I'm a know-it-all.
For a long time I've thought this was just a personality trait of mine. I don't enjoy cheese raw, I hate fluorescent lighting, and I like to know things and to share the things I know. Just a trait. Basic, neutral.
My resolution for 2010 is JOY, and as I work on opening myself to living my life more joyfully I think God's giving me another gift along with my own joy: sensitivity to other people's joy.
Sometimes a person I love will discover an interesting fact and share it with me. My first reaction, almost every time? "Oh, I already knew that."
I don't lie. (Usually.) But I stretch the truth so that my own body of knowledge appears much larger than it is. If you tell me that the Whelgeflogen species of elk lives in Chile and lays eggs, and I've even once heard about an egg-laying type of elk, I'll say "I knew that" almost before you've finished telling me.
I might then have a pang of conscience and amend my statement, "Well, I'd heard of egg-laying elk, anyway." Like I said, I don't want to lie. But what does it matter, then? I've already squashed any pleasure you got from telling me.
Being a know-it-all is not just a personality trait. It's a joy-killer.
For a while now I've been practicing something that is very hard for me, a naturally defensive person, to say: I'm. Sorry. Full stop.
I've always been prone to the "I'm sorry but here's why I was justified" or the "I'm sorry but you did something wrong too" type of apologies. Which are really not apologies at all, but ways of feeding my pride: look, I'm apologizing to you, thus showcasing my humility, while also explaining that I am a better person than you are. Aren't you lucky?
Apologies are supposed to build relationships by fostering forgiveness, but the Justifying Apologies and the Blaming Apologies I'd been offering sounded like this: "I'm not really sorry. Will you forgive me?" and "It's your fault. Will you forgive me?"
Enough to make a well-meaning person's head spin. The spinning nearly happened a couple times when I offered one of those "apologies" to people I love.
The irony is that although pride says the Justification and Blaming Apologies should make me feel better, the truth is that the Real Apology is a hundred times more satisfying. When I can find the grace and humility to say, "I'm sorry. I was wrong. Will you forgive me?" without adding caveats, it is one of the world's most freeing sensations. Not surprisingly, my loved ones seem to appreciate it too.
I think that "I don't know" is the younger sibling of "I'm sorry." It offers the same opportunity, a chance to debit my own pride bank so I can give another person the credit he deserves.
Since I've been trying to embrace "I don't know," I've watched it work. I've seen other people's eyes light up when I say, "I didn't know that! That's so cool!" and let them have the joy of their knowledge. I've felt in my own heart that saying "I don't know" when someone asks me a question to which I truly don't have an answer is so, so much more restful than trying to make one up because I'm supposed to have the answers. "I don't know" is hard for a know-it-all like me to say, ever. But it's being very good to me.
I'm hopeful about 2010, the year of joy. I'm hopeful that it'll make me into a more joyful person and I'm hopeful that it'll give me the strength to set aside my own pride to help those around me have more joy.
Will it work as I hope it will? I don't know. I can't know. But surprisingly, not knowing can be a beautiful thing.