I Do Not Know…
Greetings dear friends & welcome to my world again this week. I am a student of leadership & a sort of morbid fan of politics. One of the most frustrating observations I have come across in both of these mediums is the allergic reaction people have to the words “I do not know.”
There is something explicitly or implicitly understood suggesting public personalities apparently need to have an authoritative position on everything. I do not understand this. Since I am always learning & growing, I am pretty sure I am the smartest today I have ever been (which is not saying much). But part of the process of learning & growing is becoming painfully aware of how much one does not know. For my part, I am increasingly comfortable with saying “I do not know” when I do not know the answer to a question or something.
I do not mean this in some sort of postmodern hazy way, like nobody can really know what to think about anything because there is no authority beyond my own account of my own story. Pretty much excludes me from any woke community I suspect… There are plenty of things I feel I know, plenty of things I think I can state with authority. But I do not think you should trust anybody who speaks authoritatively about everything.
But why this comes for some & not for others? I DO NOT KNOW.
When I get to some strange text which does not correspond easily with my assumptions, I do not attempt to blunt the sharp edges of a narrative to fit my framework. I can say, “This text or opinion is weird to me. I am not sure exactly what this means.”
Some leaders get into interviews where they are treated like experts, & they are pitched a question (ahem, not naming any names) about whether or not this candidate or the other candidate is appropriate. What an easy, obvious opportunity to say “I do not know” ~ as if there is anything we can know with authority. It is as if we are not in charge of who is in & who is out. But believing their own press, believing themselves to be “authorities,” they proceed to answer questions which cannot & should not be answered.
Yet, why is it, as leaders, we never seem to recognize the moment when there are no words to be said, no comfort to be offered, no solutions to be given? Sometimes the sacred thing, the wise thing, the compassionate thing, the best thing, is to shut up. And if there is an answer required, let it be in your smiles, hugs, tears or in your presence; let it be in the witness of a man or woman who has the courage & the wisdom to say “I do not know.”
Some questions are not opportunities, they are temptations. Temptations to play the expert, to play doctor, to build the platform or the reputation. And if there is anything which really does scare me, it would be to utter words in a scenario where not even the inspiration of my missive this week would not dare offer them.
I hope my comments each week are helpful dear readers; & again, provide just an opinion, from my world. Thank you for taking the time to be with me, I hope my journey may encourage you also. This is Kenn Butler in Paradise, Nelson, with my best wishes.