DMin, Leadership and Global Perspectives: Crafting Ministry in an Interconnected World

I am a critical imposter.

Written by: on October 25, 2018

I’ve struggled a lot with imposter syndrome. Imposter Syndrome, or imposter phenomenon, is generally defined as a very real and specific form of self-doubt.[1] My personal favorite definition is that it’s a “hotmess of harmfulness.”[2] In fact, if I’m being completely honest, I’ve felt it a lot in the last 8 weeks. As an Enneagram 3, I realize I am also prone to Imposter Syndrome. Christopher Huertz shockingly told me once, “When heart people allow comparison to lead to feelings of disconnections, they blame themselves and can be overcome with profound experiences of shame.”[3] I feel like I’m not quite measuring up, which brings a deeper sense of shame that I might not ever match up to those around me. And here’s the reality in my current life: I have felt it more this week than I have in quite a few months. As I’m typing this, my motivation in sharing this isn’t to garner empathy, but to give myself grace. Grace to speak, and write, as Harry Edwards reminded us last week[4], from a place of authenticity and understanding.


It would be easiest for me to tell you that there were some nuggets in this book that I thought were helpful, and write a creative post on one of those nuggets. That would be true. But the more authentic thing to tell you is that I really didn’t like this book. As a doctoral student, I realize it’s my responsibility to tell you why. I also realize the irony in critically evaluating a book on critical thinking. Cue the imposter syndrome. But let me attempt to do my critique justice in the way that I can, from a place of authenticity and understanding.


First, I need to acknowledge that this is a miniature guide. My assumption when first looking through the book is that it had to be part of a larger framework of something else, which it is. This mini guide is produced by the Center for Critical Thinking and Moral Critique and the Foundation for Critical Thinking. Those two organizations are really looking to change structures in education and society by cultivating fairminded and critical thinking.[5] I could tell it was part of a larger framework because at times, the flow between the chapters seemed to be missing portions of connecting material. For instance, I struggled in the progression of ideas from the stages of Critical Thinking Development to the immediate discussion of “problem” thinking areas. While I resonate with the understandings and the challenges posed by egocentric and sociocentric thinking, I felt as though there was no development from teaching on how to develop critical thinking to just immediately point out the problems with those who don’t. Furthermore, neither egocentric nor sociocentric thinking isn’t mentioned until the very last few chapters. To not develop the negative aspects or lack of critical thinking until the very end, was challenging for me, especially when things like the elements of critical thinking (purposes, questions, points of view, etc) were placed throughout.[6]


Next, I am still wrestling through some ideological frameworks that were presented in the chapters on egocentric and sociocentric thinking. When I insert my own theological convictions into the picture, I am not entirely convinced by the definitive statements made by the authors. I realize I do need to take into account my own personal points of view, as well as the data that I have accumulated throughout my experiences. These have led to my own reasoning and interpretations of my personal lenses. As I read through their problems of egocentric thinking, I felt like a lot their psychological statements[7] were undergirded by an system based on power and privilege. It is a privilege to believe things like, “It’s true because I believe it”[8] or “It’s true because it’s in my self interest to believe it”.[9] While I realize that in the West, we currently live in a sociological framework that centers on privilege and power, I believe that we can learn to lay down those power structures and think differently. Most individuals are trapped by their power systems until they are pointed out to them.[10] I do believe the authors delve into this when they envision critical societies, but the only way critical societies can emerge[11] is when power structures can be seen for what they are.


In the terminology of the Foundation for Critical Thinking, critical thinking requires depth in understanding core virtues, like intellectual humility, perseverance, integrity, and responsibility.[12] I have to acknowledge that I genuinely missed the added value of faith in the conversation. As the authors really took a deep dive into what they determined to be essential in the development of a critical society[13], I missed the presence of Jesus. I missed the way Jesus spoke into the forming of culture and society, by saying things like, “So those who are last will be first, and those who are first will be last.”[14] I realize that this book is not written from a Christian perspective, and that the Foundation for Critical Thinking makes no evangelical claims either. However, I was reminded through the absence of faith in this book that there is deep power in the mystery of faith too. There is something in faith that is so unquantifiable, that it cannot be critically understood. In fact, Eugene Peterson reminds us that “What no one ever saw or heard, what no one ever thought could happen, is the very thing God prepared for those who love him.”[15]


While I don’t totally feel quite qualified to critique, and maybe my reasoning isn’t as critical as it could be, the book just didn’t sit well with me. There’s grace and understanding for me in that space, which I have wrestled with, but can accept. Thanks be to God.


