Calculated Ignorance

Do you know the difference between “ignorance” and “stupidity?” I speak about this in my new book, “From the Trailer Park to the Pulpit:  How a wise grandmother shaped my life and ministry,” which is based on the outrageous sayings of my Grandma Esther. She had quite an explanation for these two words.

According to Grandma Esther, “An ignorant person you can learn. The stupid ones you just have to shoot.” She was a pretty black or white, true or false, yes or no, kinda gal. She could also be rather adamant and severe, as you can see!

While we always assumed she was kidding (though according to my mother she was a pretty good shot when there was a moving target), Grandma Esther’s quote speaks to how willing we are to hear the truth.

In a world of so-called alternative facts and conflicting news reports it can be a challenge to know what to think. Some of us choose to completely avoid all the media hype and avalanche of info coming into our mobile devices.

You may be surprised to discover there’s a name for this:  Calculated ignorance.

Karen Larson, editor of BottomLine Personal magazine recently wrote about this. She says that this common phenomenon, “according to James Shepperd, PhD, professor of psychology at University of Florida, … isn’t always harmful, but when it concerns our health … our finances … or our relationships, it can create problems that are difficult or impossible to fix.”

So how do we know when to overcome or relax into calculated ignorance? Here are three tips from Dr. Shepperd:

  1. Consider ways in which you have some control over the situation. This will make you more willing to confront unwanted information. One recent study found that women were more likely to learn about their overall breast cancer risk if they first read about risks they could control.
  2. Consider what you value most deeply. This might be your family, your work ethic, your sense of fair play or anything else at the core of your value system. Recount things that you’ve done recently that reflect these values. Studies suggest that focusing on core values may make the information we are avoiding seem trivial in comparison.
  3. Consider why you are avoiding the information. Perhaps your fears are simply operating on autopilot and just realizing this can put you back in control.

Calculated ignorance isn’t about avoiding understanding information that we need to know, or acting on that information for our highest good. It’s about deciding just how much information we need about any given subject, or if we need that knowledge at all.

Information technology has exploded over the past two decades in ways that we never expected. With the exception of transporter technology and interstellar space travel, most of what we see on any of the starship Enterprise in any given Star Trek series or movie is already at our fingertips.

What we must recognize is that our brains have not yet evolved to keep up with technology. To attempt to absorb all that’s out there is physically impossible. We must be selective in what we seek to understand. Be mindful of that in the coming week. Is what you’re reading on your mobile device or watching on TV really necessary for you to have a life worth living?-

In Spirit, Truth and Playfulness,


Copyright © 2017 Terry Drew Karanen. All rights reserved.

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