aren't too many things in life as damaging as ignorance. While we've
all heard the saying that "ignorance is bliss," we all know that
that particular saying is about as true as "the customer is always
right" -- they're just words that we hear a lot. The truth is
that ignorance is a very damaging aspect of many of our lives, and I know
that in my life, it's caused me a lot of pain, frustration, confusion, and
aggravation. And I know that the worst times are when I act out of
ignorance rather than taking the time to find out more information about a
situation, and this has happened much more than I'd like to admit.
it seems important to define this term. Ignorance is simply a lack
of knowledge, not a form of stupidity, as some people like to use the term
when they're trying to insult someone else. For example, I'm
completely ignorant of most aspects of quantum physics. I know
almost nothing about the topic, and I'm the first to admit that I'm almost
completely ignorant about the field. The same goes for chemistry,
veterinary medicine, current politics in New Zealand, and many, many other
are some things about which I shouldn't be ignorant. Another saying
that we often hear is that "ignorance of the law is no excuse,"
and for the most part, that's true. Most judges and police officers
will be pretty forgiving if we're talking about little-known laws that are
almost never enforced, but does your state have a law concerning the use
of cell phones while driving? Ours does, and not knowing about the
law can result in a pretty heavy fine and points on your license. I
shouldn't be ignorant of how my step-children are doing in school, I
shouldn't be ignorant of the particular demands of my job, and I shouldn't
be ignorant of what's going on in my town. If I don't pay some
attention, who's to blame for my surprise when they start tearing down my
neighborhood to build a new bypass or apartment complex?
is the main force behind almost all prejudices and biases. Even the
word "prejudice" implies "pre-judging," or judging
beforehand, and we have to ask "before what?" The answer,
of course, is before having all the knowledge necessary to judge
accurately. And if you don't have that knowledge, you're ignorant,
yet you're still judging. How can that ever be helpful or even
people who face difficult financial situations do so because of ignorance
-- ignorance of basic financial principles behind credit, ignorance of tax
laws and procedures, and ignorance of concepts such as interest and
investing. They find themselves struggling because they just didn't
know that putting so much on credit would lead to such high monthly
bills. They didn't realize that even paying the minimum monthly
payment on credit doesn't lower the bill enough even to make a dent in the
balance. They've believed the hype behind the "buy now"
mentality, and they haven't made the effort to look behind that hype and
find out the true story.
Many religions and
cults and splinter groups from major religions like to encourage ignorance
among their followers, for they fear that if their followers learn more
about their tenets and beliefs, they'll not like what they see and back
out. In this way, these groups build intolerance and prejudice among
their followers, keeping these people trapped in a system of belief that's
based upon not knowing any more than the leaders want them to know.
people like to use their ignorance as an excuse, and the words "I
didn't know" are their favorite words of all. I had to work
with someone like that once, and I found that I couldn't ever depend upon
that person. No matter what she was told to do, she would claim
"I didn't know you wanted me to do that" the next day when the
job hadn't been done. It was one of the most frustrating
professional experiences that I (and the other people involved) ever
had. Teens like to use ignorance as an excuse for not doing their
chores or certain tasks, and it's important that they learn quickly that
ignorance is almost never a valid excuse in real life. In the work
world, if you don't know something, you'd better find out -- that's what
you're getting paid for.
stories have you read or movies have you seen in which the main character
goes through the entire film not knowing something very important, and you
watch as he or she comes closer and closer to breaking through his or her
ignorance to find knowledge? Aren't you just waiting the entire time
for that to happen, and don't you just know that things will be much
better when the character learns? In The Lion King, for
example, Simba almost throws away his life and his heritage based on
ignorance -- he didn't know what truly happened to his father.
Believing his uncle was easier than giving himself credit and finding out
the truth of the situation.
times have you thought someone to be a jerk (or worse) because of the way
that he or she talked to you or answered one of your questions, only to
find out later that something bad had just happened to that person?
Your ignorance caused you to judge harshly and sometimes to lose your own
peace of mind, even though had you known the true situation, you probably
would have reacted with compassion and caring. But getting upset is
easier than thinking compassionately, until you get used to the latter.
is the easy way out, and the easy way out is rarely the best.
Fighting our own ignorance takes dedication, desire, and effort. We
have to learn, we have to keep open minds, and we have to step back from
pre-judging based on religion, race, nationality, skin piercings, tattoos,
or any other physical characteristics that lead us to depend upon
stereotypes to figure out what a person is like. Ignorance keeps us
down, and it keeps us from getting ahead, and the only way to combat it is
to search for the knowledge we need is any given situation.
Sometimes, that's as easy to do as asking a few simple questions, but
other times, it takes a great deal of effort. Either way, it's worth
So don't always buy
the first story or claim that you hear -- if you do, I can guarantee you
that you're ignorant of an important side of the story that sounds much
different than the one you've accepted. Don't accept first
impressions, for they're based on ignorance of many other aspects of a
person or place that you haven't yet seen. And please don't let
prejudice ruin your life -- the more we learn in life, the more open our
minds are, and the more compassionate we can be to our fellow human beings
who, like us, are doing the best that they can with what they have.
Also, be wary of those
people who offer information or opinions about which they know little or
nothing. Almost everyone is willing to offer an opinion about major
news stories or political policies, even if they know almost nothing about
the topic. be quick to say "I don't know" if you know that
you don't have the knowledge necessary to form a true opinion.
Passing on gossip or hearsay is one of the most common -- and most highly
visible -- forms of ignorance around.