Like most children, at a young age, I was convinced my parents knew everything. Even in high school, I could ask my dad questions about my algebra homework and his eyebrows would pinch together momentarily and he would quickly help me understand a difficult concept. Growing up, I thought that by the time I turned twenty-five, I would know everything that my parents did…and then some. I turn twenty-five next month – and that couldn’t be farther from the truth. I’ve just started to understand that it’s okay to not know everything.
This 24-year-old’s epiphany happened after my younger sister went to college. Wanting to know what she was studying, I asked her what she had been learning. Although I thought that I knew a lot about theology (her major), I was dead wrong. Not only did I get an earful, but my naivety was a very disconcerting! Her words and texts were as foreign to me as my statements about science and “glycobiology” were to her. How could my little sister know so much about a subject and I so little?
This experience was repeated the next few times we visited, but slowly my frustration with my ignorance of Immanuel Kant and David Walker (to name a few of the authors of whom she spoke) began to subside. WHAT she had to say began to fascinate me. These feelings were affirmed while I was helping my mother study for a social work licensing exam: she also knew so many things that I didn’t know. Engaging in these conversations had become so rewarding. But, I still had to get past the thought that by 25 I would know just about everything.
Obviously, within the next month, I will not become an expert in theology or social work. More significantly, though, I’ve realized what our different interests and expertise do – they bring us together in conversation. Reflecting on this let me realize that my relationships with others are strengthened not only how we are alike, but more importantly, how we are different.
I can’t begin to think about WHAT I believe without thinking about my conversations with other people and the events that have shaped my set of beliefs. My spiritual and intellectual “truths” are constantly molded by my interaction with even strangers. I believe that it’s important that I don’t know everything – it has given me more opportunities to get to get to know people than omniscience would ever have given me.
So, the next time I don’t know something, I will enter into learning and conversation with an open mind – I hope to be surprised at how interesting a new subject can be (or how quickly I can form or strengthen a relationship by conversation). I believe in conversation and the opportunities it brings. More importantly, I believe that it’s okay to say “I don’t know”.
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