One thing that really amazes me is how people function on what they think they know more so than on what they actually know. A lot of times; dare I say more than 90% of the time we learn new words by hearing them around us. We’ll hear a new word on television, on the radio, overhearing someone else’s conversation; or in direct conversation, and we may not know the literal definition of the word, but we get a feel for the word based on the context of the conversation.
If the word resonates with us, we will add it into our vocabulary and we will go on using it, and often without ever looking up the word. Now, a good portion of the time people get away with this, but then there are those occasional times when a person throws a word out there that they have absolutely no business using. This is a prime example of ignorance.
As a matter of fact, the word “ignorance” in and of itself is an even better example of what I am saying. One sure fire way to insult someone is to call him or her “ignorant.” However, if the context in which the word is being used is factual; it’s not an insult, it’s a simple fact. Contrary to popular belief, “ignorance” does not mean an absence of intelligence. It means an absence of knowledge. The difference may be subtle, but then to better solidify the difference we’ll have to examine the difference between intelligence and knowledge.
According to the Merriam-Webster Dictionary, intelligence means, “the ability to learn or understand or to deal with new or trying situations; also, the skilled use of reason.” The word knowledge means “the fact or condition of knowing something with familiarity gained through experience or association.” Therefore to be ignorant simply means not knowing about something … NOT – not knowing anything.
The fact of the matter is that there are a great many things of which people are ignorant, but because they misunderstand the true meaning of the word, you will not likely come across someone who’s readily willing to acknowledge their ignorance. However, this is yet another reason why so many people fail to reach new levels of success. If you do not admit or acknowledge that a problem exists, how can you go about solving or correcting it?
Something I always say is that when people make mistakes and suffer self-caused setbacks, it’s basically because either they made a mistake of ignorance or they made a mistake of arrogance. When you make a mistake of ignorance, you simply didn’t know any better. However, a mistake of arrogance occurs when you actually do know better than to follow a particular course of action, but act anyway. This is the cause of most people’s failures in life. Just ask any convict who has accepted accountability for his or her present condition behind bars.
There is a Chinese proverb that says, “When the student is ready, the teacher will appear.” The value of ignorance is in seeing it for what it is … a lack of knowledge. Once you find yourself lacking in knowledge, you can go about filling that void and improving your life.
There is absolutely nothing wrong with acknowledging your ignorance. In fact, the acknowledgement of one’s ignorance is the dawn of one’s intelligence.
© 2012, Harold S. Reed, Jr.. All rights reserved.