[1] Kristin Weir, “Feel Like a Fraud?” American Psychological Association, published November 2013,

[2] Melody Wilding, “The 5 Types of Imposter Syndrome and How to Beat Them”, Fast Company, May 18, 2017,

[3]  Christopher L. Heuertz, The Sacred Enneagram (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Zondervan, 2017), 96

[4] Harry Edwards, “Aha and Eureka Moments,” DMINLGP, October 18, 2018,

[5] “Our Mission,” The Foundation for Critical Thinking, accessed October 26, 2018,

[6] Richard Paul and Linda Elder, The Miniature Guide to Critical Thinking: Concepts and Tools, (Dillion Beach, CA: Foundation for Critical Thinking, 2009), Loc. 259, Kindle.

[7] Richard Paul and Linda Elder, The Miniature Guide to Critical Thinking: Concepts and Tools, (Dillion Beach, CA: Foundation for Critical Thinking, 2009), Loc. 260, Kindle.

[8] Richard Paul and Linda Elder, The Miniature Guide to Critical Thinking: Concepts and Tools, (Dillion Beach, CA: Foundation for Critical Thinking, 2009), Loc. 260, Kindle.

[9] Richard Paul and Linda Elder, The Miniature Guide to Critical Thinking: Concepts and Tools, (Dillion Beach, CA: Foundation for Critical Thinking, 2009), Loc. 273, Kindle.

[10] Jeremy Goldbach,”Diversity Toolkit: A Guide to Discussing Identity, Power, and Privilege,” University of Southern California, October 25, 2017,

[11] Richard Paul and Linda Elder, The Miniature Guide to Critical Thinking: Concepts and Tools, (Dillion Beach, CA: Foundation for Critical Thinking, 2009), Loc. 292, Kindle.

[12] “Our Mission,” The Foundation for Critical Thinking, accessed October 26, 2018,

[13] Richard Paul and Linda Elder, The Miniature Guide to Critical Thinking: Concepts and Tools, (Dillion Beach, CA: Foundation for Critical Thinking, 2009), Loc. 292, Kindle.

[14] Matt 20:16 (Good News Translation)

[15] 1 Cor. 2:9 (Good News Translation)

About the Author


Karen Rouggly

Karen Rouggly is the Director for Mobilization in the Center for Student Action at Azusa Pacific University. She develops transformational experiences for students serving locally, nationally, and internationally. She completed an MA in Intercultural Studies at Fuller Theological Seminary and is passionate about community development, transformational service and helping students understand vocation and service. Karen is also an active member at the Vineyard Church Glendora where she is a small group leader and serves on the teaching team. She is also a mom to two sweet boys, wife to an amazing guy, and loves being a friend to many.

19 responses to “I am a critical imposter.”

  1. mm Jenn Burnett says:

    I had a similar struggle with the book Karen. There wasn’t room for faith, or for the wisdom of the collective over individual reason. It assumed equal ability to reason between people rather than the diversity of capacities that the body of Christ offers us. And yet I find deep value in critical thinking to the body of Christ and would even affirm that is a role we now share, because you absolutely belong in the ranks in every way! So how will you let this text irritate you into better thinking? Better ministry? Greater faithfulness—even if it is driven by reaction rather than response?

    • mm Karen Rouggly says:

      Thanks for the affirmation and the reminder that I am not alone, friend! I think this book already irritated me into critical thinking because it forced me to figure out and articulate something that was unsettling in my spirit and give words to that. As a vineyard-ite, that can be challenging. It forced me to step out of my own spirit and take a critical view of this book. I also feel like it may have driven me into greater faithfulness, because I am having to trust God that first, God created me with a sound mind and I deserve to be here. Second, I have to trust that what God has shown me through my own experiences of God are real. So they deserve a place at the critical thinking table.

      • mm Rhonda Davis says:

        Thank you, Karen, for articulating what I am sure many of us (certainly me) are feeling along this journey. The imposter syndrome struggle is a real one for many of us. You, however, seem to be navigating it beautifully. I agree with Jenn’s comments here. I think there is a lot to be gained when we bring the community of faith to the table and think critically together. I, too, would love to learn more about integrating faith into critical societies.

