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I feel stupid. Do you ever feel that way?

People think I’m smart because I have a PhD in psychology and I’m blessed to have people like you listen to me. But in reality I often feel stupid.

As far back as I can remember I’ve felt like I should know what to do and have the right answers. When I was four years old I babysat my one year old sister while my mom drove my dad to the train. When I needed to get an “A” on my high school biology test, because that’s what hero kids do, I copied the science geek next to me.

Acting knowledgable seemed to work for me — until I was in a six-week group therapy lab for my college psychology class. I watched everyone else in the circle take turns dropping their head and spilling their guts while I sat up straight and smug.

Finally in the last group a classmate said, “Bill, what’s up with you? I’m a crying mess, but you’re sitting up there on your pedestal just looking down at me. Don’t you have anything to share?”

I could see Cara, my teacher and first psychology mentor, looking at me. She agreed with those words, but not the tone. She had empathy for me. I could feel it coming through her eyes and I’d experienced it from her before in the weekly “teacher’s aid” meetings we had in her office, which I later figured out were counseling sessions.

But I froze. I had nothing to say. I was stuck atop my perch. I didn’t know what I felt. I didn’t know how to be vulnerable and ask for support. I had to be right and ideal.

Later that week I met with Cara. She turned her compassionate eyes and soft face on me, “Bill, what did you feel when Laura said you were on the pedestal?”

By the end of the hour I had some emotions. “I feel all alone. I’m tired of trying to be so perfect all the time — it’s a lot of pressure!”

In the thirty years since then I’ve been learning that I don’t have to be the smart one or all put together. It’s freeing to be able to say, “I don’t know.” Or “I’m hurting and scared.” Or “I feel stupid and embarrassed.”

In a few weeks I’ll be sitting in another group circle, but there won’t be a therapist there. It’s a SWOT group of successful business leaders who I’ve asked to evaluate Soul Shepherding, Inc., the organization Kristi and I lead. “What’s your plan for growth? What are top goals? How will you reach them?”

“Ah, ah, ah…”

I have “answers.” But it’s complex stuff. For Kristi and I it’s our life’s work. The direction we go with leading our growing ministry matters a lot to us and the pastors and other people that we serve.

I don’t know what to do. I still feel stupid and embarrassed admitting that.

But it also feels to good fess up. I know from years of experience that this is when grace from the Lord and his friends comes pouring into me! “For it is by grace you have been saved…” (Ephesians 2:8-9) It’s the sinner’s prayer. It’s the daily prayer of the humble.

What do you think you should know, but don’t? What is it that you feel stupid and embarrassed about?

Find a Christ’s ambassador to spill the beans to. You’ll come to know by personal experience that God is your Friend helping you (2 Corinthians 5:20).

Bill is a psychologist and ordained pastor, specializing in ministry to pastors.  He was personally mentored for many years by Dallas Willard and Ray Ortlund Sr. 

As a Spiritual Formation Pastor, he’s served in a mega-church and a church plant. He’s also trained over 1,000 lay counselors and taught courses in Christian psychology and spirituality at the graduate school level.  He and Kristi train pastors and other men and women in ministry in their Soul Shepherding Institute and Spiritual Direction certificate program.

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