Stupid is as Stupid does

A chance exchange on Facebook about stupid comments leads to a reflection upon how stupid we all are, and how stupidity is a euphemism for sin, perhaps. Goes like this…

A stupid comment from a forum debater, about the car industry and Brexit: apparently the Leave voters cannot have been hoodwinked because some of them are currently losing jobs in industries affected by Brexit, etc. So they knew and they still thought it important to leave. That all makes good sense, doesn’t it? No! They are stupid and didn’t realise the consequences of their actions. They voted stupidly. Some try to call them out on this: some people are stupid they say, and sometimes go further: all people are stupid, ourselves included. Yes. I agree.

Our stupidity is made the worse because of the shame it seems to heap upon us, but it is the stupidity that needs to be acknowledged, personally, in humility, in order for the world to turn in peace. We judge people who are stupid, or rather, that is how it seems to those who have bought into the narrative. They (we) cannot face their (our) stupidity when it is noticed because we think it brings shame, but the shame is not shame. It is recognition and acceptance of a behaviour that has since been shown to be stupid. We rarely behave stupidly on purpose. Instead we notice it afterwards.

We hide our stupidity, in deceitful and arrogant ways. The opposite of stupid isn’t wisdom but humility. My stupidity was created by my ego. And afterwards, once I found the power to admit it (through the grace of God), I have not had to admit it since. My own stupidity is deep and wounding, and it is the shame that kept me from being open about it until too late.

The word ‘stupid’ has come to sound stupid. We have wrapped it up into a humour so that we see clowns’ noses, slapstick, jokes and ribaldry rather than a much shorter and dangerous word: sin. We make sin into the glorious spiritual failure and stupidity into an intellectual and educational one. Every week we confess to our sins — aren’t we noble — but we should really confess to our stupidity. We piously and smugly accept that we all sinners and are absolved of our sins. We treat our sins almost as a badge of honour, rarely if ever verbalising them, always the abstract and generalised, never the particular and specific. In reality, however, it is the stupidity that needs to be named, and in detail if we can. It is not always inadvertent stupidity. Some stupidity is intentional. And some stupidity is continued once it has begun inadvertently.

Stupidity is not a euphemism for childishness. It is a grown up problem that we all have.

I was scared of the shame of my stupidity, so I found all kinds of ways to wrap it up and hide it away. But I was stupid. Astoundingly so. My stupidity hurt people. Stupidity isn’t necessarily benign. It is heavy duty stupidity. To own up to it and to accept it when it is pointed out (stupidity isn’t always obvious to the stupid) is courageous. The shame is real because we make it so through our treatment of others around us who are stupid. But that’s the problem: we are all stupid. We are all frightened of the shame.

How we respond to the stupidity of others enables us to respond to our own when we know it to be present. Stupidity is treated as such a criticism that nobody is able to own up to it for fear of the shame. If we were prepared to be less deceitful of our stupidity then all kinds of honesty could be accepted.