Critical Thinking Pitfalls

woman with sledge hammer breaking down concrete wall

How do you make wise decisions about Covid-19, conflicting messages from the pulpit, or dealing with conflict in a way that glorifies God? These days, separating light from dark, truth from falsehood, and right from wrong requires gathering and evaluating data, then moving through each issue in an orderly way.

Which requires critical thinking.

Critical thinking is the element that combines your experience, common sense, and God’s word along with other attributes to both set and achieve goals. It’s particularly powerful when a known cause doesn’t produce the effect you expected.

Barriers to the critical thinking process limit your ability to arrive at an objective, informed basis for choosing your next move. You can’t overcome these barriers unless you’re aware of them.

Do any of these five roadblocks keep you from making progress?

Roadblocks to Critical Thinking

1. Thinking in Black or White

It’s easy to miss a situation’s complexities by thinking that there’s only one way to look at or resolve it. Sticking a label on a problem or opportunity restricts the universe of solutions by limiting what’s possible to only those things matching the label.

The false logic of black and white thinking assumes that everything is 100% one way or another, a huge mistake if you work with people. It’s comforting to feel that you’ve nailed a situation, but that comfort won’t serve you well if the assumptions leading to it are flawed. 

I love this quote because it nails human nature. “When your only tool is a hammer, every problem becomes a nail or deserves a pounding.” (Concept attributed to Abraham Kaplan and Abraham Maslow.)

In practical terms, black and white thinking usually limits remedies to more of the same. 

2. Thinking with the Ego

Egocentric thinking hogties your understanding of the wants and needs of others. It limits your thinking to your point of view without leaving room for other perspectives. Humans reflexively put themselves at the center of issues making the bigger picture more difficult to see. 
Perspective is king. Relationships determine success. Unless you’re playing Solitaire, the next best step must consider others. Rather than letting your ego be project manager, restate the problem as best you can from God’s perspective.
What’s the kingdom truth of the situation?  

3. Social Thinking

The drone mentality of social thinking only lets us see things from the popular point of view – the way that our spouse, companions, parents and friends think. Thinking outside the box is almost impossible when social thinking (political correctness) creates barriers that easily hack the critical thinking process.
“Because we’ve always done it this way”  or “Every rational person would agree” both fail the critical thinking test. Today, doing something because everyone else is doing it is a red flag on your thinking flagpole. Don’t be tempted to walk through the popular door leading to the wrong result. (Matthew 7:13-14)

4. Authoritative Thinking

Just because someone in authority says something’s true doesn’t mean that it is. You’ve likely been swayed at one time or another by political, cultural, or religious leaders who say one thing is true only to find out later that it was a lie at worst or misleading at best. The authority could be a person, peer group, institution or anything that makes you think that they’re right because they’re in an authoritative position.

One word that may sum up the problem of following someone in authority blindly is Pharisee. (Matthew 7:15-16, 16:11) 

5. Judgmental Thinking

Judgmental thinking is usually non-rational thinking that blocks understanding or insight about a person or an issue. The great trap of judgment is assuming that others know they’re doing wrong and do it anyway, but assume that we do wrong because we were unaware or tricked. 

Judgement carries the heavy counter-weigh of being judged by the same standard we use to judge others. (Matthew 7:1-2) That’s risky business when you convict or acquit based on assumptions.

Promote Sound, Critical Thinking

It’s important that we recognize our own barriers to the critical thinking process and replace them with objective, rational, and reasoned thinking.

Emotion is the greatest hindrance to critical thinking. The priceless opposites are the strong habits of objectivity or avoiding weighty issues when you’re overly concerned, excited, or uber-optimistic.

Whether you’re thinking on your own or with others, be certain that decisions made are the best response to the facts and not an emotion-based gut response.

If you have on, what’s your tried and true formula for making great decisions? If you don’t, what’s your plan to develop one?

Great decisions require clarity, precision, and confidence.

Effective leaders make decisions by identifying every possible option, weighing them against God’s call or gifting, then selecting the best one and taking decisive action. Stubbing your toe on a critical thinking barrier hides options and may lead to picking the wrong one.

Two are better than one, because they have a good reward for their labor.” — Ecclesiastes 4:9

If you don’t have a support circle available to help you check your perspectives before making important decisions, consider a phone or ZOOM call with Lynn. It’s a safe, confidential, and creative opportunity. 

Lynn Baber

Lynn Baber

Lynn is a best-selling author, retired World and National Champion horse breeder and trainer, former business consultant, motivational speaker, and serial entrepreneur. She continues to equip and encourage Christ-followers to enjoy lives of bold, border-free faith.

Lynn Baber

Lynn Baber

Lynn Baber is a best-selling author, retired World and National Champion horse breeder and trainer, former business consultant, motivational speaker, and serial entrepreneur. She continues to equip and encourage Christ-followers to enjoy lives of bold, border-free faith.

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