At a recent event I heard two scouts arguing. One said, “that’s just ignorant.”
The other boy, a little younger asked, “What does ignorant mean?”
“Ignorant is when you are stupid and don’t know it,” he said rather matter of factly.
Ignorant as defined by the dictionary is a lack of knowledge about something whereas stupid is defined as a slowness or lacking of intellect, though it can also mean that something is pointless and not worth discussing.
When you call a person stupid, you are insulting them. When you call them ignorant, you are assuming that you are more intelligent than they are and have a better grasp of knowledge. Neither phrase is appropriate in civil conversation, yet many of us use the words on a regular basis, often directing them toward people who we find cumbersome or irritating and who do not share our point of view.
Inherent in every human being is a desire to be intelligent or knowledgeable about a specific subject, but we are by nature, ignorant of more things than we are aware.
If you look in a dictionary it won’t take long for you to find a word with which you are not familiar. For me it starts with aalii. If you are ignorant like I am, you can look it up. If you are stupid you probably wouldn’t understand it even if you did.
If we are honest, we will admit to being ignorant about a lot of things. Most of us are not smarter than a fifth grader, but that doesn’t make us stupid and it doesn’t mean we constantly welcome educational efforts to inform and correct us, especially by spouses and peers.
When we refer to people as stupid we rarely do it without a superior attitude, or with resentment, hurt and anger.
In Job 18:3, Job asks God, “Why are we regarded as cattle and considered stupid in your sight?”
Job was angry at what God had done to him and was lashing back, feeling abused and betrayed. He felt God had taken away his dignity and his humanity.
How often have you called an inanimate object stupid because you could not figure out how to use it, or because it would not do as you desired it to do making YOU feel stupid!
“Stupid can opener,” you say as the can falls out of the grasp of the cutting blade and splats bean juice all over the floor. If you’d kept the can on the counter instead of holding up over the floor, it probably would not have slipped out.
After typing two pages of text and reaching to hit the save button, your fingers somehow strike some odd combination of keys deleting everything you wrote and making it irretrievable.
“Stupid computer!!!! Arrghhh!!!”
Now you regret making fun of that sheet of paper over your friend’s computer screen that says, “Jesus saves, you should too.”
The Presidential Elections are coming up…yeah, you got it… STUPID!!!
Like any of us would stand a chance running for president, but we still judge others when they do not share what we think is intelligent.
Ecclesiastes 7:25 says, “So I turned my mind to understand, to investigate and to search out wisdom and the scheme of things and to understand the stupidity of wickedness and the madness of folly.”
Stupid things don’t make sense to us. We don’t want to deal with them because they are irritating and frustrating. They also can prevent us from getting our way.
We could argue that 2 Timothy 2:23 “Don’t have anything to do with foolish and stupid arguments, because you know they produce quarrels,”gives us an excuse to call out the “stupid” in the people and things in our lives, but as the saying goes, you can’t out argue a stupid person, they have more experience at it than you do.
So how should a Christian deal with stupidity and is it wrong to even call someone or something stupid?
First off, calling someone or something stupid generally implies that we think we are somehow better than them. Everyone has an off day and can say or do something that is not very sensible, but that does not mean that they are incapable of being a valued part of humanity. Things are rarely stupid. If they do not work properly or are left sitting out somewhere where we can trip over them, it is most likely human error and most likely our error and we should blame ourselves, not the thing, though it is also not okay to call yourself stupid.
If you do not respect yourself, you will probably not respect others, so, it is not Christian to call something stupid.
You can say, “that wasn’t the smartest thing to do” or “that was very frustrating.”
If you train yourself not to say the word stupid and not to think it, you can minimize if not eliminate it from your vocabulary.
As for dealing with “stupid” people or things; if possible, walk away. If the TV irritates you or the newscaster is opinionated, change channels or turn off the TV. If someone treats you unkindly you can smile at them and move on, or defend yourself firmly without insulting them back. If they continue to debase you, remind them that they are not superior to you and you are not superior to them and you would appreciate it if they treated you respectfully the same way they would want to be treated.
Often, as 2 Timothy says, if you refuse to get drawn into their foolishness, they will back down or leave you alone.
There is something stimulating about arguing with someone over something you are passionate about, but if the conversation turns angry and accusing, then you need to step away from “winning the argument” and realize that it is better to be momentarily stupid and learn from your mistakes than to be ignorant and pretend you don’t make them.