March 4, 2021

Ignorant or Stupid—Who is to say?


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A reader on a Facebook group to which I belong commented that I should change ignorant to stupid in a recent article of mine.

Why? Because ignorant means uninformed, which can be easily remedied, versus stupid, which cannot be remedied externally.

Ignorant has three meanings according to a Google search: (1) lacking knowledge or awareness in general, uneducated or unsophisticated, (2) lacking knowledge, information, or awareness about a particular thing and (3) discourteous or rude.

Stupid has two meanings according to a Google search: (1) having or showing a great lack of intelligence or common sense and (2) a stupid person, often used as a term of address.

Of course, this took me on a mindful exploration on words—their meanings, how we use them, and the realization that despite definitions, there is often no black or white to them.

I agree with the reader—and respectfully disagree. Maybe we need to expand more on the English language.

A person can be informed and ignorant. I know way too many who are both. These people can be well versed, even an expert, on specific topics or subject matters, yet because of the way they apply their knowledge and interact with others, they remain ignorant as human beings.

This can be summed up by their level of emotional intelligence, a soft skill that we should put a higher emphasis on when it comes to human relations.

My definition of ignorant is someone who is stubborn, refuses to listen, and has a closed mind. In their ignorance, they refuse to acknowledge the opinions of others and refuse to entertain opposing views, even when presented with new ideas or information that may be different, yet valid.

They are not willing to engage in an intelligent conversation where two or more people may disagree. In fact, they most likely will disagree, but this is the exact moment when people can demonstrate that they are not ignorant.

Stupid? We should probably eliminate that word completely, based on the definition.

A great lack of intelligence? That’s a matter of opinion. You may think I’m stupid and I may think you’re stupid—and we might both be wrong.

A great lack of common sense? Common sense isn’t so common anymore and is also on a sliding scale of human opinion.

Contrary to the reader’s post on Facebook, we may not be able to remedy ignorance, but we may be able to fix stupid.

Who is to say?

Maybe our issues lie with the fact that we want people to be like us. We expect them to conform to our way of thinking, our way of living, and our way of communicating. And we judge them when they don’t.

How I long for us to find our way back to civility and truly exercising our acceptance of free speech, as well as our ability to rein in our visceral reactions.

Rather than lash out, reflect. When in doubt, check the facts. When we disagree—do so with respect.

There is a difference between the ignorant and the stupid—stupid people never shut up and ignorant people never give in.

There is a saying by Harry Callahan about opinions—you know the one?

“Opinions are like assholes, everybody’s got one.”

We might all have one, but we don’t have to be one.


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