  2. Digby Wilkinson says:

    Hi Karen. Great honest reflection from your own standpoint. I would like to remind you, that your standpoint is not one of an imposter, but rather genuine enquirer. Years ago I had a spot of conflict with a freshly minted PhD from Dallas Theological Seminary. I naively asked him how it was possible to do a genuine research doctorate when the university required the student the sign an extensive statement of faith which would form the unquestioned foundation of his thesis? As you can imagine, it wasn’t a pleasant conversation. However, I was interested how you could do genuine research with blinkers strapped to your head before you started. As a result, when I did my post graduate study in philosophy at a fully secular university, my intention was to see how my faith would stand up under the scrutiny of unregulated empiricism. Interestingly, it was the head of the philosophy department who pointed me to St Anselm’s Ontologocal argument for encouragement; along with the list of great minds that have critiqued and developed it. My supervisor’s point was simple, if you can conceive of something that you understand, it is both reasonable, rational and logical to use it as a starting point for all your enquiry- even if that something is God. In fact, whenever he told me off (which was frequent) it was because I was being unreasonably, or uncritically apologetic for my own foundational Christian beliefs, which I understand to be true. So, over the years I have taken that to heart in all my responses to the world in which I live. It doesn’t matter who agrees or doesn’t, what matters is that I know my considered foundations, and why. It’s quite possible that while studying at this level, you will gain a firmer grasp on your underlying faith foundations – not endless doctrines, but a simple unmovable premis. Every philosopher has them without shame – so should you. For me, it was a statement I picked up from William Lane Graig years ago, “There is only one God, made known in the person of Jesus Christ”. It’s a reasonable starting point.
    All that ego or socio-cultural baggage is little more than observable defensiveness, and I have no sense you suffer from that. And, if you did, you’re smart enough to know. Take heart 🙂

    • mm Karen Rouggly says:

      Oh, Digby. I cannot tell you how much I am appreciative of your wit, and wise words, wrapped together. Thank you for the encouragement. I appreciated you sharing from your personal experiences about coming to terms with your truth, and learning to make no apologies for it. In fact, I think I’d like to adopt the statement shared by Greig. Also, I can only empathize with your professor from your philosophy class 🙂

      • Digby Wilkinson says:

        You’re very welcome. It’s true for all of us.
        I’m pleased at least one person is coping with my bizarre humour, not everyone does. I simply can’t help myself. It’s the combination of being English and Irish, so I’m constantly at war with myself. Seemingly, the Irish always sneaks through in the end. Maybe we should do an Advance in Ireland. Now that would be cool.

  3. Mario Hood says:

    I’m starting to come to the fact that thinking we are not “good enough” is a part of the doctoral journey! One of the joys of doing the cohort model is we get the “nuggets” of another’s perspective and the nugget I’m walking away from your post is finding the assumptions which one sets their arguments from. As Digby has said, we all have a foundation that we start from (assumptions) because they are a part of all reasoning (Kindle Loc 43). I think it’s impossible for anyone to truly lay aside all assumptions but maybe the point is to do what you did, which is to see where other assumptions add or differ from your own. In saying that, how would you change or add your faith into one of the values you disagreed with in this book?

    • mm Karen Rouggly says:

      Such good insight, Mario. And I am glad I am not alone in the journey of realizing my own potential. So where would I add faith? I think I would really like to insert faith in the development of a critical society. I suppose I would have liked an acknowledgement that there are some mysteries that can only be explained by faith. I missed the acknowledgement that we are part of a bigger system, and that we do have a basic moral understanding of what’s right from wrong. I believe that moral compass if from God, and yes, like critical thinking, listing to that moral compass might be a muscle that needs to be stretched, but maybe just maybe part of critical thinking is an understanding that there is reasoning we might not ever understand.

  4. mm Mary Mims says:

    Karen, I think you used much of the critical thinking process in determining why you did not like the book. It is easy to say something does not sit well with us or our spirit, but not be able to articulate the reason why. The lack of a faith component in this book is a reasonable complaint, because everyone has a faith system that plays into what they believe. Maybe the author includes this in inferences and assumptions, but faith is very strong and powerful, and is hard to put into words. Thank you for your honesty. I think we all feel like we do not belong at this level of study, yet here we are. As we do this life together, I hope we all see this is only the beginning of this journey, and not the end. We are all babes, right where we are supposed to be.

    • mm Karen Rouggly says:

      Thank you Mary. You’re right. I really felt like I had to engage the critical thinking concepts in order to really understand what bothered me so much about this book. You can also tell that by the oodles of citations I had in this book! I’m glad we’re in this journey together.

