Children generally have no problem admitting their ignorance and willingness to learn. They can ask why a thousand times and never seem to grow tired of still wanting to know more. But as adults we’re tempted to hide our ignorance behind a mask of cocky arrogance. Without giving up our confidence on the things we do know, there’s still wisdom in admitting we don’t know everything.
To be sure, it takes great humility to admit our ignorance, or even that our minds have changed over the years.
Perhaps it’s out of fear of appearing weak, but all too often we oversell our confidence and our pride becomes our downfall. We cannot tolerate differences of opinion or someone asking us to show our work. Instead, we dig our heels in and every challenge seems like a personal attack.
To be fair, some use I don’t know as an excuse for laziness. Rather than challenging themselves to critically think through problems they choose instead to simply hide behind their ignorance. But this false humility is no more helpful than our arrogance and pride.
And so, while we want to avoid underselling ourselves, we don’t want to oversell ourselves either. And admitting we don’t know something is not a sign of weakness if we remain willing to learn.
It’s good to consider different points of view and to even reconsider many of the positions we’ve held tightly to for many years. This allows us to grow and mature and not get stuck in the box of our own limitations – unwilling to admit we don’t know everything and thus unable to learn anything new.
In the end, admitting you don’t know everything doesn’t have to be a point of shame, but rather a sign of maturity and the wisdom to learn.