Face it, there are just some things we don’t like to admit.
I think I’m getting pretty good at the phrase, “I’m sorry”. If something goes wrong, I just kind of figure it’s probably my fault. There’s an art to apologizing and I’ve had plenty of practice.
I’m also quite adept at “no”, as in, “I can’t accommodate what you want me to do at this time.” That just has to do with personal boundaries and allocation of resources, also a finely honed skill.
Possibly near to the top of the list of difficult things to say is this infamous phrase:
“I don’t know.”
It tends to be translated into:
“I’m less intelligent that you”, or
“I feel powerless”, or simply,
“I’m about to lose this argument.”
Of course, as Americans we never make use of hyperbole, never exaggerate, and certainly never, ever embellish the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth.
Personally, I’m not much of an off-the-top-of-my-head debater, (unlike my youngest…don’t get into a disagreement with her without proper armor.) Even so, I think we may tend to avoid the “I don’t know” phrase too often, particularly when it comes to our Christian convictions. I’m all about the study of apologetics, since being able to “give an answer for the hope that is within” is an important responsibility of all followers of Jesus. Otherwise, we can come across as the blind leading the blind.
Here’s a beauty found embedded in Job’s disputes with his so-called friends during a time when he was wrestling with some pretty serious life questions about God:
“Are you defending God with lies? Do you make your dishonest arguments for his sake?…No, you will be in trouble with him if you secretly slant your testimony in his favor.”
Ring a bell with anybody? Let’s make Jesus look as attractive as possible (“seeker-friendly”), life with Him as easy as possible (“cheap grace”*), and stretch our testimonies to be a bit more than they actually are (“lying”). And let’s definitely hold out panic’d platitudes when we don’t know the real answer, since not knowing the immediate answer obviously means that one just doesn’t exist (because we would surely know it!)
Or…how about just saying, “I don’t know”?
This thought finds it’s way into Paul’s writings also:
We reject all shameful deeds and underhanded methods. We don’t try to trick anyone or distort the word of God. We tell the truth before God, and all who are honest know this.
Such honesty can open the doors to trust, which in turn can open the doors to relationship and additional discussion/investigation—together. Consider that people who are actually seeking the Truth are not going to be so easily diverted by my simple lack of an answer.
Besides, they need my honesty more than I need another “notch in my Bible”. I’m thinking God does, too.
Job 13:7,10; 2 Corinthians 4:2 Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright © 1996, 2004, 2015 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.
*Cheap grace is a term by Dietrich Bonhoeffer in his classic, The Cost Of Discipleship