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Holten: You choose your role

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opinion Dickinson, 58602
Dickinson North Dakota 1815 1st Street West 58602

What role do you typically play? Are you positive in most situations or are you destructive, dispassionate, disengaged and, worst of all, disingenuous?

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Whichever you are, it is quite possible that being disingenuous is by far the worst. Why? Because being destructive is bad, dispassionate is bland and disengaged is vague, but disingenuous is worse because it is misleadingly destructive.

You see, other than a job, few people get involved in helping with a lot of other things in life. It’s called volunteerism.

Instead, they choose to take the easy route, remain on the sideline, enjoy the event and then pick it apart, telling others how bad it was instead of adding to the event or loving it for what it was and making it better for next year. Why? Good question. They apparently do it to somehow justify their own laziness.

However, when they are confronted about their negative attitude, they become disingenuous and in most cases, probably don’t even know what it means. So for those of you who fall into this category, let me help you get a grip.

Disingenuous means that you are not candid or sincere and that you typically pretend that you know less about something than you actually do. In other words, you are less than upfront and honest.

Oh sure, we’ve all been guilty of that at one time or another in some small way and might have even thought that being so in a given situation was actually helping someone else. Then there are others who have made it a career and although most of them are politicians, there are plenty of others.

The funny thing about being disingenuous is that those who are disingenuous tend to know less about things than they think they do. Nevertheless, they are quick to spout off, be critical and make themselves appear to be experts on a myriad of categories in which they have collected a minimum of information and evidence, simply because, you guessed it, they tend to be lazy.

In the Bible, in Exodus 20:16, it says that “You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor.”

What does that mean? It means that you are not supposed to lie. And why should you not lie? Well, you might think that you shouldn’t do it in order to prevent others from looking like an idiot. When, in reality, you shouldn’t lie in order to keep yourself from looking like an idiot, because it’s a universal law that when you lie it’s always you who will ultimately look like you are ignorant.

Which somehow reminds me of something Neil Postman, the American author, media theorist and cultural critic once said: “Perhaps we should abandon the whole idea of trying to make students intelligent and focus on the idea of making them less ignorant. After all, doctors do not generally concern themselves with health; they concentrate on sickness. And lawyers don’t think too much about justice; they think about cases of injustice. Using this model in teaching would imply that we should identify and better understand various forms of ignorance and work to eliminate as many of them as we can.”

I bring this up because people who spread misinformation are ultimately ignorant. And Mr. Dictionary backs that up by saying that being ignorant means to be “lacking in knowledge or information as to a particular subject or fact.”

Martin Luther King Jr., once said that, “Nothing in the world is more dangerous than sincere ignorance and conscientious stupidity.”

And Confucius once said that, “Real knowledge is to know the extent of one’s ignorance.”

In other words, it is often times better to keep your mouth shut, especially when you don’t really know the facts even though you might think that you do.

Or as Plato said, “Opinion is the medium between knowledge and ignorance.”

You’re better off not expressing it. Just get off your butt and do something to help instead.

Holten is the editor of The Drill and the executive director of the North Dakota Cowboy Hall of Fame. Email him at kholten@thedickinsonpress.com.

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