Thursday, August 1, 2013

Mr. Know-It-All

"Those people who think they know everything are a great annoyance to those of us who do." - Isaac Asimov

I confess: I suffer from know-it-all syndrome.  

Doesn't that sentence absolve me from all blame for my behavior? 
It's not MY fault - it's a malady, a sickness, something beyond my control!  
Saying this might make me feel better about my know-it-allishness.

Just one problem - it's not true! Not the know-it-all part - unfortunately, that is so. 
But a syndrome? Please. It's a choice I made very early in life, and it quickly became 
a habitual defense mechanism.

Now first, let me state clearly: I DO NOT KNOW IT ALL! Never did, never will. 
I am interested in many things and always learning, and I do know how to find stuff out. 
For instance, I've been using the quote at the top of this post for years, but never knew where 
it came from. (Told ya I don't really know it all...) And it only took me about 30 seconds online 
to find out it's attributed to famed author Isaac Asimov.

So how did I become a know-it-all? And more importantly, why? 
And what's wrong with that, anyway?

When I was a child, I was fairly small (shrimpy, even), rather uncoordinated and very near-sighted (20-400 without correction). Oh, and slow of foot. And relatively lazy. As a result, I reeked at most things that were important to young boys, like hunting and fishing and sports. And anything that didn't come easily to me I tried to avoid. (see lazy, above) I endured a lot of teasing and ridicule for my lack of athletic prowess; I was always the last kid picked in gym class. 
(Not a confidence booster!)

The only thing I did well was schoolwork. I was a voracious reader, to the point of being "bookish". The only power I thought I had was brain power. So that's where I put my confidence. I always had to be right. I wanted to be known as the smartest kid, the best, the go-to guy for information. 
This did garner me some positive attention, which only reinforced the behavior. 
In a very short time, I was a know-it-all. And frequently insufferable.

And since I avoided putting real effort into much of anything, I learned to sound as if I knew what I was talking about even when I actually had no clue. Getting the real facts required a fair amount of work back then, maybe going to the library and digging through dusty encyclopedias to unearth obscure information. Who wants to work that hard? 

(Okay, true confession: I did occasionally read encyclopedias for fun.) 

So I often bluffed my way through, confident that others wouldn't go to that much work just to 
fact-check me.  And I really did know answers frequently enough to have some credibility. 
Admit I was wrong? Never!

So what's the point of this discussion? I mean, besides publishing my shortcomings 
for the world to see. Actually, anyone who knows me is not particularly shocked by this revelation. And when I was younger, I didn't see any problem. I was who I was, and I was comfortable with it. As I have matured, my opinion has changed.

The problem is, I was hiding behind my Know-It-All persona. I took pride in displaying my knowledge and apparent wisdom. But underneath all the bluster, I was quite insecure, 
completely unsure of myself. And I was afraid someone would find out who I really was, 
and then they wouldn't like me. So I kept up the phony facade, refining it as the years went by.

And there was another thing: PRIDE. The whole reason for the fake mask was my fear of rejection. So I became not just Mr. Right, but Mr. Always Right. I wanted to impress people with how smart I was, and so became pretty much unteachable. And I had no idea how annoying 
I actually was. Pride kept me from asking for help, even when I really needed it. 
I was the go-to guy! I might be physically weak, but I was mentally sharp! 
I just couldn't allow any apparent weakness to be seen in my chosen armor.

Pride is one of the three major roots of sin, according to God's Word. 
1 John 2:16 lays it out this way: "For all that is in the world—the lust of the flesh, 
the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life—is not of the Father but is of the world.

Lust of the flesh - that's making yourself happy without considering the eventual consequences or how it will affect anyone else, and only caring about self. Lust of the eyes (Greed) is wanting more and more stuff, thinking that things will fill the emptiness inside. And then there's the Pride of life: thinking more of yourself than you should, thinking you're never wrong and should never lose an argument, refusing to ask for help or even receive it when offered, looking out for number one.

Pride is a deadly sin, one we all struggle with in one way or another. 
(Some people are even proud of how humble they are!) 

This is why Jesus said, "whoever desires to become great among you, let him be your servant." (Matthew 20:26) God's Kingdom is upside down from the way many typically behave - striving for position or notoriety, seeking to move up, to be someone, grabbing for power or influence. 

And Jesus demonstrated what He meant by the way He lived. 
"The Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many." (Mark 10:45

And there's this: 
"Those who say they live in God should live their lives as Jesus did.(1 John 2:6
Hiding behind a good Christian mask, pretending to be something you're not, 
seeking to impress others with your knowledge, abilities, talents, appearance, whatever - 
this is not living as Jesus did. And I want to pursue God, to know Him, 
to develop the character He wants me to have.

Now don't misunderstand - one sin isn't worse than another in God's sight. 
We Christians like to categorize sins and make ourselves feel better by comparison. 
"Well, I know I gossip, and I overeat sometimes - but at least I'm not a drunk like that guy, or engaging in risky and immoral behavior like those people." Guess what - that's pride! And Jesus specifically warned against this attitude in the parable of the Pharisee and the tax collector. 
(Luke 18:10-14)

Pride manifests itself in lots of different ways in various people. One way for me is being a know-it-all. But I don't want to be a phony, and I really don't want to be an arrogant blowhard who annoys everyone he meets. I want to live as Jesus did, with mercy and kindness and love and humility. So I have repented, and am actively trying to stop being Mr. Know-It-All.

I'm not saying it's easy to change, or that I have arrived. Old habits die hard, 
and I have nearly half a century of practice at this. But I am seeking to become more like Christ, and He has promised to help me if I will genuinely pursue Him. (see John 14:15-17)

Why now? I have become convinced that the majority of people who call themselves Christian, 
at least in the good ol' USA, don't behave anything like Christ. Oh, sure, they attend church and quote Bible on Facebook, but my mom always said "Actions speak louder than words", and 
their behavior doesn't line up. When I examined myself, I realized that I was often judgmental, cynical, holier-than-thou, and hypocritical. A whole lot like worldly people.

If I really believe that Jesus offers a better life now and in the world to come (and I do - 
otherwise why serve Him?); if I want to see others come to Christ and experience this new life (and I do - if I really cared about others I'd want to share the best news I know); then I need to make sure my actions reflect what He has said. Why should anyone become a Christian when it appears it's not real, because our lives don't look any better?

Here's what I know: Christ is real, He is good, and His promises are true. 
But when I'm phony, no one can see the reality of Jesus in me. 
When I'm insecure and don't really trust God, I'll cling to the old, tired, useless way of coping. 
And Jesus wants to totally set me free, if I'll just let Him. 
Old things pass away - everything becomes new! (2 Corinthians 5:17
I'm not supposed to conform to this world; I am to be transformed by Him. (Romans 12:2)

I am convinced Christians can change our world. 
But first, we have to let Christ change us from the inside out, so we can truly represent the Light. 
I can't change anybody else, but with God's help I can change me.

It's not quick and easy. It's an arduous, sometimes painful, lifelong process.
And the end result is totally worth the cost.

I am not there yet, but I'm on my way. Won't you join me?