The Problem With Being A Know-It-All

The only thing worse than the Know-It-All is the Faux-It-All … who pretends to know what is going on and is too fearful or prideful to ask for help.*

The Faux-It-All. What a descriptive phrase. The fake-it-till-you-make-it person who thinks they can get by with shooting from the hip, hoping that no one will catch on and not caring when they do.

I’ve Been That Person

In my early college days a professor was talking about something that recently happened in Borneo and then realized he wasn’t sure where it was. He asked if anyone in the class knew. I said, “It’s on the tip of an island in the Indian Ocean.”

The professor went to the map on the wall and looked at the Indian Ocean. “Wait a minute. Borneo’s not on the tip of an island, it’s the whole island.”

“Sorry about that,” I said

“But you sounded so confident.”

“Yeah, it was worth a shot.”

I must have learned my lesson because a couple years later I was in a lecture hall and the professor was talking about water resources.

“Does anyone know how much an acre-foot of water is?” he asked

“Enough water to cover an acre of land a foot deep,” I said from the middle of the crowd.

“But do you know how much water that is in gallons?”

“A lot!”

“Right,” he said, and then moved on. He never did tell us the number of gallons in an acre-foot. Perhaps he didn’t know.**

Don’t Be That Person

Solomon spoke about the problem with being a Faux-It-All:

The tongue of the wise adorns knowledge,
but the mouth of the fool gushes folly. (Proverbs 15:2.)


A dream comes when there are many cares,
and many words mark the speech of a fool. (Ecclesiastes 5:3.)

The mark of a fool? I’d rather not, thanks.

Happily for those of us who belong to God, we have a wisdom that is superior to anything people can hope to come up with on their own:

Jews demand signs and Greeks look for wisdom, but we preach Christ crucified: a stumbling block to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles, but to those whom God has called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. (1 Corinthians 1:22-24.)

Christ is both the power and the wisdom of God. That’s why the gospel message – the good news of Jesus Christ – is always a wise message.

There’s never a reason to feel foolish when talking about Jesus.


Questions to ponder: When are you most tempted to fake it? Why?


*My thanks to a colleague on the bench who introduced me to the phrase faux-it-all and its definition.

**You probably already know this, but an acre foot of water is ~325,853.383688 U.S. gallons.

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17 Responses to The Problem With Being A Know-It-All

  1. David says:

    One of the expectations of physicians is for them to be familiar with an overwhelming amount of medical knowledge. The most important thing a senior physician taught me early in my training was: “It’s OK to say I don’t know.” Followed by,…”but I’ll find out.” And, even more important, “It’s OK to ask for help.” I have had to learn this lesson again and again in all areas of life, most of all in my prayer life. It is so good to see you sharing it here. Ask…Seek…Knock…

    • Tim says:

      It’s the same with judges, David. People think we know everything about the law, but we do the same as physicians. We look things up when needed and then make the decisions.

  2. Julie says:

    I like your blog’s title, tagline and comment prompt. Good post, too.

  3. Jeannie says:

    Once in a university English class we were discussing Matthew Arnold’s “Dover Beach” (what a downer of a poem THAT is!) and the prof asked if anyone knew exactly where Dover Beach was. A guy in the class responded, “It’s on the coast.” 🙂

    I always feel tempted to fake it when we are discussing finances with the guy at the bank. I nod and try to look knowledgeable while stifling yawns.

  4. Laura Droege says:

    I’m tempted to fake it when my daughters ask me a question on some subject that I’m familiar with but not an expert on. I usually end up saying, “I don’t know for certain, but I think this (insert the fact) is true. We’ll have to look it up.” This morning, it was about Gregory Peck. They just watched To Kill a Mockingbird and really enjoyed it. (My husband had read the book to our seven-year-old, and the 12-year-old had already read it.) I couldn’t remember if Peck is still alive, but I told them that I would look it up. I just did. He’s dead.

    Your post reminds me of the fictional Inspector Gamache’s admonishment to his new inspectors about the four phrases that lead to wisdom: I’m sorry; I was wrong; I need help; and I don’t know. They’re all humbling!

  5. Pastor Bob says:

    I think all have spent some time in the “know it all” camp.
    Recent bumper sticker:
    ‘Those of you who think you know it all are irritating those of us who really do.’

    Read this in 8th grade, 1 inch of water on one acre of land is 20,080 gallons,
    Multiply by 144 (cubic inches for cubic foot — ta-da…..

    Enjoy your weekend.

  6. EricaM says:

    On the other hand, know-it-all’s are very entertaining when they’re discussing aliens and conspiracy theories. *Especially* aliens.

  7. joepote01 says:

    Hmmm… At the risk of sounding like a know-it-all…or faux-it-all…according to Mathcad (which is usually quite accurate on unit conversions) 1 acre-foot is 325851.4127325548 gallons. Just say’n… 😉

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