Is It Possible To Be Too Smart?

As Christian leaders, I think it is fairly obvious that we should always be learning and growing. This includes getting stronger in our knowledge of God and growing in our relationship with Him. It also means we should be gaining knowledge in our industries as well as in the area of leadership. In light of this, I have a question…is it possible to get too smart?

too smart

New Hire Training

When we hire new salespeople at our company, we have a fairly intensive training period before we allow them to serve customers. There are certain facts and processes that they must understand before they can be effective at serving the customer in a way that accurately reflects our mission, vision, and values.

It would be disastrous for us to send these salespeople to do a job before being properly trained, right?

Once they have fully completed our training process, they are then free to serve customers. They are still supervised by our sales managers, but as long as they follow our processes correctly, they have autonomy to do their jobs without micromanagement.

Too Smart = Trouble!

It is usually a month or two later when trouble arises. You can almost predict it with a calendar! These new salespeople begin to get “too smart” and their performance starts to suffer. They can never understand it on their own, but from the management side, it is clear what is happening.

These salespeople have now served enough customers and they begin to see patterns. Because they are now so smart, they believe they know as much as their managers and so they begin to short-cut the standard processes. I am not talking about anything illegal, unethical, or immoral. They simply stop doing some of the simple (and foundational) parts of the process because they do not see the point.

In their effort to save time and energy, sometimes even fear or frustration, they skip certain steps in the process. They most often truly believe they are best serving the needs of the customer when in fact they are doing the customer a disservice. Too often, their skipping of these “unnecessary” steps causes them to miss the sale or creates situations where the customer is inconvenienced.

Common Problem

Whatever the case, I think you likely have seen something similar in your business. These are not at all bad people. They just feel they can do a better job (based on their newfound knowledge) than their manager can (despite their deeper, more experiential knowledge). Have you experienced this phenomenon of being too smart?

Now that we are on the same page, let me turn the tables a little.

Are You Too Smart With God?

Have you ever been guilty of this same behavior with God?

Have you been in situations where you felt your knowledge was sufficient to handle things so you did not seek God and His wisdom? Looking back on your decisions over the past weeks, months, even years, have you failed to give God the opportunity to speak into any critical situations, instead relying on your own understanding?

Simply put, have you been too smart?

On My Own

I will go first and admit that I have been guilty of this very behavior. I have too often realized AFTER the situation that I never consulted God for an important decision or the solution to a complex problem. Usually, it was not a conscious decision to ignore Him or to leave Him out of the process. More often, it was just the confidence I had in my own ability that caused me to move forward without asking for His help.

Unfortunately, I am guilty of the very same attitude and behavior that frustrates me when I see it in others. And like I described earlier with the salespeople, my behavior causes me to miss opportunities or creates unnecessary frustration. Many times, my “short-cut” forces me into more work and effort than I would have had if I first had sought God and his deeper wisdom!

Rely On God

I encourage you today to stop and think about the times when you are guilty of being too smart. In what areas of your life do you “short-cut” God and make your own decisions? Where do you rely on your own understanding when you should be relying on His (Proverbs 3:5-6)?

Go back to the times when you did not have as much knowledge about these areas of your life. Try to remember how you felt then and how much you relied on God’s direction and guidance. Use this reflection time to motivate you to return to a more humble mindset. Go back to relying on Him. I guarantee you will see improvement in your results!


How often do you see yourself as being too smart with God?

What steps can you take to eliminate this behavior?

How can you prevent it from coming back later?


Photo by narith_2527/iStock

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  • Robert Boone

    God never ceases to amaze me in His timeliness of getting His instructions to us. When you turn to Him seeking guidance and a return to the positive side of business challenges, He responds in the most unique ways…INCLUDING words of wisdom leading to needed reflection in the Christian Faith At Work posting; thanks Chris.