I once heard the quote, “Nothing effects your life more profoundly than your thoughts of God.” In light of Richard Paul and Linda Elder’s book, The Miniature Guide to Critical Thinking Concepts and Tools, I am beginning to think the quote falls short of the full truth. There is something that impacts your life more than your thoughts of God and that would be your thinking about those thoughts. Paul and Elder write, “Critical thinking is the art of analyzing and evaluating thinking with a view to improving it.”1itisexam.com
As I read through all the fantastic concepts and tools lay forth in Paul and Elder’s guide, I began to think of the concept of self-awareness. I work heavily in the field of church planting and a significant stage of the church planting journey is when a potential church planter goes to the Church Planter Assessment Center. At the assessment center, a planter is probed, examined and watched over a three-day window by assessors who in the end will give a report, ranking and filing the planter into a predicted category of success based on who they have assessed her to be. The planter in the end is ultimately being judged, yes on her passion, gifts, talents, and past abilities to perform, but more importantly the self-awareness she has of who they have assessed her to be. Is the planter aware of their passion, gifts, talents and past abilities to perform? At the heart of the assessment center philosophy is the question, “Is the planter self-aware?” To me this concept of self-awareness being more important than just being yourself is similar to the claim that your thinking about your thoughts is more important than just your thoughts alone.
The issues of self-awareness and critical thinking further collided, in my mind, as Paul and Elder introduced the problems of egocentric thinking and sociocentric thinking. As the authors put it, “Egocentric thinking results from the unfortunate fact that humans do not naturally consider the rights and needs of others.”2 Paul and Elder go on to state, “As humans we live with the unrealistic but confident sense that we have fundamentally figured out the way things actually are, and that we have done this objectively.”3 I can think of no better description of such a person other than unthinking and unaware. This view of an individual seems rather judgmental, but if a person is not aware of how subjective his thoughts and views are he has lost the critical edge to truly examine and evaluate his life and place in the world.
In a recent cross-cultural trip to South Africa, I felt many edges of egocentric thinking within me. I was surprised several times by being surprised of my personal unawareness of events and dates that have taken place in my lifetime. To me 1994 was all about the year I was married. Something happened inside of me on the trip when I connected 1994 with the year Nelson Mandela was elected to be the first leader of the newly established democratic nation of South Africa. I was taken back by how small a view I held of 1994 and my unawareness of what was going on in the rest of the world.
Worse than such an unthinking and unaware individual could only be a society of such lacking. Paul and Elder write, “Sociocentric thinking is a hallmark of an uncritical society.”4 In the end a society comprised of egocentric thinkers becomes a cantankerous force and people who pose a great threat to a flourishing world because of at best shallow presuppositions and inaccurate views of cultures, nations, religions, and ultimately history. Again using this writing as a confessional platform, on that same recent trip to South Africa, as an American, I was convicted by the sociocentric thinking that pervades much of the Western World. The world and what has been, is and will be, has so many perspectives making up the whole picture. To think one personal, cultural, national, religious or historical view can tell a dominant story for all is a very dangerous posture.
Therefore our only real hope can be as William Graham Summer states, “The critical habit of thought, if usual in society, will pervade all its mores, because it is a way of taking up the problems of life.”5 In other words, nothing could be more important than the thinking about our thoughts and how we develop them in the world in which we live.
- Paul, Dr. Richard ; Elder, Dr. Linda (1999-01-05). The Miniature Guide to Critical Thinking Concepts and Tools (Kindle Locations 41-42). Foundation for Critical Thinking. Kindle Edition.
- Ibid,. (Kindle Location 261).
- Ibid,. (Kindle Locations 265-266).
- Ibid,. (Kindle Location 291).
- Ibid,. (Kindle Locations 293-294).