Do you have a problem with saying “I don’t know” or ‘maybe”? When the answer is no the door gets closed and you walk away. When the answer yes, you are committed and you walk through it. But when the answer is “maybe” or “I don’t know” you are stuck at the door, feeling lost or unsettled. We’re not comfortable with that. We don’t know what to do with uncertainty or ambiguity.

We are wired for certainty but live in an uncertain world. We are raised with a regimen of right and wrong answers, things are good or bad, allowed or prohibited. And you don’t want to end up on the wrong side. Kids keep asking “why?” until they get a sufficient answer – which is not “because I said so”.

But it is okay to say “I don’t know” We are finite beings and we don’t know everything. We can’t know everything about everything, and we shouldn’t try. It is not weak to say “I don’t know” It is simply being honest. Trying to manufacture an answer just to sound smart isn’t. We can say I don’t know, but I will try to find out. We can say I don’t know but I know someone who might. Or we can just simply confess I don’t know. The older I get the more things I leave to the I don’t know. Because the older and the more you know, the more you know that you don’t know.

Religious people are especially bad at this. People will ask them “why did God do this?” or “why do these terrible things happen?” It is agonizing to see bad stuff happen and we long for an explanation. In another sense we try to explain the good , the beauty of nature, the miracle of life. And we end up just as frustrated. We look out from finite minds and hearts to try to explain the actions or creations of an infinite mind and fail. Someone has likened it t the ocean. It is a mystery that we need to step back and marvel in instead of trying to explain.

So if you have a good answer to someone’s question say it. But if you don’t know, just say you don’t know. It’s okay, it’s allowed, and you will have plenty of company if people stick to being honest with themselves and the rest of us.