But I *Need* to Know!
We’re hardwired to desire certainty. We actually need to know certain things to keep ourselves alive.
But when we don’t know something we want to know, we often feel anxious or we make up our own stories to fill in the gaps.
Both these options of anxiety and storytelling can be dangerous. They can cause great pain and damage to ourselves and to our relationships.
A healthier approach when we really can’t know something is to gently release our demand to know. To fight against our addiction to certainty. And instead to embrace a greater tolerance for uncertainty until we can know (if ever).
It’s not easy. I know because I’ve been wrestling with it all year. UNCERTAINTY has been my One Word for 2021.
I’m still not fully at peace with uncertainty (and likely never will be). But I am a little closer to calling a truce with uncertainty than when I started.
7 Tools to Overcome Your Addiction to Certainty
Here are 7 tools I discovered are helpful in overcoming our addiction to certainty.
1. CULTIVATE YOUR CURIOSITY
Instead of idolizing the knowledge you’ve gathered to downplay uncertainty, cultivate your curiosity.
The best way to get smarter is to keep an open mind. Continue digging for the truth. You’ll never know everything. Say “I wonder” more than “I know.”
[More: When History Makes You Sick]
2. KEEP YOUR OPTIONS OPEN
Instead of insisting your original plan be perfect or scrap it all, trust that a new plan will pop up when yours goes awry.
Keep your options open. Plan B might even be a better plan. There is always someone or something else behind the next door. Even if it’s not who or what you expect. End a few more statements with “Maybe.”
[More: How Does It Feel to Be Alone?]
3. ALLOW YOURSELF TO BE VULNERABLE
Instead of closing every gap so you can protect yourself from the unknown, allow yourself to be vulnerable.
(Only to a degree, of course; use wisdom.) Opening up your heart to others can make you stronger in the midst of uncertainty. You are more than what you know. Take a risk with who you are.
4. TAKE THE GRACE
Instead of hoarding everything for yourself so you won’t run out, stay open to needing and receiving grace.
Eventually you’ll be caught flat-footed with your own resources. Look for the gifts of grace that have been planted ahead just for you.
5. EXPECT RESURRECTION
Instead of dreading the uncertainty of death, anticipate resurrection.
Face the certainty of a thousand little deaths along the way. But look for the experience of a thousand and one little resurrections.
6. ACCEPT MYSTERY
Instead of thinking you have to figure out how God works, just accept that God does work.
Foster humility and drop the arrogance about what you think you know of God. Trust not your thoughts about God; trust God, the very mystery of all good things.
7. STAY IN THE MOMENT
Instead of seeking certainty for the future, embrace the certainty in this moment.
Whatever your time or place, God is working to bring out the good for you in this moment. Engage what you’re doing right now. Don’t jump too far ahead in your thoughts. Now is always the time where God acts; here is always the place where God lives.
Who Is Stronger Than What
In the end, are these 7 tools just trading certainty for one thing into certainty about another?
I don’t know. Maybe?
I’ve learned that in making peace with uncertainty, Who is stronger than What. It’s more comforting to trust in the existence of a loving God and God’s loving people than to trust only in your plans, assets, and intelligence.
It doesn’t mean you shouldn’t make plans or collect assets or use your intelligence.
Just know that eventually some (all?) of your resources won’t work as scheduled. Instead, you’ll have more peace if you cultivate healthy relationships with other God-breathing human beings to walk you through the fog.
We’re never abandoned to figure things out alone. Humility and companionship are key components to making peace with uncertainty.
I still don’t like not knowing. But I must accept it for now.
I can’t wait for certainty to find happiness.
I can be confident in the gap. Not because of illusory guarantees, but because of God.
God is good. God is here. God is love.
We come from love. We are guided by love. We live in love.
I’m sure of this. Maybe that’s all I need to know.
Are you tempted to idolize certainty too? How comfortable are you with uncertainty? Share in the comments.
UNCERTAINTY segues perfectly into my One Word 2022. I didn’t see it coming. More on my new word in the next few days.
If you want companionship along your One Word journey for 2022, join us here for a monthly email, tips, and our private Facebook group.
Here is a collage of quotes about UNCERTAINTY I shared throughout the year.
- When You Lose Your Christmas Peace
- One Word 2021 Linkup for December