Thursday, April 23, 2009

Ode to the Know-It-All

I'm dedicating this post to the Michael Scotts and Cliff Clavins of the world, those of you who always know something we don't, even if we actually do know it. To you, the know-it-all's of the world, I send this post. It's your moment in the sun, the first you've had that you've not purposely and obnoxiously inserted yourself into.

You know who I'm talking about, right? If you are one of 'em, you probably don't. It reminds me of a commercial for the British version of "The Office" regarding the David Brent (boss) character: If you don't know someone like David Brent, you probably are David Brent. Much like his American counterpart, Michael Scott, Mr. Brent could not be wrong, even when most of the time he was wrong, clueless and inept. Cliff Clavin, of "Cheers" fame, had an endless list of facts that no one solicited or was interested in. Their know-it-all-ism took different forms, but the impetus is the same: they glean self worth from showing that they are knowledgable, they prove their superiority by correcting, rebuking and bombarding.

Ladies and gentlemen, I give you the know it all it its natural habitat.

These guys (or gals) interject themselves into conversations that they have no business being in, they make obvious observations and, most egregiously, they tell you things you already know as though you don't know them. I've worked with many, and I've been one, too. One particular know-it-all revealed to me that many drug stores were being built all over the country, "popping up like weeds" he said, two or three years after the proliferation of chain drug stores had been a news story. You say "so what?" I say day after day of someone telling you things that you already know, and telling you them in a condescending manner grates on you. Know-it-alls are the real-life Captain Obvious/Mr. Obvious. It's hard to deal with these individuals day after day, knowing that they are wrong about so many things, and yet believing that they are right, and also pushing their "rightness" on you.

What's even worse is when your friends seem to drift in and out of this state. These are people you like, but seem to thrive on telling you things they think you don't know. They clarify your words for you because they think you can't do it, or they correct what you say, and so forth. A word, please, to those people: You don't know what I know. If you did, you really would be a know-it-all. We all love you, to be sure, which is why you don't have to prove yourselves to us. Either way, there's grace available for those whose sin is ego, and that is the sin of the know-it-all.

Let me say this, and I ask you to take note: there are know-it-alls, sans ego. We call those people "wise". I've met a few of those people. They're great, usually elderly (but not always), and they really know their stuff without all the smug trappings of those who think their spiritual gift is omniscience. I absolutely love these folks. With great wisdom (and also great aplomb) they navigate life with the heart of a servant and the mind of an intellectual.

You had a lot of these kind of people in the Bible. I think of Solomon or Paul who, though flawed, had great knowledge and yet also had a heart for God, and compassion for people. Solomon in particular, compiled and/or wrote Proverbs and, to me, would have had to inject great humility in his writing, knowing the kinds of folly the human race can find itself entangled in.

Sin can take all kinds of forms. We'd all do well to remember that. Your sin might not be envy or greed or being involved in orgies; it might be ego. There was a time when I was younger when I refused to show weakness by admitting being wrong. I was insufferable, I'm sure. My wife's refrigerator magnet says it all: "Ask your teenagers now while they still know everything." To all you Michael Scott types out there, I say this: we love you, but you don't know every little thing! Maybe God didn't gift you with wisdom. You should let that be okay with you.

My point here is that wisdom is valuable, and so, dispensers of wisdom. I'm thankful for those people in my life, and I'm thankful for the example of those in Scripture. Utilize those people that God has placed in your life. Listen to them. And don't for a minute think that you're one of 'em.

In other news, we've hit 11,000 hits here at Uncommonly Uncool. As is our custom, we observe every thousand hits as a milestone. There is cause for much celebration, with fanfare and party hats and the like. Since I'm feeling in a celebratory mood, I'd like to shamelessly plug my band, The Double Downbeats. I won't do it again here, except for the link to the right. But, I'm pretty pleased with the little EP that we recorded, and I thought that some of you might like to know about it. The link to the right will take you to the band's page where you can hear the tunes, and maybe even buy it if you are so moved. The shameless plug Thanks to all who read Uncommonly Uncool. Stay tuned for the first Uncommonly Uncool podcast, coming soon!!!

Cliff Clavin on "Jeopardy"

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