Unconscious Incompetence

We all make mistakes, and recently I was reflecting on being corrected by others. It’s easy to give good advice, but often very difficult to take good advice. As soon as somebody gives us feedback or criticism, the knee-jerk reaction is to defend ourselves, find fault in that person, and in some way justify how their comments are inaccurate and invalid. One who creates a shell around his persona, shutting the doors to good advice, will find it very difficult to overcome all the impurities in the heart. However, the spiritualist who is able to see divine instruction coming through all people in all circumstances, is able to very quickly advance in the spiritual journey.

Last week I unnecessarily became angry at someone and wrongly accused them of something. I felt quite frustrated and disappointed with myself. Knowing the principles and qualities of a spiritualist, how could I allow myself to descend to that level? I thought I was a good natured, reasonable, noble person. I concluded that I may well be on the spiritual path, but I am definitely a ‘work in progress’.

Sometimes a pillow can look very clean, but as you strike it, clouds of dust start appearing. Similarly, as we practice spirituality with seriousness and sincerity, the gross and subtle imperfections within our own character become more and more apparent. Before we can remove the dust, the dust must surface. Thus, through observing our own character, and also being open to the observations of others, we can understand that we’re not perfect and must diligently engage in the spiritual process to become purified in character.

In psychology they talk of ‘Unconscious Incompetence’ – the idea that someone is acting improperly and is not even aware of it. One then progresses to the stage of ‘Conscious Incompetence’, where one has actually realized the problem and come to terms with it. From there, one makes a concerted effort to act in the proper way – this is known as ‘Conscious Competence’. Finally, the proper behaviour becomes so ingrained in the consciousness, that one does it automatically. This perfected stage is known as ‘Unconscious Competence’.

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