I don't know, but what I mean is I don't want to know

18 April 2018

Have you ever uttered the words " I don't know”, and that was your complete answer?

I did, and it was liberating.

It happened last year. A friend had asked me about a mutual acquaintance; and my response was ‘I don't know’. I felt no need to ask her what she thought was happening or what she knew. Normally I would say these words, with the hope that the other person would fill me in on the latest scoop. This time, I didn’t want to know. I cared about the mutual acquaintance and kept them in my prayers. However, I did not think it was my place to be in the know.

This instance struck me, because the year before I was part of a community going through a difficult time, and outsiders were trying to find out what's the latest gossip. During that time a friend of mine advised me not to know. To go out of my way to be in the dark about details. At that time there was a strong sense of wanting to be informed about the details and what was happening, as I possibly could. Taking my friends' advice was the best decision ever. When people asked me something I could say I don't know, and it was the truth even though they may have thought I was hiding the truth. In that instance my ' I don't know (meant I want to know) but my need for self-preservation comes first.

After the conversation took place, the impact of those words 'I don't want to know' hit me. I found myself overwhelmed by the thought that I had said those words and meant them. Saying the words is one thing. To mean them is another thing.

The phrase could be interpreted as being dismissive. In this instant it was me communicating my fear, rather than my lack of interest in the lives of the people concerned. At the best of times I am curious about people's lives, to the point of just being nosy.

What struck me, as equally profound was my friend’s response. My friend’s response was, I guess like you I don't want to know. This took me by surprise as she brought up the acquaintance. What may have sounded like a dismissive response of I am not telling, freed us both enough to admit to each other that we did not want to know. thereby, avoiding that thin line between sharing info and gossip.

Rakgadi Khobo

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