Offended By Certainty?

I’m offended by certainty. No, seriously. And irritated. It’s worse than an itchy rash that I can’t not scratch.

I’m not sure I’ve ever known enough of why I’m so offended by certainty — it is practically revered as much as chocolate in this world, and how could you ever be offended by chocolate — but I can track it back to my teens. I wouldn’t have said it that way back then. I just had the spidey senses to feel that something was fundamentally weird about grandstanding “knowing.” I remember a conversation with a cousin who was quite religiously certain, asking her if she was certain the color of chair in front of us was brown, and then making a case that it was more maroon colored. Something in me wanted to mess with the certainty.

I’ve told myself everything from “I’m bratty and stubborn” to “I have an authority complex (that is obviously completely legitimate).” My attitude has been everything between humble and revering of complexity to self-righteous and indignant.

I may be getting closer to a key understanding. My “aha” that seems to be moving in for the long haul is that “there is so much more unseen, I believe, in this existence, this glorious existence, than seen.” Always. In relationships. In emotional history. In objective observation (the instrument effects the reality of what is being measured). In complexity of wholes where at best, we get a part of the whole. When more is unseen than seen, it renders certainty absurd, like claiming that this round, spinning, floating in space, world is flat. Or denying climate change.

Certainty, so revered or bullied into being, often from the masculine — it’s different than clarity, which is what certainty often masquerades as. How can you not want that, right?

Perhaps we’d all do good to develop more of a relationship and familiarity with uncertainty and the unseen. With questions rather than answers. With wonderings rather that ultimatums. Certainty, with all of it’s bravado, more often creates battle lines over which we go to war. And that doesn’t pass the spidey sense test either, does it.

In my work with groups, one of my hopes is to dislocate us (and me)  from our certainty. It doesn’t actually take that much to do it when working with participatory process. It’s different that the absoluteness that can be delivered from the front of the room, the head of the table, the podium, or the pulpit. I want people to develop an acceptance with “not knowing,” with being able to adapt to an environment that is dynamic and changing. I want people to develop ability and expectation to never know it all, to never be able to manipulate it all, and yet within that awareness, choose experiments and things to try that offer some good.

I think I’m learning to get beyond my irritation. That’s just simple growing up stuff with a big fat welcome sign to an increasingly apparent land that says, “You Are Not Revered For Your Certainty.” No offense needed.

2 Replies to “Offended By Certainty?”

  1. Perfect timing – I’m certain it is!

    I recently crafted an invitation to describe and invite others to a 6-week workshop I am hosting this spring on the A Small Group conversations.

    Here is where our worlds collide: In the invitation, I tried to make clear that they will be expected to engage and contribute in creating the experience and learning. There is a price to be paid if you decide to accept. Here is the line I used:

    “Are you willing to set aside your certainty long enough to listen deeply to a different perspective? That is the cost to shift the conversation.”

    Sad, I missed you when you were in Cincinnati with Quanita. Fond memories of meeting you at LSOW at Sleeping Lady in 2009.

    Thanks for the post on certainty. I will use it as a resource in my workshop. 😉

    1. Glad it sparks something Elaine. I like “the cost to shift the conversation.” Quanita and I were just talking about 2017 dates in Cincinnati for the fall. Perhaps then we can reconnect. Good luck with your workshop!

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