Ignorance is Bliss

The other day, I saw a bumper sticker that made me sit up and take notice.  It said, “Ignorance is NOT bliss!”  At first, I loved it.  I am a the-truth-will-set-you-free kind of girl.  But I stopped to think about it for a while more.  Is ignorance really bliss?  Or not?  Never?  Or sometimes?

So I did a little digging about the origin of the phrase and found the original poem written in the 1700’s by Sir Thomas Gray. Gray nostalgically reminisces about the bliss of youth with its carefree days unaffected by the realities of adult life.  The poem reveals Gray’s double perspective that not only is ignorance bliss but knowledge is misery.

Ignorance has its place in life during childhood.  Parents are obliged to protect their children from knowledge which is too much for them to bear, too confusing for their minds to process.  For a time, children can operate successfully under the “need-to-know basis” of adult protection.  But ignorance, or lack of awareness, only works if there is a mindful adult to do the protecting.  Otherwise, the news media will educate on behalf of un-invested adults.

As we grow and become independent, we are obligated to develop an adult mind of our own. Events occur that require our attention. Either the events in our families and our communities will define us, or our response to the events will. We always have a choice.

Grown-up knowledge brings an awareness of the world.  Whatever idealizations we had are altered by real life.  This is a necessary part of growing up.

In this life we will see much suffering. We will also see many joys. If we are not mindful and intent, suffering and pain can become the focus. One need only watch the news.

Sometimes, I long to return to the days before I understood what membership in adulthood would require of me. Those peaceful moments of play and unawareness of suffering.

Instead, I have an obligation to respond to my insights and awareness as an adult

  • Either an event will define you, or your response to the event will. You choose.
  • Love is more powerful than pain.
  • People in pain often speak quietly because the world is not prepared for their brand of heavy.
  • Death does not end a relationship – it forever changes it.
  • Everyone has a story worth telling and worth hearing. Once you know a person’s story you are forever connected to their joy and their pain.

At this time of the year, many have heavy hearts and are confused about how to navigate the:

  • Death of a loved one
  • End of a relationship
  • Diagnosis or reoccurrence of an illness
  • Job loss
  • Move across the country
  • Separation or divorce
  • Family turmoil and strained relationships

The list goes on … and there are often children involved.

 It’s okay

It’s okay to cry

It’s okay to laugh

It’s okay to be angry

It’s okay to ask for help

It is okay to be quiet for a time

It’s okay to change traditions – or not

It’s necessary to make space for your pain

Hope will return

It’s okay


Once we learn something, we cannot unlearn it. We are no longer unaware of pain in the world around us. Awareness requires action. Action generates hope … and hope is a wonderful word for any time of the year.

If you, or someone you know, can use encouragement, coaching or counseling during this season, please share this blog and my contact information. It would be my privilege to be a partner through pain – to hope.


Ms. Cheryl Held
Held Together Counseling and Coaching