Person B: Totally. It is a classic. (Has never heard the song before).
Person A: Gosh, I can't remember who sings it.
Person B: Ahh, me either, but I know who it is. If you hadn't asked me, I would be able to remember. (Has no idea).
Person A: Aren't they the ones that sing that other song...oh, how does it go...
Person B: I know the one you are talking about. Yeh, I think that is them. (Still has no clue.)
Person A: Oh yeh, it's (insert random, obscure band name)!
Person B: That's right! They are great. (Has never heard of them)
I can't be the only person who has been guilty of playing person B in conversations like these. I will confess, (at great potential risk to all of my future conversations), that I have often said "Oh yeh, I know what you are talking about," in order to move a conversation along, to avoid awkwardness, and/or to be polite. I think I probably learned this technique very early in life to abbreviate lectures from my parents and/or to keep the teacher from dragging out a lesson in school. Something like that. I am not proud of it. I am actually pretty embarrassed, but I figured that I can't be the only one, so I want to shine a light on it (sorry if I am blowing your cover). You see, in situations like the one above, there is virtually no danger of being called out. Why not make the other person feel good and say that you know? Why not move the conversation along? No one is being hurt. Right? Well...
It is dangerous to be in the habit of acting like you know something that you don't. Worse yet, it is unhealthy to cultivate an attitude that requires you to always be in the know. With information at our fingertips nowadays, there is even easier to avoid ever having to say "I don't know." You can just look it up. But it goes beyond benign conversations like the one above, ultimately developing into a culture of dishonesty. On top of that, it nurtures a deep sense of insecurity--"What if people see that I don't know..what if they find me out...what if I don't know what to say?" Sadly, many Christians have fallen prey to the temptation to do this concerning their own faith. They may be completely biblically illiterate, but when faced with something "spiritual" or "from the Bible" they will be sure to say "Oh yeh, I know what you are talking about," to avoid being caught off guard or looking foolish. Whether or not it is right or actually comes from the Bible and is being understood or applied correctly is of little concern. They just want to avoid looking like they don't know. Not only does this have negative repercussions for the person who is saying, "Oh yeh, I know" when they don't, but also for the entire community. Parents, pastors, preachers, and teachers are often under the impression that everyone knows certain things (often very basic things) when nothing could be farther from the truth. I have seen this first hand as a classroom teacher. If I preach on a Wednesday night to the youth group and say "You guys know about..." and get a bunch of heads nodding. If I go around the room and double check, "everyone knows what I mean," I will get eye contact and an assured look from each kid. But if I ask the same kids on Thursday in class, most of them will have absolutely no idea what I am talking about. And I am not trying to pick on kids. Adults do the same thing.
I really don't have a profound point to make here. I just want to start a conversation about it. I want to expose something that I think is very subtle--almost completely under the radar--yet is very dangerous (to the Church as well as to civilization in general). If that means ratting myself out first, then so be it. In my observation, the wisest people are those who, though they know a lot, recognize that they don't know everything, and they are okay with that. That isn't an excuse to stop learning. In fact, I think it actually encourages it. When we are afraid to say "I don't know," we inadvertently cheapen the value of knowledge.