As we continue our series of small phrases that pack amazing relational power, we look at a third simple statement, “I don’t know”. There are few things that feel more like failure than having to admit that we don’t know the answer or what to do next. So, most of us never admit it. We push forward hoping that no one will notice that we don’t have all of the answers. We have all been trained since preschool that knowledge is power. So when we can’t figure something out, we feel powerless and afraid. It seems like the successful people around us always know what to do next. They never seem confused or plagued with doubt. (They don’t have all the answers either, they just appear to) This makes us even more desperate to know everything or at least to appear that we do.
The painful reality is that we do not know all of the answers. We don’t always know which path to take next. I don’t. You don’t. No one does. With that being said, admitting when we don’t know is an incredible step of honesty that can have a powerful impact in our relationships. Admitting that we don’t know it all does a few important things:
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Like I said above, no one has all of the answers. When you pretend to, people are going to trust you less. After all, if you lie about always knowing the right thing to do, what else might you lie about? When you admit to those you love, that you don’t know what to do next, you are showing them that you care more about honesty than you do about keeping up appearances. Parents, this is especially important for you. It doesn’t take our kids long to realize that we aren’t perfect. You need to let them know that you aren’t perfect, and that it’s ok that they aren’t perfect either.
It invites collaboration
When I hit a dead end and admit that I don’t know what to do next, I make myself open to insight or direction from others. When others hear that we don’t know, they gain permission to speak into our situation. That sort of collaboration is powerful. We are always stronger together than we are alone.
It reminds us that we need each other
When you admit that you don’t know the answer to a challenge in front of you, you are reminded that you need other people in your life. No one knows all of the answers, but together we know more than we do by ourselves. Relationships are life-giving, but it’s easy to forget that in our quest for independence. Being honest with others about what you don’t know is a great way to remember how important your relationships are.
When was the last time that you admitted that you didn’t know what to do next? There have been times when you didn’t know the right answers, but when was the last time you admitted it to the people around you? Remember, they can’t read you mind. Admitting our imperfection and limitations strengthens our relationships. Make some time this week to be honest with someone you care about.