People tend to dislike know-it-alls. It’s bad enough to be around people who are extremely intelligent and knowledgable and arrogantly let you know that all the time—it’s even worse to be around someone who acts like they are extremely knowledgable when in reality they are clueless. Being around people like this is one of my pet peeves.
Four brief stories on this topic:
The first story is youth ministry-related. Going back to my summer interning days, I have now been in youth ministry for over 10 years now (yikes!). In that time I have learned a lot, but I still have a lot left to learn. One time a couple of years ago, I was chatting with a college youth ministry student online, and he asked me to describe how I felt about my job. I remember I was dealing with some frustrating issues at the time, and so I told him that while youth ministry was very rewarding, it was also difficult and challenging at times to watch teens who you had poured yourself into make poor decisions which could potentially derail their entire lives.
This particular youth ministry student (who I think was a freshman at the time), proceeded to lecture me, basically saying that I should just love my teens rather than being disappointed by their poor decisions (as if these two things were mutually exclusive) and suggesting that I just wasn’t quite committed enough.
It was an annoying conversation, but one which gained a lot of comic value when I learned later on that this youth ministry student ended up changing his major…
The second story centers on an interaction between two guys I knew well in college. One guy was complaining to the other about his classes—how boring they were and how he struggled to make himself sit through class and listen to his teachers.
“What’s so special about them [his teachers] that I should have to listen to and respect what they say?” he asked.
The second guy couldn’t believe his ears. “Are you kidding me? Your teachers deserve your respect because they went to school for years and years and studied for hours and hours to accumulate the knowledge they are sharing with you in class! Who are you to think you can’t learn from them?”
As you can probably tell from the interaction, the first guy was pretty full of himself, while the second guy was one of the humblest guys I’ve ever known. As it turned out, the first guy struggled through college, bounced around from job to job, and honestly, I have no idea what he’s doing now. Meanwhile the second guy went on to earn his Ph.D. and is now a college professor.
The third story comes from Monday night, when I had the privilege of hearing Jimmy Allen speak at a gospel meeting. If you are unfamiliar with Jimmy Allen, he is a long-time preacher, teacher and Bible scholar whose life has greatly influenced untold thousands of people. He’s now in his eighties, and on Monday night, he discussed how he needed to study the Bible more because there were some topics he just didn’t understand.
And the fourth story comes from yesterday afternoon. I am in Bethesda, Maryland this week at the National Institutes of Health for consultations and evaluations for my daughter Kinsley, who has a rare form of congenital muscular dystrophy. Yesterday we got to meet with a world-class pediatric neurologist and neurological researcher who is so respected that he was repeatedly referred to as a “rock star” by other doctors we met with. He was able to give us some new information and insight that no one else has had, but he was also very upfront about telling us the things he did not know and could not predict.
Pulling all of these random stories together, here are the summary points of this post:
(1) Know-it-alls drive me crazy (see stories 1 and 2), and because of that, I try hard not to be one myself.
(2) A big part of not being a know-it-all is being upfront about the things you don’t know (3, 4).
(3) Even in those areas where you do know a lot, there’s always more to learn (3).
(4) Humble people tend to be impressive, and impressive people tend to be humble. I think the two are inherently related (2, 3, and 4).