The Know-It-All Attitude

Nothing gets my dander up more quickly than the Know-It-All attitude. Child or adult, friend or total stranger, I find this attitude prideful, self-serving, and downright ugly. The Know-It-All wants to be better than everyone else in the room and wants everyone else in the room to know he is better. Sometimes the attitude surfaces only briefly; at other times it is a full-time occupation.

The Know-It-All has a self-imposed learning disability — he has chosen to block his mind from learning from anyone. No one can instruct or correct the Know-It-All, because he already knows and will be the first to tell you. No matter what fact you present to the Know-It-All, his response is always the same, “I know.” Even when you can be certain that he could not know and does not know, the Know-It-All still responds in the same matter-of-fact, yet superior, way, “I know.”

When my children began to display the Know-It-All attitude, we stopped everything and had a serious heart-to-heart discussion. Okay, it was more of a one-sided lecture, but I got my point across. “You did not know,” was my calmly delivered opener. “Why do you think you told me that you did know?” — a mostly rhetorical question, followed by my explanation of how we let pride take over our minds and try to make ourselves look smarter than we actually are. The desired result was that my children would recognize and admit to learning new things, no matter who was providing the information. We can learn from anyone and everyone, and the more we learn, the smarter we become. I do not gain any intelligence by falsely declaring myself to be in possession of a fact.

The next misstep, which falls close on the heels of the Know-It-All attitude of pride, is jealousy. How I get sickened when I see a parent who does not want his child to excel past the parent’s abilities. This sounds completely ludicrous — parents not wanting success for their children — but I have seen it over and over. I have caught myself in the thought pattern, severely reprimanded myself for it, and then taken steps to help my child progress even farther.

My son wanted to learn to play guitar. I dug out my old “beginner” guitar, showed him how to read a chord chart, and gave him some basic instructions on technique and a few simple worship songs to try. Then I stepped out of his way and let him try it on his own. After a few false starts, he began having success. I gave him a better guitar — success should be rewarded with a quality instrument. Eventually, he and the guitar became like Siamese twins, joined fingertips to fretboard. When he goes to his room just to retrieve a book, and I hear a few bars of sweet guitar music before he returns. His ability has quickly exceeded mine, and I think of myself as a fairly good player. He has taught himself to read tablature found on the internet for his favorite CD songs. He has learned to finger-pick complicated rhythms just by listening to them and trying. He absolutely impressed the socks off me last Christmas by picking “Carol of the Bells” for us after dinner! CAROL OF THE BELLS!!!

It has been tempting at times to become jealous of his ability. I could reprimand him for spending “too much time” on guitar and not enough time on his schoolwork, except that he does get the schoolwork done also. I could have made him buy his own guitar, rationalizing that he would “appreciate it more” if he had worked for it and earned it himself. I could point out his mistakes and ridicule him for not having each piece perfect when he plays for me. I could so easily completely destroy his love of music. Which is exactly what happens when jealousy is given a foothold. Instead, I have sat under his tutelage and allowed him to show me new chords. We have played together, laughing with delight as I struggled to keep up with his flying fingers.

My daughter and I have engaged in theological discussions in which we share new perspectives on familiar passages of scripture. However, the Know-It-All attitude often dances through my mind as she is explaining her latest insight. I must fight against pride to remind myself that I definitely do not know all there is to know, especially about the Bible. Humbly, I remind myself that I can learn from any situation, from any person. I turn my back on jealousy and remind myself to pay attention to what she is saying… and I learn. She is an adult now and lives in a different city, in a different cultural-mix, and has the benefit of many new experiences from which to teach. If the Know-It-All attitude were allowed to reign, I would miss all of that.

I grew up without encouragement. My family did not express emotions of joy, at least not to us as children. Our accomplishments received a mere nod, if anything at all. Once when I had worked very hard and finally mastered my desired goal, my mother responded with a flat, emotionless “I knew you could do it.” The Know-It-All attitude strikes again. Confidence shattered, excitement crushed, self-esteem ground under the heels of the Know-It-All.

That old race between the tortoise and the hare should teach us a great lesson: the hare was a Know-It-All. Perhaps we could have learned even more if Aesop had continued his story after the Finish Line: did the hare humbly and graciously congratulate the tortoise on his victory, or was the hare ensnared by jealousy and pride?

Knowledge continues to expand and increase as technology advances. None of us knows it all. Each of us can learn something from everyone. None of us is so perfect that he cannot be topped by someone else. We will all benefit from humbling ourselves and seeing every situation as an opportunity for learning.

Ladies — What Day Is It?

Caution: Pull back your toes… I’m about to step on them. I have recently addressed the issue of Drama Queens. The next obvious question is: are they learning it from you? Do you warn everyone to “stay away” during your PMS days? Do you escalate minor events to cataclysmic proportions during certain times of the month? Can everyone (including the mail carrier) tell when that time has arrived, based solely on the tension level around your house?

Take a personal “inventory” — if you have no legitimate reason for feeling angry or sad or tense, then take a look at the calendar: what day is it? Is that the reason for your emotional overload? If so, then swallow hard and get on with life. It is not your family’s fault that your cycle has cycled around again, so do not inflict punishment on them for nature’s timing. Besides — you do not need the extra guilt from mistreating the people you love most.

Realizing why I felt the way I felt (when I knew good and well there was no substantial reason for the emotions) always made it easier for me to ignore the monthly symptoms and get back to feeling like myself again. Time after time, I would find myself getting extremely upset over absolutely nothing. I could become so jittery that I felt my clothing would wear out from the inside. Other times, the most innocent comment from my husband would put me near tears. Time to check the calendar. Sure enough — the weeks had rolled by again, and I needed to get myself under control. On the odd day that simply acknowledging the cause did not dismiss the symptoms, I could take a couple of Tylenol and soon be feeling relatively normal again.

