If your education was anything like mine, there was a strong emphasis placed on critical thinking. We learned to see problems, history – even something as straightforward as math from many viewpoints. Teachers encouraged us to discern, to think scientifically and to always question the information in front of us.
I feel like this skill has served me quite well, and am grateful for it! I value the ability to think critically in this sense, and will continue to use this discernment as life marches on.
There is, however a faint line drawn somewhere in the sand, where this beauteous critical thinking can turn sour and become tinged with emotional elements that do not serve us (or anyone for that matter). Today, I want to give a quick shout out to everyone who’s had an experience of critical thinking gone wrong. Just like “keepin’ it real,” there is such thing as too much (I would link to the Chapelle Show here but am trying to keep it PG).
So when does critical thinking go wrong? Of course it’s not when we discover new ways of understanding ourselves, information, or the world. It’s when judgment and arrogance creep into thought and hierarchy, superiority (or, in many cases, inferiority) complexes come to the surface.
I’m sure you’ve seen it. Someone who thinks they’re special because they know a factoid you don’t. It’s true, they are special, but not because of their thoughts, and discerning thinking, while valuable, does not make one person better than another. It can, however, benefit the collective when shared thoughtfully.
We all have different vantage points, histories and eyes that we see the world with and when we can reflect on how we are seeing and communicate that clearly to others, everybody wins. Critical thinking can go wrong in academia, spiritual circles and everything in between – it is a phenomenon that transcends many social and environmental bounds. People buy into knowledge being power OVER others, rather than power WITH others.
So lets get this straight. You are truly superbly awesome and amazing. And your mind is a really cool place I’d like to visit sometime and understand better, but it does not define you. Whether you fall on the side of the know it all or the one who feels annoyed & off put by that person, we can all benefit from valuing each other’s perspectives and experiences in a way that is discerning. We each get to use our own discernment to choose what we want to file away in our own minds and hold close to our hearts — and we don’t need to make a dysfunctional one up, one down, right or wrong game about it.
So, this week, when someone’s arrogance becomes scarier than their Halloween costume, try this:
1. Get clear on your own thinking.
2. Try to understand theirs.
3. Communicate! (sometimes harder than it sounds)
4. Reflect, discern. Did that conversation create power with or was someone trying to steal away your power with their brilliant knowledge? Discern, choose where you want to invest your mental energy and who you want to continue to engage with, and move on with your ego intact.
That’s right I said keep your ego intact. Next time I’ll explain why that’s a good thing.
Much love, knowledge and power with you!
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