  5. Digby Wilkinson says:

    Trying the new “subscribe to this comment button”

  6. Hi Karen. We spent some time traveling together in Hong Kong; we run in the same academic circles — you at APU and me at Biola. I could spend more time getting to know you and I would not ever get the impression that you were suffering from Impostor Syndrome. One, I didn’t even know there was a term for it. And second, you appear to me as a totally secure person. Anyway, that’s neither here nor there. That was just meant to encourage you.

    I do wonder though if sometimes who are, who we end up becoming, if it’s not just a result of things we’ve overcome or overcoming? For example, I studied apologetics because I had a lot of doubt in Christianity. A counselor is in his or her field because of traumatic things that have happened to them. This is not value-laden. I’m just making an observation. In fact many times we become experts simply because we’ve gone through an experience — good or bad.

    After reading your post and Jenn’s (my other travel buddy in HK) I realized that I have to always keep reminding myself that my life experiences have a lot to do with how my spiritual and intellectual formations have been shaped. Our readings have reminded us of that. I do believe the Imago Dei in us includes rationality. However, after the Fall, this imaging got corrupted. I wonder, if by way of cultural and generational sins that some of us become ineffective to some of our faculties. I don’t think this is a stretch but I’m thinking this is similar to the man who’s one talent was taken away because he didn’t invest it properly (Matt. 25). Hmmm. I wonder.

    • mm Karen Rouggly says:

      Harry – thank you for your encouragement. I appreciate that you sensed my security, especially in a time when I felt so insecure. Sometimes, you need others to remind you of who you are in order to believe it.

      I think what you’re saying about being who we are can come from what we’ve overcome or where we’ve been. In essence, that’s what I’m studying in my dissertation. As I mentioned even last week, I feel like my dissertation will be me figuring out how to articulate my deep learning; the things I’ve learned in my bones. That’s why I’m studying service as a bridge-builder to faith and vocation. It’s my own personal story.

      Thanks for helping me make good connections.

  7. mm Harry Fritzenschaft says:

    Thanks for enumerating your arguments and criticisms of the source. I wonder how God will utilize this critical thinking process to speak freedom in your own life as well as growth in your ministry gifts? I look forward to seeing what he will do through you! Blessings, H

  8. mm Sean Dean says:

    I think the real weakness of this book is its length. There’s only so much you can put into a book that’s all of, what, 30 pages long. As a result the critical questions that need to be asked about critical thinking can’t be asked because you don’t have the space. I resonate with the questions that you and Jenn and others have asked, but clearly with the aimed length of this book there was no way these questions were going to be answered.

    Imposter syndrome is a thing that I deal with everyday. I work at a high level in a technical field in which I am not trained. Most of the people I work with have computer science degrees and are able to talk about what we do in ways that I don’t understand. I feel weak in the knees sometimes when we’re in a meeting and they start using words I’ve heard but don’t understand. But here’s the thing I’ve learned, as long as I keep putting out good work and producing what needs to be done, I don’t need to compare myself to those guys. I’m the lead on a project that was started by two guys that now work at Amazon and Facebook in their experimental development departments. They’re really smart guys. But this project when I took it over was a mess. They had spent all their time trying to do the cool new programing things rather than producing what needed to be done. I took it over, cleaned up the code, and made it do what it was supposed to do. The client is thrilled. I could spend my time being intimidated by the guys who started the project, or I could do my job. I choose to do my job. I.S. is something that can cripple us or drive us. Let it drive you.

  9. mm John Muhanji says:

    Seriously, I am happy to know that I was not the only one struggling with this book. Thank you for your honesty you clearly brought it out in your reflection. Thank you for noticing something i was searching in the book about critical thinking and I saw nothing. What I saw was more guidance on how to read and write academic papers. Thanks for standing strongly to bring out what was in my mind but I( never brought it in my writing. You made me laugh when you wrote that you did not see anything touching on Christ in the book, neither did you see any reference on a theological connection. You made me laugh and felt your frustration for sure.

  10. mm Rev Jacob Bolton says:


    As I am late to the party here, let me join in with the rest of our colleagues in saying . . . “I sense no impostor in you!”

    Additionally, I appreciate how you laid a lot on the line in this post, plus you quoted Christopher Heuertz. His wisdom is just abundantly rich. Really am enjoying all this enneagram talk!

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