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My dad often gives me tidbits of wisdom, and I usually write them down somewhere so I have them always. During our phone call a couple of weeks ago, he dropped another one in my lap. We talked about many things, and I don’t specifically remember why he brought this remembrance up. He said, “A professor in college once told me, ‘You can’t expect people to use what they don’t have.’ I’ve never forgotten that, but I wish I’d thought about it more.”

I’ve spent a lot of time since our conversation contemplating that adage. There’s a lot of wisdom in that. We can’t expect people to know and feel what they have no knowledge of or act in a way they have never seen in others.

You’ve heard the saying knowledge is power. If you’ve read my blog for long, you read it here before. The more you know, the better off you are. I’ve said that for many years which is why I like to read nonfiction and articles from well-regarded sources. History is especially important to learn since it informs us on why things, situations, and societies are the way that they are. That knowledge brings understanding and, one hopes, makes it easier to bring peace to conflicting sides.

“You can’t expect people to use what they don’t have” is the antithesis of “knowledge is power”.

If you’re using a rock to pound in a nail because you’ve never seen a tool called a hammer, you don’t know you’re ignorant. There’s a gap between what you know and what is actually available for your use. Ignorance is curable by learning new things. A carpenter could teach the rock-pounder how to use a hammer to make their job easier. That new knowledge eases the path forward and fills the gap so that ignorance of hammers, the best tool for the job, is abolished.

If you’ve never heard the history of Juneteenth, the massacre on Black Wall Street, the massacre at Sand Creek, or the Mexicans who died fighting for Texas independence at the Alamo, a few history lessons will fill you in. The most interesting history lessons are generally found behind the generalized history given in most classes. Talking to those who know or were there at specific events is very educational. After that, reading first-hand accounts of events will open your mind to what really happened. It’s true what they say, truth is stranger than fiction which makes history so fascinating.

Expecting people who were never taught good manners to be polite and considerate is a waste of time. If they’ve never been taught etiquette or seen it modeled, they are ignorant of the civility, compromise, and reasoning skills that keeps people on good terms with each other. Their ignorance grates on our nerves and grates on the thin veneer of civilization, threatening to wear it away.

Education and experience is the only way to destroy ignorance, but even that hinges on the willingness of people to learn. You can’t force feed people knowledge. Learning you’ve been wrong is a hard pill to swallow and many refuse to take it. Pride keeps people from accepting truth because that pride won’t allow them to be humbled in front of others. Admitting they were wrong is a formable obstacle to overcome and many aren’t willing to make the effort. Their grip on ignorance remains tight and powerful because it justifies their current behavior and ideas.

You can’t expect people to use what they don’t have. If you want the ability to use all the tools you can, learn as much as you can because knowledge is power. You’ll have the information to face whatever you need to understand and overcome.

To know wisdom and instruction,

To perceive the words of understanding,

Justice, judgement, and equity;

To give prudence to the simple,

To the young man knowledge and discretion—

A wise man will hear and increase learning,

And a man of understanding will attain wise counsel,

To understand a proverb and an enigma,

The words of the wise and their riddles.

Proverbs 1:2-6 (NKJV)

3 Responses

  1. By far the best ‘visualization’ of what may be the biggest part of the divisiveness we see today. Thank you for bringing another angle to my visual!

  2. Well said, Carol. I especially appreciated the bit about modeling behavior. Knowledge doesn’t just come from books. It also comes from experience and interaction with other people. But, of course, as writers, we encourage people to read books, too!

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