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Common Sense


One of the things I have observed in life is how little common sense people have. According to Miriam Webster, the very phrase “common sense” means “sound and prudent judgment based on a simple perception of the situation or facts”.

Back in the day when I worked in Human Resources for a local utility company, we called it the reasonable person rule. What that simply means is would a reasonable person act or behave in a certain manner.

Now I know this can still be somewhat subjective, but the above definition strongly conveys there are things that the average person should just understand. An example is a person I know who is going for a PH.D., but didn’t know that the reason a tree died in the front yard was because it needed watering. One might not know how often a tree should be watered, but to not water at all and be surprised at the outcome, suggests a lack of common sense.

There are many categories of where people lack common sense. One of those is in the area of conversing with another person or basic people skills. How often we meet someone and they go on and on with a topic, never stopping to breathe or even once asking the other person anything about them. We might also call that being self centered, but it also shows a lack of common courtesy (sense).

Other examples of a lack of common sense are stereotypes we have that spill over in how we interact with one another. A white pastor I knew upon meeting an African American man said to me in front of him, “did you tell him I was a missionary to Africa”. This young black man grew up in the United States, so where did that comment come from other than “black” people originated in Africa. This was clearly insensitive and lacking common decency (sense).

Some of you know that one of the seminars I conduct is a budget seminar called Financially Free. Years ago I counseled a man who apologized to me regarding how little money he made. Before I tell you the amount he earned, I always ask people when I tell this story to give me a figure that would constitute his comment. Almost always the figure is somewhere between $20,000 and $40,000 annually. His answer was $150,000!!

When I told him that he was in the top 1% of all wage earners in the United States, he was shocked. Interviewing him further I discovered that he was one of four brothers and that all of his brothers earned far more than him, the lowest amount being $500,000 a year. Even though his world was strictly centered on his family, to be that unaware of what anyone else made was surprising to say the least.

Some of you reading this might say if you aren’t exposed to certain information, then of course comments might appear to be lacking common sense.

My reason for writing about this is the importance of awareness and how to acquire common sense. You do this first off by wanting to understand people and the world around you. Wanting to understand is more than half the battle. I know this because lately I have been rereading the book of Proverbs and there is so much in there about acquiring wisdom and understanding.

When you want to understand you investigate and most importantly you ask questions. So much of our knowledge about things is more what we want to believe rather than investigating and discovering truth.

Last year Oprah Winfrey for 60 Minutes convened a group of voters, half of whom were for Hillary Clinton and the other half for Donald Trump. Her purpose was to not only ask what political views they held, but more importantly why they held those views. She got both sides to really listen to the other. The result was fascinating. Many of the people had complete misunderstanding about “the other side”. From that first session, this group became friends and really cared about others without changing their political views, but most importantly didn’t stereotype what the other side was like.

My hope and prayer is that we all become better at realizing what obvious facts are by listening, observing, and not wanting to let our ignorance define us. Who knows the sense that we develop might become so normal as to even call it common.


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