Common Sense Ain’t so Common


com·mon sense
Good sense and sound judgment in practical matters.
“A common sense approach.”

The definition of common sense seems straightforward, right?

Some would argue that it should make sense to most of us, but unfortunately it doesn’t. Those folks would say, “Common sense ain’t all too common anymore.” The question is, why? What happened to the days when we understood one another and could come together and celebrate a sense of community? Do we all possess common sense? Why? Or why not?

The late French philosopher, author, and historian Voltaire first coined the phrase “common sense” and many generations have kept it alive with much satire. How many of us have exclaimed the phrase when talking about someone? Maybe you noticed, in your subjective opinion, something lacking in their actions.

What if we entertained the idea that EVERYONE lacks some form of common sense?

Let’s say you are visiting another country and you don’t understand the culture you have immersed yourself in. Imagine a local villager has invited you to their home for a friendly community meal. You happily accept the invite but, as you arrive, you notice that everyone is seated on the floor with legs crossed. As the dinner commences, you proudly ask the host for a knife and fork, though everyone else is eating with their hands. Now, what if someone from the dinner party whispered in another’s ear, “Look at this foreigner, she has no common sense at all.”

One can argue that the new dinner guest lacks “common sense” because EVERYONE in this community knows that meals are eaten with your hands. However, if you take that same woman and put her back into the boardroom with her Fortune 500 colleagues, she may be praised for being a highly paid professional, successful at her business, and educated. What’s “common” for you may not be so “common” for me. It’s all a matter of perspective and context.

And then there are those folks — we all know them — the ones who try to make life miserable for the rest of us. You know the “type” – they say and do things that are so off-putting that you make up whatever excuse comes to mind to avoid them. I mean, if you look up the definition of “no-sense-at-all”, you will see this person’s picture on full display!

So, what do you do when you feel the urge to shake your head at the next person’s foolish talk, action, or decision?

As a former policewoman, I could write a book about the lack of common sense I’ve witnessed. Some folks were so clueless that it cost them their lives and put so many others at risk. Sometimes a lack of common sense can be deadly.

But I will never forget a word of advice I once received from a high-ranking law enforcement trainer who happened to be my friend and mentor. He told me that no matter what, before I embark on this career of serving others, I must always remember three things: 

1. Never take it personally.

2. Never take it home with you.

3. And always, always maintain your integrity.

This advice stuck with me throughout my career and life.

The next time you feel obligated, encouraged, or even justified in mocking or commenting on someone’s lack of common sense, remember to be ever so thankful.

Because not everyone has a good dose of common sense and that’s ok. We live in a melting pot of all sorts of quirks, quacks, twists, and turns, although some are more dangerous than others. It’s our job to shine light in a very dark place and THAT should be much more common than not for all of us.


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