The World is Full of Stupid People

This is the type of post where you need to read the whole thing – don’t read half and then stop. Please.

A couple weeks ago, my sons and I went to a concert to hear one of my favorite bands. They played a song that was popular some years back that features a line that gets stuck in your head – for weeks. The line says this:

“Everybody knows that the world is full of stupid people.”

The last two weeks that phrase has been bouncing around my head, and I can’t seem to find the stop button. However, during this time I have been reminded of something: They are right. The world IS full of stupid people.

They are EVERYWHERE! Don’t believe me? Turn on the news and watch most any politician of any political stripe, or turn on a Hollywood awards show and listen to the acceptance speeches. OR, stand in the grocery line behind the lady who is fighting about an expired coupon for 15¢ off a can of cat food. OR look at the people ‘protest du jour’ being offended. OR the guy reading his phone while using multiple lanes of traffic. OR a significantly large portion of all social media conversations, and most tweets over on Twitter.

Surprisingly, many of the stupid people I referenced operate under some misguided notion that they are, somehow, the smartest person in the room – yet every time they open their mouths, they disprove it. It gets irritating.

One of my favorite expressions is, “People who think they know everything are irritating to those of us who do.”

They are everywhere. The world IS full of stupid people.

I started wondering about how God feels about our individual and collective stupidity. Does he slap His Celestial forehead in disbelief, or does being omniscient diminish the surprise?

Like everything else, the answer is probably in the scriptures. I decided to see how Jesus dealt with stupid people in His sojourn in mortality. I found two surprising examples:

In Matthew 17, we read the story of a man who had a son who was possessed by a devil and was trying to kill himself. He told the Savior that his apostles were unable to save him. Jesus response to His disciples?

“O faithless and perverse generation, how long shall I be with you? how long shall I suffer you? “ (Matthew 17:17)

Ouch! He then went on to heal the boy, and give additional instruction to the apostles about faith, fasting and prayer.

Another instance was in Mark 8. Jesus had just healed a blind man, and instructed his disciples to keep it quiet. He then foreshadowed that he would eventually be killed and resurrected. Peter started to argue – gotta love Peter. Christ’s response?

“Get thee behind me, Satan: for thou savourest not the things that be of God, but the things that be of men.”

Ouch! I’m sure that stung. Sure, call me dumb, but don’t call me “Satan!”

As I was trying to make sense out of how these instances of “trying to be like Jesus,” would apply to my current observations regarding stupid people, a couple of thoughts came clearly to my mind:

These references are clearly an example of where the man who thought he was the “smartest man in the room,” clearly WAS the smartest man in the room, which is rarely the case.

And second, “You are not the smartest man in the room. You are not Jesus. Not even close.”

Case in point: Last Friday I was on the phone with a customer haggling over a past-due invoice. He was insistent that he had paid, I was insistant that he hadn’t. I did my best to be patient and never actually used the term “weasel.” But I was frustrated by this guy’s inability to grasp a simple concept.

I hung up the phone and thought, “Man, that guy was STUPID.”

Then I glanced at my computer screen and realized I had been looking at the wrong account, and that the man had been correct the whole time! I imagined him hanging up the phone in exasperation and saying, “Man, that guy was STUPID.”

So while the world is, indeed, full of stupid people. I must count myself among them. Because I have my moments, too.

Then how do I deal with all the stupid people that regular foist their dumbness on me?

First, by recognizing and reminding myself that I am one of those people. While I would like to think that I am super smart, I know that my smart/stupid ratio is probably moire balanced than I would like to admit.

Second, I need to remember than many of the stupid things I do, (and by association, the stupid things others do) are not necessarily on purpose. Accidents happen. Also, I need to remember that I am ignorant. Ignorance is a harsh word, but I really am ignorant in many areas.

President Kimball taught, “Experience in one field does not automatically create expertise in another field.” (link) We see that a lot in pop culture. Someone is good at reciting lines in front of a green screen fighting cgi aliens, and suddenly they consider themselves experts on politics and international relations. (forehead slap)

Our lack of self-awareness and our egos often give us a distorted view of how clever we really are. Giving people the benefit of the doubt falls right in line with the Golden Rule: “Therefore all things whatsoever ye would that men should do to you, do ye even so to them: for this is the law and the prophets.” (Matthew 7:12)

That empathy makes it a lot easier to ignore, accept, and forgive those dumb moments others might be afflicting us with. Here in our existence, none of us are the “smartest guy in the room.” That job was already taken by Jesus.

Here is the main thing I learned while thinking through this stuff: The biggest problem I had is that I was walking around with the idea in my head that the WORLD IS FULL OF STUPID PEOPLE. If that is your focus, the world will provide unlimited examples to prove you correct. In fact, WHATEVER your focus, the world will provide unlimited examples to prove you correct.

If that is my focus as I interact with people, I will find plenty of ammunition to justify my premise. So many people who are walking around perpetually offended do so because that is what they are focused on: People are offensive. Again, if that is our focus, we can find plenty of support.

Thankfully, it works both ways. If my focus is that people are kind, polite, smart and good, I will find ample support for that focus. Why? Because the world is full of kind, polite, smart and good people. They are everywhere – if that is what you are looking for.

“What we see depends mainly on what we look for.” ~John Lubbock

“Let us look for the good rather than try to discover any hidden evil. We can easily find fault in others if that is what we are looking for.”  (N. Eldon Tanner)

I can walk around singing to myself that the world is full of stupid people, and live with the observations that accompany that mindset, OR I can walk around singing to myself, “Kindness begins with me.” (Even though the tune isn’t as catchy.)

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  1. My father would say, “Son, you will find that common sense isn’t as common as you think.” At night, I pray, “Let me see others as children of God, and may I treat them as such.”

  2. I do hope you called that customer right back and apologized! You are normally kind, polite, smart and good.

  3. Thank you! I’ve been in the camp of stupidity lately and it’s becoming a problem. ?

  4. I was reminded of Hugh Nibley – “Being self-taught is no disgrace; but being self-certified is another matter.”

  5. Great post and message! It was what I needed today. I have had a lot of those moments you described lately while building a house and dealing with grumpy contractors and needed a reminder to see the good in the craziness of life right now!

  6. As I age, I hope I get a little wiser. In someways I do and someways….I’m still working at. I know that I find what I’m looking for. I also know if I observe a situation where I can see clearly the hypocrisy/ignorance/stubborn (insert you own adjective) in another person, this is where my test starts. I’ve had lots of practice and have ended up choosing this thought; What do I do that is so obvious to others that I can’t see in myself? It helps me so I don’t fall into the trap of thinking ‘how can they not see what they’re doing’? Lots of times the spirit brings to my attention how I may be acting the same way where the only difference is the scenery.
    Happy Sabbath!

  7. Well said..and once again your timing is perfect for me. I had similar thoughts this morning – just sub the word “mean” for “stupid”. Thanks for that reminder: Kindness begins with me. You rock.

  8. Just a little shout out to you with gratitude for your ability to pen your thoughts and share them on your blog. I love it and have used your ideas quite often for fodder as I prepare talks for sacrament meeting, of course giving you credit. I hate to share your blog as then others will want to follow you and thus cut down things they haven’t heard before! But truly, thank you for using your gifts to lift and help others–especially me! (PS I know you write these pretty quickly but I could help you with proof-reading if you feel the need!)

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