What you risk when you think you know it all

 shirtless man balancing on one foot on pole at beach

You just know that you’re right about this one.

But how do you know?

Are you even looking at the real issue?

Or are you looking at something else entirely?

Every time you are certain, every time you know you are right — ask yourself this question.

Could I be missing something?

We almost always are.

Your friend didn’t suddenly decide to hate you.

She might be having a bad day.

Maybe her cat died. Maybe her father relapsed.

It’s dangerous to think you know with absolute certainty — to live without a shred of doubt.

The only thing we can know for certain is that we don’t know.

When I was younger, I used to jump to conclusions.

If someone snapped at me, I figured I had done something to make him mad.

My mind always searched for what I could have possibly done to upset the person. I didn’t want anyone to be mad at me.

But that was anxiety talking.

I over-inflated my place in the world. I gave it more space than it deserved.

Now I know that most of the time it’s not about me.

The other person had something else going on about which I know nothing.

I’m not as important as I thought I was.

How often do we curse at the driver who cut us off in traffic?

“What a jerk! What an idiot!”

Maybe he is a terrible driver. Maybe he is doing that to you.

Or maybe he’s driving his wife to the hospital.

Once we know a person’s story, it’s hard not to have empathy. And empathy fosters communication.

Once we hear a person’s story, the person is no longer “that person” — but a human being.

We communicate in stories. It’s how we express ourselves.

If I tell you a story about my life, you might tell me a story about your own.

If we talk enough, eventually our stories will start to include one another.

One day, we might even sit down and write a story together.

It’s called a story line because it keeps going.

I’m one point on the line, you’re another, and, dot by dot, we’ll create a new story.

Maybe the story will have an upward trend. Maybe it will come crashing down.

Who knows?

One thing is true: you always get to choose how you tell your story.

No one can take that away from you.

But when you come to a bend in the road and you meet another soul, listen to learn.

Listen to understand that person’s stories.

And don’t just listen for what is said. Listen for what is not said.

Why does he only talk about his father?

What about his mother?

Where is she? Is she hiding in a distant story?

Humans are capable of great things, but we diminish our greatness when we assume that we know it all.

We cut ourselves off from learning, from being alive in the world.

And when we stop learning, we stop growing.

We stop taking in any more stories.

We end up being a dot at the end of line, lonely, and with nowhere else to go.