I've come to the realization that many people are simply guessing their way through life.
I have no more answers than anyone else. And I have exactly as much wisdom in the present as I have failures and blunders in my past.
I do, however seem to manage my own incompetence differently.
When asked a question:
- When I know the answer, I share it.
- When I don't know the answer, I say "I don't know".
- When I'm not sure, I say "I'm not sure".
Sometimes I know the answer but find myself in the presence of someone who is both incompetent and vocal. How loud someone is seems to correlate more strongly with insecurity than either wisdom or agency.
Anyone attempting to overcome ignorance with volume is unlikely to offer reasonable consideration to other ideas. They choose to be blind to reason.
The only reasonable course of action in situations like this seems to be to allow the community to reconcile the irrationality through either suffering or non-compliance. Though efforts may not bear fruit, as long as nobody complains, there is no problem or reason to reconsider.
In cultures like this the incentive to belong outweighs the incentive to contribute agency to the group. In this context, there is no greater service than insulating others from accountability for their behavior.
In cultures like this, knowledge is a burden to be either dodged or hidden. While tokens of knowledge receive praise that is as vigorous and compelling as it is insincere, disloyalty is punished absolutely and publicly.
In cultures like this, to know things is to feel dirty about oneself, to be demeaned and condemned in public. Your days are numbered if you insist on being more loyal to the consequences of your actions than to others' belief in an imaginary duty to blindly absolve them for the consequences of their actions.
They will call it empathy. They will call it wisdom.
It is not empathy and it is not wise. It is ruinous enabling. But I digress ...
Other times I'm asked to guess. I don't like guessing. I prefer to say "I don't know."
In these moments I give myself grace and permission to feel uncomfortable. I empathize with the situation.
Asking someone to guess is like offering an insincere apology.
- An insincere apology is when a person asks another person whom they've injured for permission to escape the inconvenience of accountability for their behavior and an opportunity to injure them again.
- A sincere apology is when a person demonstrates gratitude to another person whom they've injured by acknowledging the injury they caused, asking permission to be accountable for their behavior, offering to repair the injury (if possible), pledging to not do it again, and asking for either acknowledgement and acceptance of their limitations, or an opportunity to do better starting now.
- Asking someone to guess is when a person who doesn't know asks another person who may or may not know for permission to escape the inconvenience of accountability for their ignorance and the opportunity to hold someone else accountable for their ignorance instead.
- Accepting an "I don't know" is seeing someone as a person, not just a vending machine for excuses. It is appreciating someone's accountability for their words as a sign that they are likely also accountable for their actions. It is showing gratitude for the opportunity to find the truth where it lies, not just wherever you got tired of looking for it.
People ask others to guess when the weight of their ignorance is so unbearable that they become desperate for someone else to take accountability for their ignorance.
They would rather loudly proclaim false information and attribute it to you, likely not considering whether or not you were either qualified or confident to begin with. This offers the potential for a double dose of the attention they crave.
Fortified (poorly) by your guess, they have carte blanche to be as loud and misinform with abandon knowing that if ever called to be accountable for the veracity or consequences of their claims, they can simply attribute the misinformation to you.
Then they can join those who would otherwise hold them accountable, in turning against you.
But I digress ...
So, when asked to guess, I decline. And when drowning in misinformation, I am patient.
The truth is never not true. Given enough time, once all misinformed attempts have failed, and the most foolish among us have long since departed for more forgiving opportunities, the only remaining option will be to heed the call of truth, and do what's been staring us in the face all along.
To quote Marianne Williamson from "A Return to Love: Reflections on the Principles of 'A Course in Miracles'":
Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, 'Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous?' Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God. Your playing small does not serve the world. There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won't feel insecure around you. We are all meant to shine, as children do. We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us. It's not just in some of us; it's in everyone. And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.
I empathize with the fear and I do not judge others for not knowing everything. I don't know everything. Nobody does.
I appreciate the inconvenience of accountability. I remind myself often, and would encourage you to consider, that agency is the dividend paid on the investment of accountability. It is the one true antidote to fear.