How To: Love The Know-It-All
The other day, I took my teenager to the doctor to figure out how to deal with some problems she was having. As the doctor asked her questions about school and her friends, he came to the conclusion that some of the issues were stemming from the fact that she is bored in her classes and feeling frustrated with the immaturity of some of her classmates. In fact, the doctor’s exact words were that my daughter is “highly intelligent” and very “emotionally mature” for her age. Thanks, Doc. That’s just what my teenager (who already thinks she knows more than me) needs to hear. Perfect. Can you hear the sarcasm dripping off those words? The good news is that since then she has realized that just because she’s “highly intelligent,” she doesn’t actually know it all. And that realization has saved her AND our family’s sanity!
It seems to me that Know-It-All’s are some of the most difficult people to love. And it’s not because they may be “highly intelligent” or “emotionally mature.” They’re hard to love because they are hard to teach (since they know everything), impossible to correct (because they’re never wrong), and a challenge to lead (because in their minds they should be the one leading). And yet God calls us to love even the Know-It-All’s in our ministries. So how do we do that?
Recognize the reason behind their Know-It-All demeanor. One big reason behind a Know-It-All is insecurity. Someone who is insecure often exhibits a mask of knowing more than they actually know because they want to impress people or are afraid of revealing their shortcomings. Being vulnerable is scary, so they put up a front to make everyone think they know more than they do. People with this deep insecurity need us to teach them that it’s okay to not be okay. We can do this by modeling an attitude of authenticity, letting ourselves be vulnerable and admitting our own mistakes graciously. We can help them overcome their insecurities by praising their imperfect efforts and helping them recognize that weakness showcases God’s strength (2 Cor. 12:9). Admitting weakness allows God to get the glory! When an insecure Know-It-All recognizes that their attitude steals glory from God, they just may change their attitude!
Lead with confidence in your calling. The other reason behind a Know-It-All is pride. A prideful person is blind to their own sin and only sees the faults of others. Their goal is to showcase their own greatness and bring down anyone in leadership over them. When these people attack, our natural response is to put them in their place. To take them down a peg and prove our own importance. But that effort causes us to end up in a harmful cycle of trying to out do one another- constantly jockeying for position and influence- while unintentionally putting the spotlight on ourselves rather than on God.
Nonetheless, it’s not our job to make others humble – it’s our job to model humility. Showing humility in the presence of a prideful person is very difficult, but God says when we do- He will lift us up. We can stand strong in our humble position knowing that “God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.” (James 4:7-10) Being humble does not mean letting the Know-It-Alls undermine your leadership. It means that we don’t spend our time trying to prove the Know-It-All wrong, rather we spend our time obeying God, fulfilling our calling and working to make God’s name great. When we have nothing to prove, the know-it-all has nothing to fight against. When we voluntarily humble ourselves- the know-it-all has no way to put us down. When we push God’s name forward and lead from a position of confidence in God’s calling on our lives, the know-it-all finds themselves fighting a losing battle against the God of the universe.
Stay focused on the goal. Our goal is not to prove to the Know-It-All that we are right, and they are wrong. Our goal is to bring them into a right relationship with God, so that God can fix whatever is behind their Know-It-All attitude. We can be right, or we can have the relationship. We must do whatever we can to build relationships based on love and respect- even when people are difficult to love.