There is no shame in Ignorance

Unless it is purposeful.

Had a lovely lunch with friends today. The children adored the fresh audience for their exploits and collected trivia.

“Caterpillars have sixteen legs,” 4-year-old Elisha declared with conviction.

An adult looked to me and I nodded. “Six to be adult legs and ten more for creeping along,” I affirmed.  Adding quickly, “The only reason I know is that we just read all about it on Friday.”

The story prompted the memory of an exchange that would happen between me and my siblings when we were kids.

Kid X: FACT!

Kid Y: You only know that because you read it in a book.

And I remember shame and accusation being in the rebuttal (I imagine being on both the giving and receiving end of the sting). but looking at it today we adults laughed at the idea we could inherently know anything. Especially about caterpillars.

As a child I would have been ashamed for not going out and counting for myself. And then needed to find multiple examples before I’d be sure I could trust what I’d observed.


A friend I went to high school with can only hear with one ear.  A surgery cut the critical nerve and she has no way to hear on the right side.

One day she was looking for her cell phone and had to call it four times before she realized it was in the right-hand pocket of her jeans.

“I felt so silly,” she told me. “I could hear it and I kept looking and looking…”

“There’s no reason to feel silly,” I said, feeling fierce and defensive of her. “There is no reason to recognize direction without two reference points!”

And I have no idea why I made this jump, but I instantly thought of emotional health (okay, the idea might be simply because the topic is near the top of my mind).

There are a spectrum of issues that people can deal with: bitterness, depression, fear, anger.  There are predictable causes, and nearly as predicable results and even “cures.”

My observant, analytical mind looks at the slice of issues I face, and questions why I haven’t already reached perfection.  I mean, gotten over these unattractive elements in myself that I find embarrassing. But probably that means perfection.

I’m hearing the phone ring. I’m looking all around. I know what I want is within reach and I’m ashamed I haven’t found it yet.

But right now I have only one reference point.  Myself turning in space.  We don’t learn in a vacuum.

So I reach out, discern which way is up, and identify reference points.

I will refuse to be ashamed of not knowing everything.  And I will trust God to guide me into all Truth, as he promised.

3 thoughts on “There is no shame in Ignorance

  1. I was constantly getting facts out of books when I was little. The oddest thing was I was getting these facts out of fiction books rather than non-fiction.

  2. As a hearing aid can help in some hearing loss situations and give that needed second reference point, so I think counseling/friends facing similar issues can be important reference points in figuring out an emotional direction.

  3. Brooke– Yes! That was my favorite kind of fiction.

    Becky– that is my hope and prayer.

    But, as in the case of my friend, sometimes the damage is too much. A traditional hearing aid only amplifies, and amplifying silence doesn’t help.

    She has (or will soon) have a device attached to her skull that collects vibrations and somehow transfers them to her other ear. I and do mean “somehow”. The Doctors/researchers don’t know yet why/how this works, exactly, but the fabulous thing about it is how the brain actually learns how to interpret the incoming signal as that second reference point.

    Outside perspective (if I can find it and feel safe to trust it) can serve that purpose, but I get nervous, because I want to be able to find my own feet– my own balance.

    I want to have God’s perspective– the Holy Spirit in me– balancing my perception and letting me believe “my own” ears, rather than curse or complain about them.

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