Thursday, January 5, 2017

What I Learned Since I Knew It All

Are you old enough to remember the Encyclopedia Brittanica? How about the World Book Encyclopedia, or Encyclopedia Americana? Funk & Wagnalls, anyone? Once they were the repositories of knowledge, collections of information that, if nothing else, looked impressive and scholarly.

This classic Brockhaus Encyclopedia, photo courtesy
of Wikipedia, was an early storehouse of knowledge.
Today the only people owning these factual stockpiles call them collector’s items. No one knocks on your door anymore trying to sell you a set of encyclopedia. The reasons are simple: We have Google and other search engines that provide everything we need to know ligerally at our fingertips. And the information’s current. To keep encyclopedias up to date, they produced annual volumes to review what had transpired and was learned over the past 12 months. And even those were outdated before they got off the presses.

Of course, long before encyclopedias were even invented, there was another all-knowing resource. It was – and still is – called the “teenager.” If you’ve raised teenagers, or remember what it was like to be one, you realize young people have a special gift. Or maybe a curse: They know it all – or think they do. I’ve been a know-it-all teen, and have been a parent to teens, so I’ve experienced this complex condition. Maybe it’s instinctive to becoming independent, but they go to sleep one night agreeable and compliant, and the next morning wake up thinking they’ve acquired the wisdom of the universe.

The know-it-all syndrome doesn’t necessarily end when the teen years do, however. I recall numerous times as an adult – and probably many more that I’ve forgotten – when I was quick to make people aware of how much I knew. In retrospect, I’ve discovered I haven’t always known as much as I thought I did.

A little bit of knowledge can be a dangerous thing. In fact, knowledge – even truth – used recklessly turns into a lethal weapon. Because my style for communicating face to face tends to be direct, even off the cuff, there have been many occasions when I came to regret not being more tactful.

Someone might say, “The truth hurts,” but it doesn’t have to; it’s always better when the truth (at least as we understand it) is conveyed in a context of sensitivity and compassion, whenever possible. That’s why I often ponder some of the principles the Bible teaches about our eagerness to “tell the truth.” For instance, Ephesians 4:15 admonishes,Instead, speaking the truth in love, we will grow to become in every respect the mature body of him who is the head, that is, Christ.”

If that doesn’t seem clear enough, the ancient book of Proverbs offers this warning for those of us prone to be know-it-alls: “The wise don’t make a show of their knowledge, but fools broadcast their foolishness” (Proverbs 12:23).

The writer of Proverbs apparently was well-acquainted with the perils of verbose know-it-alls, because he offered more insights: “Reckless words pierce like a sword, but the tongue of the wise brings healing” (Proverbs 12:18). “He who guards his lips guards his life, but he who speaks rashly will come to ruin” (Proverbs 13:3).

And there’s my all-time favorite, sound advice for reining in someone like me who’s always ready to tell others what I know – even when they haven’t asked my opinion: “When there are many words, transgression is unavoidable, but he who restrains his lips is wise” (Proverbs 10:19)

So if you, or someone you know, has a teenager stealthily hiding within, itching to demonstrate how he or she is like a walking, talking encyclopedia, these passages might be good ones to use as reference.

No comments: