warning about stupidity

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I first must make clear that ignorance is a lack of knowledge, skills, or understanding. While stupidity is often interchanged with the word ignorant, its theoretical meaning differs vastly. The outcome of both may produce the same actions, but stupidity is in fact a character defect rather than a condition. Both may prevail unceasingly until death, but the latter is far more difficult to eradicate. Stupidity in the sense that I mean it here is better equated with a lack of willingness, a mental attitude that dismisses evidence and experience and reason, the source or sister to insanity – that being the repetition of destructive or self-destructive acts with the expectation that the consequences of one’s actions will magically lose their destructive force and may in fact result in the opposite. Ignorance is relatively easy to remedy – feed the mind and the rest will follow. Stupidity however requires patience, fervent effort, and diligence. To step beyond stupidity requires a deep humility, so deep as to see ourselves exactly for who we are with no judgment at all – positive or negative. Many are not capable of such honesty. Second, before I continue, I want you the reader to know that neither ignorance nor stupidity can be generalized to every part of a person’s being. So, like my co-contributors (as you’ll see this theme elsewhere), I could never truthfully or with good conscience call a person stupid or ignorant, except rarely perhaps if I qualified in what manner or area. For we are all stupid and ignorant in some manner to some degree at different points in our life.
Now, why is such clarification necessary? It is needed because it is a groundwork upon which we may develop empathy, grow in our ability to forgive, find serenity and live with joy. Never have I come to a point of perfection in these goals, but also never have I gotten a start without first building on my understanding of my own and others’ ignorance and stupidity in any situation. Furthermore, failing to do so has sadly led me to act “unrighteously” with a self-righteous attitude more than once. Recently our prayer group discussed how to handle being accused of something unfairly by someone in fact guilt of what they accused you. Sometimes we hold certain persons to higher expectations because of their intelligence or their charisma. We think they ought to know better. We must remember that we’ve all been privy to experiences uniquely our own and each experience affects how we assimilate learning from the next. Therefore, even two children brought up in the same household with the same parents in what seems much the same way experience life differently and therefore do not share exactly the same knowledge, skills, and understanding. So back to the issue our group discussed, I do not wish to focus on the details but just to offer some general thoughts. Without a doubt, knowing little of most people’s lives, it behooves me for my own peace of mind to assume that a person acts unkindly out of ignorance rather than stupidity. Afterall, I have a much better chance of positively influencing them and less reason to take their actions personally.
So, it is important to bear in mind that the strength with which one conveys her/his convictions or the hurtful manner in which s/he delivers them does not negate the presence of ignorance. In fact, it proves it all the more. For a person who is not ignorant of how to be assertive has not reason to be anything but assertive, for in communication nothing is gained and more is lost by aggression, passive-aggression and passivity than by assertion. And since it by communication that we relate, a most necessary aspect of our humanity and our spiritual growth, a person not ignorant of assertion would choose to be assertive. Only someone with no interest in spiritual growth or righteousness AND yet with knowledge of how to be assertive who chooses to act in an unassertive manner could be found entirely at fault in choosing to thus communicate. Of course such a person would likely not care enough to consistently be assertive, for they would likely not care about the rights of others and neither would they likely care what anyone thought of their choices. In such a case though, does not Jesus advise us two things? One, we are told to set right in their pathway those of our OWN Christian community and then only according to the administration of justice upheld by our community. Two, where the gospel is rebuked, we are to shake even the dust of where we have tread from our feet. On a final note I must say, if I persist in choosing to feel slighted by others’ ignorance, I am stupid. Now, certainly, much more could be said on this subject, but I think we have found an adequately place to let the issue rest. God be with you.

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