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There aren't too many things in life as damaging as ignorance. While we've all heard the saying that "ignorance is bliss," we all know that that particular saying is about as true as "the customer is always right" -- they're just words that we hear a lot. The truth is that ignorance is a very damaging aspect of many of our lives, and I know that in my life, it's caused me a lot of pain, frustration, confusion, and aggravation. And I know that the worst times are when I act out of ignorance rather than taking the time to find out more information about a situation, and this has happened much more than I'd like to admit. First off, it seems important to define this term. Ignorance is simply a lack of knowledge, not a form of stupidity, as some people like to use the term when they're trying to insult someone else. For example, I'm completely ignorant of most aspects of quantum physics. I know almost nothing about the topic, and I'm the first to admit that I'm almost completely ignorant about the field. The same goes for chemistry, veterinary medicine, current politics in india, and many, many other topics. But there are some things about which I shouldn't be ignorant. Another saying that we often hear is that "ignorance of the law is no excuse," and for the most part, that's true. Most judges and police officers will be pretty forgiving if we're talking about little-known laws that are almost never enforced, but does your state have a law concerning the use of cell phones while driving? Ours does, and not knowing about the law can result in a pretty heavy fine and points on your license. I shouldn't be ignorant of how my step-children are doing in school, I shouldn't be ignorant of the particular demands of my job, and I shouldn't be ignorant of what's going on in my town. If I don't pay some attention, who's to blame for my surprise when they start tearing down my neighborhood to build a new bypass or apartment complex? Ignorance is the main force behind almost all prejudices and biases. Even the word "prejudice" implies "pre- judging," or judging beforehand, and we have to ask "before what?" The answer, of course, is before having all the knowledge necessary to judge accurately. And if you don't have that knowledge, you're ignorant, yet you're still judging. How can that ever be helpful or even honest? Many people who face difficult financial situations do so because of ignorance -- ignorance of basic financial principles behind credit, ignorance of tax laws and procedures, and ignorance of concepts such as interest and investing. They find themselves struggling because they just didn't know that putting so much on credit would lead to such high monthly bills. They didn't realize that even paying the minimum monthly payment on credit doesn't lower the bill enough even to make a dent in the balance. They've believed the hype behind the "buy now" mentality, and they haven't made the effort to look behind that hype and find out the true story. Many religions and cults and splinter groups from major religions like to encourage ignorance among their followers, for they fear that if their followers learn more about their tenets and beliefs, they'll not like what they see and back out. In this way, these groups build intolerance and prejudice among their followers, keeping these people trapped in a system of belief that's based upon not knowing any more than the leaders want them to know. Many people like to use their ignorance as an excuse, and the words "I didn't know" are their favorite words of all. I had to work with someone like that once, and I found that I couldn't ever depend upon that person. No matter what she was told to do, she would claim "I didn't know you wanted me to do that" the next day when the job hadn't been done. It was one of the most frustrating professional experiences that I (and the other people involved) ever had. Teens like to use ignorance as an excuse for not doing their chores or certain tasks, and it's important that they learn quickly that ignorance is almost never a valid excuse in real life. In the work world, if you don't know something, you'd better find out -- that's what you're getting paid for. How many stories have you read or movies have you seen in which the main character goes through the entire film not knowing something very important, and you watch as he or she comes closer and closer to breaking through his or her ignorance to find knowledge? Aren't you just waiting the entire time for that to happen, and don't you just know that things will be much better when the character learns? In The Lion King, for example, Simba almost throws away his life and his heritage based on ignorance -- he didn't know what truly happened to his father. Believing his uncle was easier than giving himself credit and finding out the truth of the situation. How many times have you thought someone to be a jerk (or worse) because of the way that he or she talked to you or answered one of your questions, only to find out later that something bad had just happened to that person? Your ignorance caused you to judge harshly and sometimes to lose your own peace of mind, even though had you known the true situation, you probably would have reacted with compassion and caring. But getting upset is easier than thinking compassionately, until you get used to the latter. Ignorance is the easy way out, and the easy way out is rarely the best. Fighting our own ignorance takes dedication, desire, and effort. We

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