There’s no good way to say “ignorant.” No matter how nice you mean to say it (if you can mean to say it nicely), it harbors a feeling of judgment, criticism and superiority. I certainly do not appreciate it when someone else claims my ignorance, and I would not want to rouse that feeling in another person. But what do you do when another person is saying or doing something because they just don’t know better?
Ignorance is lack. Be it knowledge or wisdom, there is no pretext to this absent information being accurate, correct, or right; especially morally. Ignorance just speaks to lack of familiarity or understanding of something.
With this being said, to claim another’s ignorance is akin to pointing fingers. When you have one finger aimed at another, you have three shooting right back at you. Before you go galloping on your high horse, cutting people down with your immeasurable wisdom and experience, consider this:
Injustice of ignorance
It is unfair to expect someone to know or understand something, then punish them because they don’t. You don’t know something until you know it. And even if you know it, you may not understand it, feel it, or live it. To know something is to be inspired by a force of nature or spirit. If these inspirations and experience have not occurred for you as an individual, your spouse, or particularly for your children, you can become that source of inspiration.
Impatience of ignorance
Be patient. Be peaceful. Be mindful of others and how they view the world. Try to understand the motivations and mindset of someone you feel is ignorant. But know ignorance is a two-way street. There is no need to condescend or belittle someone you deem ignorant, or put yourself above them. They could easily do the same to you for the things you believe, how you think, and the way you live. No one appreciates feeling belittled, or pitied. As you guide your family into compassion, remember that education does not require pity. See others not as beneath you or less fortunate than you. See them as simply focusing on a different part of the same road the two of you and your families share.
Arrogance of ignorance
Although an outsider looking in on you may want to change your lifestyle to mirror theirs, you do not have to view others the same way. Really loving your neighbor, your spouse, or your child means you are equals in the eyes of the Divine. You and your family may live as you see fit, but your way is no better than another’s. It is simply the best for you.
If someone has all the access they need to the information that would resolve their ignorance, yet chooses not to use it and become informed, you can accept this as their choice. There is a world of information available; full of inaccuracies and contradictions. Something you believe may be “proven” untrue or irrelevant at any point in time. This does not mean it must be untrue for you. Accept your differences and focus on what works for your life. Not what should work for others based on what you believe to be true. You ignore more than your fair share of so-called “truths.” And you hand “untruths” down to your children. Just as this is your right, so is it the right of others to accept or deny as they please.
Ignorance is a part of life and doesn’t have to be a four-letter word. Ignorance can breed anger and hate, yes. But it can also foster curiosity and wonder. It can lead to learning and amazing experiences. If you think about it, without ignorance, we could never have a first time, or once-in-a-lifetime experience. We could never stand in awe of something. Or be rendered speechless.
As the leader of a spiritual group, one fateful night a slight and soft-spoken woman made sure to inform a harsh-toned gal that she was ignorant of certain “truths” and needed to get herself to where most of the other members of the group were. The response to the effect of “how do you know I’m the one that’s ignorant? How do you know I’m not further along than you are?” struck a chord with me. I realized, up until that point, that I and my followers had been projecting where we felt we were on our journeys on others. Looking at their behaviors, beliefs and process then essentially telling them they were behind us because we’d traverse those milestones already. I no longer see the road this way — as a straight line. Just an infinitely wide circle we’re all carouselling on. And I no longer consider anyone ignorant of anything.
is to be used lightly. It carries weight and can deliver a crushing blow to someone who is just trying to navigate their journey. Just as you and your family are. There is always a reason behind someone’s ignorance, including yours. Becoming angry or condescending toward someone who doesn’t know what you know, or know “better,” or just know what’s “right,” is really saying you have not taken the time to understand where another comes from, and how they got there. Ask questions about what and how someone believes what they do. Why they value what they do. You’ll often find their lives and their families were not necessarily nurturing of the many avenues life can take you. You can be that nurturing and compassionate usher who judges not on knowledge, but if at all, on willingness to experience.