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Is Your Quest for Knowledge Making You Mentally Unhealthy?

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I would suggest to you that in the info-laden culture we now live in we’ve got fat, fat and unhappy and we’re wondering why. Is knowledge really power?


There was a time when I could eat whatever I wanted whenever I wanted. Then I turned twenty-five and it all changed.

To this day I remember the moment I realized that pounding whatever food I wanted wasn’t sustainable anymore.

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I was on vacation with my wife and her family in San Diego and whenever I visited with them my mother-in-law would buy me a huge (HUGE) chocolate cake, and it became my mission to eat the entire thing before we left.

Is Your Quest for Knowledge Making You Mentally Unhealthy?

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Well, I got to work and the day before we left I was in my swim-shorts and my brother-in-law blurted out, “Dude! You’re getting fat!” For the record, I felt neither offended or shamed by his observation, actually more surprised; this was the first time anyone had ever commented on my weight.

We are what we eat, not just literally but figuratively speaking as well.

Later that day as I inspected myself in the mirror I asked my wife if I’d gotten bigger and she looked at me, paused for a moment and very diplomatically said, “This is the biggest I’ve seen you.”

Needless to say, that I changed my eating habits drastically.

Now, this isn’t an article about how to lose weight. The story is a fairly comical illustration for a slightly more serious point I’ve been chewing on—pun intended—the last couple of weeks; we are what we eat, not just literally but figuratively speaking as well.

Information or knowledge acquirement are at the apex of most human cultures and understandably so. Whether it be through reading books, listening to podcasts, going to school or, most popularly, using the internet, we live in a day and age when knowledge is available to us at the click of a button.

If you want to find out how many species of frogs there are in the world (4,000) or how much thrust the Saturn V rocket needed to get off the ground (7.5 million lbs), you can have the answer within seconds. But unless you’re a herpetologist, rocket scientist or Trivial Pursuit whiz those pieces of information are inconsequential.

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Which is why I’m comparing information to food. More often than not I think we consume information, like food, just because it’s there. Especially now that it’s delivered to us in fast-food style chunks that don’t require too much effort or attention and are easily regurgitated.

I would suggest to you that in the info-laden culture we now live in we’ve got fat, fat and unhappy and we’re wondering why.

My personal experience of this most recently has to do with the divisive political situation in our country. After what started out as some innocuous picking at a few hors-d’oeuvres, i.e. reading an article here and there and watching a couple YouTube vids, I quickly found myself switching to full buffet-style mode. I became ravenous and in the blink of an eye I was devoting, or devouring, hours of my time to podcasts, articles and videos and without realizing I’d fallen headfirst into the information abyss or, to keep the analogy going, a food coma.

I became paralyzed, confused and a little fearful, unable to sift through, or digest, all that I’d consumed. Ironically, I didn’t really know what to think anymore. But, somehow I had convinced myself that if I gorged myself on more and more information then surely I would be better informed and wiser for it.

Sadly, however, the opposite happened. I couldn’t think straight and all I ended up doing was vicariously nursing the injustices of other people and their issues like they were my own.

There’s that old saying, knowledge is power. I agree but, acquiring knowledge, without wisdom, is like eating a 72 oz steak. Sure, you think you can eat it. Then you look down at your plate and you’re not even halfway through that giant slab of cow and your stomach feels like it has an anchor wedged inside of it.

Is Your Quest for Knowledge Making You Mentally Unhealthy?

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Knowledge, like feelings, are amoral; they’re meant to inform and not lead us. More often than not I find a similar theme occurs when we gorge ourselves on knowledge. We get confused, equivocating and often times fearful as you don’t really know what your personal conviction on anything is.

In the book of Proverbs, in Chapter 8, wisdom is referred to as a person who provides, amongst other things, understanding, counsel and sound judgment. One of my favorite verses from that Chapter is verse 12. “I wisdom dwell together with prudence; I possess knowledge and discretion.” I think there’s a wealth of intended ambiguity in the book of Proverbs but when I hear that verse what comes to mind is the saying, less is more.

There’s that old saying, knowledge is power. I agree but, acquiring knowledge, without wisdom, is like eating a 72 oz steak.

I’m by no means saying that we should walk around ignorant. Though, saying, “I don’t know,” these days seems massively underrated. But what I am saying is that, yes, knowing things is great, however, I don’t see a correlation with it having any sort of meaningful influence in the world, otherwise, the people who win all those quiz shows would be running the world.

It seems like the key to using knowledge is firstly, to discern what knowledge is most important and timely for you to acquire and, secondly, then how to steward it well.   

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Interestingly the last verse of Proverbs 8 is, “But those who fail to find me harm themselves; all who hate me love death.” I changed my diet because I wanted to live life in the fullness of physical health. Now I’m making adjustments to what my mind consumes because I want to make wise steps to live in fullness of mental health as well. I challenge you to do the same.