Clueless and Don’t Even Know It

Clueless and don’t even know it. That is how I describe the condition of my soul 14 years ago.

As a pastor, I wanted to be able to help people grow spiritually. However, I wasn’t fully sure what that was supposed to look like; much less how to get there. I grew up in a Bible-believing church where spiritual maturity and Bible knowledge were synonymous. The more Bible a person knew, the more spiritually mature he or she was. It seemed pretty straight forward. So, I grew up with a strong appreciation for Scripture.

And as I grew into my adult years and into my early 30s, I knew something was missing. I started looking for a spiritual mentor who could better model what spiritual maturity looked beyond Bible knowledge. After months of praying and looking, my search was fruitless.

Then I applied for a three-year spiritual direction program. Part of the application process required an interview. I was prepared to share what I had accomplished in ministry, prepared to share my strengths and weaknesses, my skills, my passion, my Bible knowledge.  But I was not prepared for the questions I was asked:

  • “What is your relationship with your father like?”
  • “How has your earthly father shaped your relationship with your Heavenly father?”
  • “What are the parts of father you said you would never be like?”
  • “What wounds do you carry as a man?”

Question after question, my answer was the same: “I don’t know” or ‘I’ve never thought of that before.” Clueless and I didn’t even know it … until then. That interview began a journey for me that continues to this day. The Crucible Project has been a big part of that journey and has played a major role in transforming who I have become as a man.

Haven’t most of us started out clueless to some extent? Some of you may have had emotionally healthy parents who modeled self-awareness, but I think emotional health and maturity are something we truly have to learn on our own through life experiences. Often times we learn the hard way and sometimes with major unintentional consequences.

Last month I heard someone refer to the Dunning-Kruger Effect. Cornell university psychologists David Dunning and Justin Kruger wrote a paper titled “Unskilled and Unaware of It: Difficulties in Recognizing One’s Own Incompetence Lead to Inflated Assessments.” In this article, the authors state:

We argue that when people are incompetent in the strategies they adopt to achieve success and satisfaction, they suffer a dual burden: Not only do they reach erroneous conclusions and make unfortunate choices, but their incompetence robs them of the ability to realize it.

They are saying that the same people who lack the ability to accurately assess their own skills also lack the ability to realize they lack the ability to accurately assess their own skills. I believe this Dunning-Kruger Effect applies to some people spiritually. Men and women who are clueless and don’t even know it. That’s how I describe where I was spiritually 14 years ago. Although I know more than most about the Bible, I was clueless about what was going on inside of me. I was clueless about being aware of my emotions, especially anger. I was clueless about how my lack of emotional health affected my spiritual maturity. I had to learn how to connect my head to my heart.

My guess is there are a lot of men who may fit into this category. They are good, Christian men. They attend church, love their family, worship,  pray and study their Bible. And while that is going on, their hearts are not engaged. They don’t live their lives with purpose, power and passion because they are unaware of what is going on inside of them.  (As an aside: perhaps the Dunning-Kruger Effect is why it can be challenging to recruit for the initial weekends for The Crucible Project. Men who need what the weekend offers the most, aren’t able to realize they need it.)

In my mind, here a few things Bible-believing men need in order to connect their heads to their hearts in order to become spiritually mature:

  • Authentic Community. I need other men who will speak the truth in love to me. Men who will hold me accountable to the agreements I make. Men who don’t let me get away with BS. Authentic community is the antidote to cluelessness. I once heard professor and author Dan Allender say, “I can’t see my face, but others can. I need others to look at me and tell me what they see.” Authentic community looks at me, sees the stuff above the water line, sees the stuff below the waterline and tells me what and who they see. It is hard to be clueless when I have the help of authentic community.
  • Humility. Am I open to the feedback I get from the authentic community in my life? I hesitate to even quote Charles Darwin, but he did say this about humility, “ignorance more frequently begets confidence than does knowledge.” Could it be that some men use confidence to cover up that they are clueless? This is why humility is required. Humility opens me up to new possibilities – to learn – to grow. Without humility, a man perhaps allows confidence to keep him in a state of cluelessness.
  • Courage. Am I willing to face my fears and admit that I am clueless? Am I willing to take a risk into the realm of the unknown? I believe often times it is fear that keeps a man from growing. It is fear that keeps a man from looking at what lies beneath the water line in his own life. I believe it is fear — an maybe pride — that keeps scores of men from going on a Crucible Project initial weekend.

The Crucible Project has played a huge role in my growth over the last 14 years. Overcoming my cluelessness has allowed me to become the more of the man God has called me to be. And there will always be some level of cluelessness in my life. Part of my journey with God is paying attention to how God invites me to become aware and to grow piece by piece, part by part and one step at a time.

By Barry Thomas

Barry is Chairman of the Board for The Crucible Project. He has been a catalyst in bringing and growing our ministry throughout Texas. He is a senior operations engineer for Concho Resources in Midland, Texas. Prior to that, he served in ministry for 13 years at churches in Oklahoma City, Chicago and Midland. Barry holds a master’s of divinity from Bethel University in St. Paul, Minn. He also holds bachelor’s degree in petroleum engineering from Colorado School of Mines. Barry completed his initial Crucible weekend in August, 2005.

Photo Credit: Giuseppe Milo via Creative Commons