“If you’re the smartest person in the room, you’re in the wrong room.”
I recently read one of those “40 things you should know to improve your life” or some other ridiculousness and this quote was on the list. I usually dismiss most of what those things say, but that one really struck me. I am a competitive person and I come from an intellectual family, so you can imagine that being the “smartest person in the room” has always been an aspiration for me. I don’t think I ever have actually been the smartest person, per se, aside from times I have been the only adult in a room of toddlers.
As I tend to always relate things to faith, Christianity, church, etc. I immediately thought of the goal that many of us (especially the competitive types) have to be the most biblically knowledgeable person in the room, or in our circle, or on the internet, etc. Maybe biblically knowledgeable isn’t always the goal. Maybe we want people to see us as the most godly, or the most spiritually mature, or the one who has it all figured out, or the expert on whatever fill-in-the-blank crusade we’re on at the moment. None of those are necessarily bad things, some are worthy and lofty and GOOD goals… except for the idea that we need to be the one at the top.
I am so guilty of this. I don’t want to be, but I am. I realized a few years ago that I am a competitive person and it infiltrates all aspects of my life. Being competitive, I guess, doesn’t have to be a bad thing but it often, maybe always, leads to pride. Yes, I want to be the smartest, the most godly, the expert, the best… and why? Wanting to be smart, godly, knowledgeable, and good – those are wonderful. But add that superlative and it becomes pride.
I had a conversation a few years ago with a friend. We were talking about politics, but what he said is pretty universal. He said something along the lines of this, “Instead of trying to always convince others that I’m right, I would rather actually be right.” I am not quoting him well, but I think you get what he was saying. If we walk into the room thinking we are the smartest in the room – or even if we actually are – we are not in a position to learn. Entering a conversation thinking that you have all the answers leaves no room for you to actually get all the answers. Sometimes we are in a position to teach others, and that might put us in a more knowledgeable position about what we are teaching, but if you enter those situations thinking that it is an opportunity for others to learn from all your knowledge, it closes your mind to the idea that it can be an opportunity for you, as well.
As I said before, I am guilty of this. Next time I find myself being the most ________ (whatever) in the room, I need to either humble myself enough to realize it’s an opportunity for me, as well, or I need to change rooms to one filled with people ________er than me.