This afternoon, I was talking about my lifelong attempt to stop being a know-it-all. Even when I was young, I would often upset people with my willingness to share a proudly-earned tidbit of trivial knowledge, which is also known as “proving someone wrong.” It didn’t take long to realize this behavior wouldn’t make friends. Since then, I try to be hyper-aware about how I’m sharing things I think I know while injecting humility into all my arguments. But I’m still human.
And this was before the internet was omnipresent in our lives, before it started joining us in the bathroom, back when “going online” was still just an activity you did for part of the day, rather than an additional mode of global perception we can activate at any moment.
Today, I was talking about how challenging this still is for me even a decade later. This may be harder now because of the changing landscape of how we inform ourselves. It’s so easy to have complex opinions on a broad range of topics, anything from pumpernickel bread recipes to the Syrian conflict, just because the wealth of information at our fingertips.
Well, the internet served me up a timely article called The Art of Letting Others Be Right. It got me wondering. Maybe stemming the spray of trivia and sprinkling on a bit of tact has been difficult because it is not going far enough. Even after taking some steps to avoid it, I can still get pulled into an argument for the sake of knowledge far too easily.
It’s not just okay to engage in these little conflicts, it’s a moral imperative. We can’t just allow ignorance to go on unopposed.
There is freedom in realizing that this moral imperative is our own construct, a rule we apply ourselves to under the misguided notion that we must improve the world around us. What harm is there in a missing Oxford Comma? The world will carry on fine if everyone continues to believe that vikings wore horns on their helmets.
Of course, discretion is important here. There are plenty of harmful things to speak up about. But for the rest, I will content myself with letting go of my egocentrism, allowing other’s to have their viewpoint, and freeing myself from the burden of information.
We can still express our views in a thousand other ways that aren’t so indulgent and harsh.