By the late Maggie Chandler
I am a recovering know-it-all.
The reason I say “know-it-all” is because of my natural tendency toward blind certainty. In other words, sometimes wrong, but never in doubt.
The reason I say “recovering” is that God is doing a work in me (as He is), and I am seeing a slight bit of improvement. If nothing else, I am now more aware of this dreadful trait and can sometimes stop myself before spouting out my opinion.
The result is that I’m learning to let go of much of the drama in my everyday life. Things are so much easier when I’m not busy trying to make mountains out of molehills. I’m also no longer afraid to say, “I don’t know.” These may be the hardest words to say, right up there with, “I’m sorry.” By embracing the uncertainties in life, it’s possible to relinquish the need to control.
Uncertainty no longer scares me. People who claim to have all the answers are what scare me now. In other words, people who are just like me, except some have not yet entered a recovery program. They have yet to learn that you can be right (and always have the last word) or you can be happy, but you can’t be both.
If I began to confess all the times my “zeal without knowledge” has landed me in hot water, I wouldn’t have enough time or space to do it justice.
As I thought about the biggest know-it-all in the Bible, I decided the top honor could easily be shared by Job’s three “friends” — Eliphaz, Bildad and Zophar. Poor Job asked six times, “Why?” And boy did these three guys ever come armed with super-sized opinions! Regardless of the subject, they clearly felt they had all the answers.
Job heard them out, but he finally threw up his hands and cried, “I can’t take it anymore! Miserable comforters are you all!” I think I would rather be a “wet blanket” or a “crazy quilt” than a “miserable comforter” any day.
My own recovery program began with awareness — realizing that only God has the right to judge. There’s nothing wrong with being convinced about certain beliefs, but there is something wrong with judging, condemning, insulting or persecuting anyone who doesn’t agree. The Apostle Paul called himself the “chief of sinners” when he thought back to the days when he was a religious know-it-all persecuting the early church, only to wake up one day and discover that he knew-it-all-wrong.
When I see this kind of “know-it-all” attitude arise in me, I now realize that it is rooted and grounded in pride, plain and simple. I begin to develop a snobbish air of superiority, I become a poor listener and I don’t let a lack of sufficient knowledge prevent me from taking center stage.
There’s an old saying: “Better to be thought a fool than open your mouth and remove all doubt.” Lord, help me today to be quick to listen and slow to speak — and may the recovery continue! (July 29, 2009 Baptist Trumpet)