common sense

What is common sense? I wonder. I look around me and I see and hear people so much more clever and capable than me and yet so unwilling or unable to consider thought apart from their own experience. It’s easy to be humble when you know as little as I do. This is not false modesty, I really don’t know much about anything. I know a lot about sports, politics and religion, that’s pretty much it! I do know quite a bit about those three areas (see, no false modesty) but on all other matters as they say on Hogan’s Heroes “I know nothing…”

So given how little I know it is easy for me to ask questions, to push back at the assumptions people make, to question our so-called common sense. Even today I was speaking on the phone with someone who was requesting some music. The title was given and there was silence. I asked if the piece of music was to be a solo, a hymn, etc… This person just assumed I would know. I have been called and asked to speak at various venues, again when I asked about the topic and length of the address, the numbers of people present, the response was a blank stare, “don’t you know?” I didn’t and there was no way to know except to ask. Most people just assume they know and that others know what they mean. Most of the time these assumptions are correct but more often that we care to admit they are not. And when mistakes are made as a result of these assumptions the other is always to blame.

I get accused of providing too much information to those I am asking to perform a task. I want to leave nothing to chance, I want the other to know exactly what I expect, more importantly what others expect of her/him in this context. I often get sighs, eyes rolling, even signs of being offended by those I am trying to communicate expectations with. “I already know that”, they huff and puff. And yet when the event comes to be there is almost always a moment when the person I have asked to do something has made an assumption that was incorrect. I confess I am not very gentle in those situations, given the tone and criticism I have endured over what I have shared I feel justified to say to the other, “I told you so.” Kim and Lucy tell me this is my most unattractive trait.

In the Bible, through our faith, as we seek to live out a life of discipleship it becomes critical to be open to unexpected challenges and joys. When I think about the growth I have experienced in life all of it came in those spaces between what I thought I knew and what I needed to learn. Those spaces are critical to our growth as people and as Christians. Nothing makes me a better me than learning the insights of others who have gone through similar challenges. I don’t take advice as gospel but I do listen and test and ask others and usually after a time of discernment there is a revelation.

This is why, despite very strong opinions, I like to include points of view that are not necessarily my own in how I respond to questions from others. When people ask me how they can handle this or that I will offer my own experience but also how people very differently than me have handled the same challenge. The unifying connection that makes different advice “true advice” or “wise advice” is something I call agape love, self-giving compassion that seeks to move us from me to we.