Woe to those who are wise in their own opinion and clever in their own sight. (Isaiah 5:21 HCSB)
We all have various levels of comfort, knowledge, and experience in the great outdoors. For many of us, we know our limitations. I would go so far as to say the truly smart among us for sure know our limitations. I am about to embark on a new adventure to Alaska. I have lived in some pretty wild places with extreme weather and have traveled to some pretty austere parts of the world but Alaska is a new challenge for me. For that reason, I am talking to everyone I know to make sure I have the best insight, knowledge and equipment I will need to make the most of my Alaskan experience, not just survive it.
The person I worry about the most when leading others outside is the one who wants everyone else around to know they know it all. They talk about how experienced they are, how they’ve done it all, and how well accomplished they are. It doesn’t matter this might be their first time in this new environment, there is nothing they haven’t tried, don’t know, and haven’t succeeded at. These people will likely get themselves in trouble faster outdoors than anyone else and they have a bad habit of dragging others along with them.
Conversely, the quiet and inexperienced participants tend to listen. They are often embarking on a new adventure and are quite unsure of exactly what they have or are about to get themselves into. They listen intently and ask questions. They are not the ones I normally worry about walking off alone or taking unnecessary risks; although they may accidentally sit in poison ivy. These people simply want to make the most of the experience they are on and live to tell about it.
Overly ambitious people are one of the main issues outdoor leaders have to contend with. One person who thinks they know it all can dramatically change the otherwise positive dynamic of a group and their actions can have detrimental and disastrous consequences. I teach my students this and warn them that others might try and take advantage of their youthfulness with their verbose or arrogance. I stress the need for them to assert upfront they are in charge and when all else fails, and the opportunity presents itself, allow the know-it-all to fail (if it can be done without them hurting themselves too bad). There is nothing like a little humbling and damaged pride to bring a person back to reality.
God apparently does not appreciate the know-it-all either. For in today’s verse He speaks to Isaiah a warning to pass on to His chosen people letting them know just what He things about such people. The know-it- all is full of self-absorbed pride, of which God detests. To believe you know it all it is an attempt to equate yourself with God, who really does know it all. God’s dissatisfaction is evident; it is never a good thing when God speaks and begins His calling out of another person or group of people with the word, “Woe”. Woe = warning, bad things to come.
Remember, God has a way of humbling prideful, know-it-all people. Proverbs 16:18 tells us. “Pride comes before destruction, and an arrogant spirit before a fall.”
The smarter they (think) are, the harder they fall. Don’t fall with them.