Pockets of Incompetence
As my family could tell you, I am not much of a handyman. Oh, I can hang a picture, even replace a light switch. Beyond that, however, things get a bit sketchy.
Sadly, it took me a long time to recognize my limitations. "How hard can it be," I ask myself, "to fix a dripping faucet?" I then proceed to demonstrate just how hard it can be! After a string of (luckily small) disasters, I have finally come to recognize that when it comes to plumbing, the chances of me making the problem worse may well be higher than the chances of a successful repair.
An objective observer might rate that as definitely higher. I recently learned about the Dunning-Kruger effect. First documented by Cornell psychologist David Dunning and one of his graduate students, Justin Kruger, "The Dunning-Kruger effect is a cognitive bias in which relatively unskilled persons suffer illusory superiority, mistakenly assessing their ability to be much higher than it really is." Consistently, people who score lowest on a test of a wide range of skills have rated their skills as above-average. As Dunning puts it, "If you're incompetent, you can't know you're incompetent.... [T]he skills you need to produce a right answer are exactly the skills you need to recognize what a right answer is."
We have all experienced the blowhard know-it-all who, in fact, has no clue about what they are talking about. Sadly, at one time or another, that person is us. As Dunning says, "We all have our specific pockets of incompetence." Witness me and plumbing. As he puts it elsewhere, "The problem of unrecognized ignorance is one that visits us all."
The need for self-knowledge is a deep part of every wisdom tradition, religious or not. Even so, most of us will have limitations we are not aware of. Thus, we all have need of humility.
And we all have need of grace. Thanks be to God that, in the words of Kathleen Norris, "It is through our failings and weaknesses, our 'ways of imperfection,' that we find God, and God finds us."