I don’t know what I don’t know

woman talking on phone with confused face Photo by Karolina Grabowska on Pexels.com

The older I get, the more this seems to be true.

Maybe growing up with eight siblings and a large extended family taught me early to consider different perspectives. Perhaps it was the “walk a mile in the moccasins he wears” quote I saw in a Boy Scout camp I visited as a child. (I thought it was a Native American adage, but it is actually from a poem.)

Perhaps its the 30-plus years of training and ask questions, cause and effect analyses, root cause investigation, and consideration of bias, and accuracy that lead me to consider and reconsider what is true and what is not.

I try to keep an open mind. I try to learn from experts. But,

I do know what I do know.

When I was still in my twenties, I shared my frustration with Mom. Some friends didn’t understand Daylight Savings Time.

“When we spring forward, today’s 4 o’clock with be tomorrows 5 o’clock and the sun will seem to set at a later time; in other words, there will seem to be more daylight,” I said. “We really don’t have more daylight; it just seems like it.” They didn’t believe me. I couldn’t convince them. Finally, I gave up and just said, “Wait until tomorrow, and you’ll see.”

That frustration is a bit how I feel about conspiracy theories and the slippery slope that leads people to believe things that aren’t true. Some are harmless; like that the Earth is flat.

“But, maybe you’re wrong,” someone close to me said.

“I’m not,” I said. “It’s not a matter of opinion or belief. It’s a fact.”

“But people thought Galileo was wrong.”

“He wasn’t. It’s a fact. The Earth is not flat.”

“Well, some people believe it is.”

How do we get here? And how do we get out. Because it can be dangerous. Taking a wait and see approach can result in people getting hurt and even dying. Saying nothing may result in complicity.

At some point, we can’t just walk a mile in someone’s shoes, be understanding of a different perspective, hope that tomorrow will reveal the truth.

I search for a way to do that and be heard. Believing something doesn’t make it true; feeling isn’t the same as knowing.

Can something be accurate and still be biased? Can someone be telling the truth and still be misleading me? That’s a tough one to wrap my head around. That said, I know it to be true. A trusted friend, a news outlet, a religious leader can all be truthful (accurate,) but misleading (biased.)

And how can I tell when a source I trust is lying? I like to ask questions. Here’s a simple diagram of some questions worth asking.

Here’s a few websites I use to check out things that seem untrue or biased:

An understanding heart and a gentle approach doesn’t mean I must just accept something that is provably wrong. Judge softly is an approach that keeps me kind and respectful. On the other hand:

Sometimes, walking a mile in someone else’s shoes, should result in a new pair of shoes, not just understanding.

“Judge Softly”

“Pray, don’t find fault with the man that limps,
Or stumbles along the road.
Unless you have worn the moccasins he wears,
Or stumbled beneath the same load.

There may be tears in his soles that hurt
Though hidden away from view.
The burden he bears placed on your back
May cause you to stumble and fall, too.

Don’t sneer at the man who is down today
Unless you have felt the same blow
That caused his fall or felt the shame
That only the fallen know.

You may be strong, but still the blows
That were his, unknown to you in the same way,
May cause you to stagger and fall, too.

Don’t be too harsh with the man that sins.
Or pelt him with words, or stone, or disdain.
Unless you are sure you have no sins of your own,
And it’s only wisdom and love that your heart contains.

For you know if the tempter’s voice
Should whisper as soft to you,
As it did to him when he went astray,
It might cause you to falter, too.

Just walk a mile in his moccasins
Before you abuse, criticize and accuse.
If just for one hour, you could find a way
To see through his eyes, instead of your own muse.

I believe you’d be surprised to see
That you’ve been blind and narrow-minded, even unkind.
There are people on reservations and in the ghettos
Who have so little hope, and too much worry on their minds.

Brother, there but for the grace of God go you and I.
Just for a moment, slip into his mind and traditions
And see the world through his spirit and eyes
Before you cast a stone or falsely judge his conditions.

Remember to walk a mile in his moccasins
And remember the lessons of humanity taught to you by your elders.
We will be known forever by the tracks we leave
In other people’s lives, our kindnesses and generosity.

Take the time to walk a mile in his moccasins.”

~ by Mary T. Lathrap, 1895

I hope I can learn from you, my trusted reader. How do you deal with people who stray from the facts and believe the big lie, alternative facts, conspiracies, etc. Have you tried reason? Arguing? If you’ve given up, does that bother you, too?