Experiment with your diet — an allergist once told me that we often crave the foods that we are sensitive to and should stay far away from. If you find yourself craving certain foods at certain times, monitor how your body reacts to those foods. Next month, try avoiding the object of your cravings and see if it makes a significant difference in how you feel. Sugar is the primary thing I avoid for a few days each month, just before my cycle begins and continuing for the first few days, to eliminate cramping. After many months of trial and (ouch) error, I discovered the precise timing and diet combination to give me symptom-free days. (Quite a change from being incapacitated for 2 days each month!) Natural sweeteners, such as honey or fruit juices, cause me no problems and can fulfill my sweet-craving needs without causing distress. For other women, salt is the culprit. You will have a good idea of what to start monitoring based on what you find yourself craving.

A friend with several sons was thrilled to finally get a daughter, but then lamented that the menfolk would eventually have to “put up with two of us.” She held to a theory that all the women in a household will automatically shift their cycles to concur with each other. I have never experienced that — and I came from a family full of girls and had several female roommates during college. Old wives’ tales are often just that and nothing more.

Once my dietary complexities had been wrangled into submission and my calendar had revealed its secrets, my days could continue one after another with wonderful consistency. No one has ever blamed me for being a PMS-witch, or even suspected where I was, cycle-wise. My husband recently commented that I am the most even-keeled woman he has ever known — and now you all know my secret.

Dropping the Drama

Drama is a word that is used much too often today. T-shirts and other merchandise proclaiming “Drama Queen” can be spotted at any mall, both on the racks and on the shoppers. Young girls often boast that the name fits them, and then they exhibit the behavior to prove it. Males are not completely exempt from this behavior, although it seems to be found more often in females. Parents can be heard applying the epithet to their offspring. Are these harmless jests, or is there more to it?

The current context in which “drama” is being used refers to an excessive focus on self. A “drama queen” takes petty things too seriously and pays no attention whatsoever to the things in life that really matter. Keeping the focus on one’s self feeds the ego. A well-fed ego is displayed in pride. Pride is something we are warned about in God’s Word as being evil; it is considered one of the “seven deadly sins” that anyone should try to avoid.

We speak often to children about getting our “feelings” hurt. The feeling that is getting hurt in that instance is pride. If someone “hurts my feelings,” I have to assume that my pride is what is actually being offended (since there is no accompanying physical wound). My personal opinion is that if I have pride regarding the matter at hand, then it needs to be removed — so go ahead and let me have it.

When I was a young girl (probably early high school age), the retired couple next door worked at a group home for troubled children. They were the “relief” parents and alternated between the boys’ cottage and the girls’ cottage, filling in while the regular staff took time off each week. One day, after a particularly trying weekend, the older gentleman gave me a few words of sage advice that have stuck with me my entire life: “Grow up to be a boy, not a girl.” He quickly went on to explain his thoughts, probably due to the extreme confusion on my face. He said the girls they worked with would become upset at the least offense and held grudges for days or weeks, sometimes months. The boys were quite the opposite; he could reprimand one of the boys for the most serious rules infraction, and five minutes later, that boy would still be his best friend. His simple advice to me was to drop the drama and get on with life — do not take myself too seriously.

A Drama Queen is probably feeding her self-obsession from all the wrong sources: television soap operas and drama series, movies lacking admirable characters and a worthwhile plot, “romance” novels, and song lyrics and music videos devoted to self, self, self. Take inventory of what your pre-teens and early teens are reading, watching, and listening to. Paul wrote in Philippians 4:8, “Fix your thoughts on what is true and honorable and right. Think about things that are pure and lovely and admirable. Think about things that are excellent and worthy of praise.” [New Living Translation] Just as we say with nutrition: you are what you eat — if “junk food” is consumed into our brains, we can only expect the same to come forth from our emotions.

Encouraging dramatic behavior in ourselves or in our children does no good for anyone. It maintains an over-emphasis on self, instead of looking for how we can serve others, as Jesus advocated and modeled for us. The popular “What Would Jesus Do?” evaluation can help us tremendously in straightening out our priorities. Reading the original In His Steps by Charles Sheldon can be a wonderful dose of perspective for anyone (children’s versions are now available). We need to explain this same principle to our children as they are growing up: we should show them how to help others and how to reach out to others to keep them from focusing continually on themselves. If you live in America today, you are extremely wealthy, compared to nearly anywhere else on the planet — no matter who you are or what you own. Find someone else to focus on, volunteer to help with a community or church outreach, and stop thinking the world revolves around you. Drop the drama and get on with life.

If You Can Present Your Case with Facts and Logic and Without Whining, I Will Listen with an Open Mind

Teach your students that facts and logic are the only way to plead a case. Whining is never allowed.

My students have made the case for eliminating tests in our school, even in math. In fact, when my students want to present a case to me, I know to be fully attentive so that I do not get caught by surprise. They are very good arguers, able to make their position fully understood. (However, I cannot remember them just arguing with each other or with us as parents.)

“Will my answer change?” was my standard reply to my children when they repeated a request. For them, that meant “end of discussion” — Mom never changes her mind, unless you can come up with enough facts and logic to present your issue. When the request had nothing to do with facts or logic, the issue passed peacefully away — they did not whine, and I did not have to scold. My daughter later used that same line successfully on college friends, who did not understand how to ask for anything without whining.

Many times my children have convinced me of the wisdom of changing our plans. Why do we need to answer the questions at the end of the chapter? If they have already told me about the book they just read, do they really need to get frustrated trying to write it all down into a stuffy book report (that I do not want to read anyway)? If they get truly grossed-out even thinking about dissecting, is it really necessary to do it? (I have lived my entire life without anyone asking me if I have dissected anything.)