was Cicero’s point.
Why is admitting ignorance important?
This quote is another quiet slap in the face of pride. Those least likely to admit they are ignorant are likely to be the most prideful of people. If they could get away from their less-than-great kind of pride, and admit their ignorance, they might have even more reason for the good kind of pride.
If you think of it this way, it might make more sense: if you already know everything, what is there to learn? How would such a person ever get better, ever improve, ever learn? True, there are very few people who even act that way regarding everything, but plenty of people act that way in some aspect of their lives.
If we can admit our ignorance, even if just to ourselves, we can begin to learn. After all, if we know it already, what reason is there to find out more, right? Once you admit that you don’t know, you can begin to learn and with that, become more knowledgable and perhaps even a little wiser.
There are also stubborn people who don’t want to change. They know it all, and don’t want to hear about the latest way of doing things. That might not matter in a mechanic working on an old car or a plumber fixing your old pipes, but is that the proper path for a doctor?
Where can I apply this in my life?
Imagine going through life not knowing where “the boonies” or “boondocks” were. It probably isn’t high on your list of things to track down and figure out. I use it as an example because someone in my High School didn’t, and found out in a Public Speaking class.
We had to prepare a 30 second weather forecast for any part of the world, and then deliver it in front of the class. The guy in question rattled off the temperature for each of several towns in the area (it was winter) and then gave a summertime temperature for those living ‘out in the boonies.’
He thought it was a specific place, perhaps a Pacific Island or other tropical paradise. In reality (at least in our area) it meant someplace a ways away from civilization, but not a foreign country or a tropical island. He took it in stride, and thanked people for filling him in.
I, personally, would have been mortified. At that time in my life I was a bit prideful of my store of knowledge, and to have been corrected publicly would have been devistating. However, the guy in question understood that he didn’t know, and was grateful for the information. How would you have reacted?
Where in your life do you have a tendency to cover up what you don’t know? WHere in your life are you a little prideful of what you do or do not know? If you are honest with yourself, you have found a place or two where you could apply this quote, even if only to yourself.
Obviously it would be best to be completely honest, but some people consider their position to require them to seem super-human in their knowledge. So be it. But at least admit to yourself that you don’t know everything, and even if you did, someone will find something new, and you wouldn’t know about that, would you?
If we can be honest about what we do or do not know, and welcome the opportunity to learn new things, or new aspects to things we already know, we could gain a great deal of knowledge. To hide our ignorance can only lead to missed opportunities, embarrassment, or even tragedy.
What can you do to gain the knowledge or skills you are now admitting that you do not have and need or desire to have? Take a moment and consider what the first step might be. Can you find it on line? Will you need a mentor or a coach? Would taking a class or reading a book be more appropriate?
None of us know everything, and the size of ‘everything’ keeps increasing. You can acknowledge the limits of your knowledge and address them, or you can pretend you know, and hope no one ever figures out that you do not. I know which path I prefer. How about you?
From: Twitter, @philoquotes
confirmed at : http://en.wikiquote.org/wiki/Ignorance 3rd entry in Hoyt’s New Cyclopedia Of Practical Quotations (starts about halfway down the page)
Photo by Christopher John SSF