People cannot make changes unless they not only see, but need or are excited by the benefits the change will bring. I talked last week about how confidence will free you from playing the world’s game, but there are numerous benefits included in that freedom. I’ll start the list today and finish it tomorrow.
There is no way to have true, lasting confidence outside of God. Confidence can be faked for a while, even convincingly, but if it’s not based in God, it will always either result in enslavement to others or be based on a false sense of worth, both of which will eventually fail.
Note how many of the traits below mirror the traits of love in 1 Corinthians 13:4-7. Confidence, because it takes away the pressure to seek love and acceptance, enables a person to show love and acceptance in a purer way than they can hope to without it.
1. Has a true self image and embraces it, knowing from where value and power actually comes. Note that I didn’t say a gushingly positive self image; I said a true one. This means seeing both the good and bad things about yourself. You can recognize a gifting in art but a handicap in math, or skills in money management but a short temper, or whatever else the balance might be. And then you love yourself.
This self-love doesn’t come from being awesome enough to deserve it, but because God is so awesome and has given you love. The fact that this love can’t be earned should be the most freeing truth you ever hear.
Understanding the true measure of how much you mean to God will make it easy to give honest self-evaluations because there will be no reason to hide.
That includes magnifying failures in a false humility as well. Many unconfident people do that, don’t we? I know I used to. We build up our failures, and it may be because we really want to beat ourselves up or because we want others to tell us we’re not so bad, but that humility is all false. We feel we’re really important, but we’re trying to find the reason other people don’t see it and castigating that aspect of ourselves.
2. Is unique, but does not derive value from that uniqueness. It’s rare that an artist paints the exact same thing a second time. It may look similar to another painting, but there’s some new angle or brush stroke that makes it different, maybe a different color here or a new element there. Likewise, God has made each of us unique. We can group ourselves into personality types, but your thoughts, personalities, fears, hopes, dreams, struggles, insecurities, talents, and outlook all combine to make you a person unlike any other on the planet. God made you, knowing exactly what would happen…and then He let things develop in your life to bring His will to fruition.
In Matthew 25:14-30, a man goes on a journey and gives his servants talents to watch over while he’s away. To one, he gives five talents, to another two, and to another one. The first two doubled his money while he was away and got the same praise. The last one did nothing productive with his master’s money, but buried it. He was cast out. The obvious point of this parable is that we are meant to use the gifts God has given us, but I think there’s a subtler point that’s often overlooked: Neither the talents they received nor the amount they gained made these servants more valuable because the talents were always their master’s.
Likewise, your gifts and talents don’t make you any more valuable, for you are God’s and everything good you have is from Him. And if it’s from Him, and you’re His, then all of what you have is His. Even the results of your labor are up to Him to provide, as Psalm 127:1 says, “Unless the Lord builds the house, they labor in vain who build it; unless the Lord guards the city, the watchman stays awake in vain.” So there’s no reason to puff yourself up from your efforts or skills, neither is there any reason to desire someone else’s gifts. God has given to each of us what He knows is best for us, and none of them increase our value in any way.
Your worth doesn’t depend on actions, but God loves the individuality that causes those actions. These unique traits do not cause Him to love us, but are things He has given us to love about us.
3. Needs no mask. When we’re not confident, we all try one of two approaches with people: either to put our best foot forward and hope they’ll like us, or our most self-deprecating foot forward in the hopes that they’ll leave us alone or tell us we’re not so bad. Both approaches are masks that we use to hide who we truly are.
For the former, the reasoning should be obvious: we feel like we have to earn their affection and/or respect, so we show them the things we like about ourselves and believe others should like about us.
There are two possible pitfalls here. The first is that not all people like the same things in a personality, so what you think are your best traits may make others not like you. The second pitfall is that a mask must always be worn if the person is to remain hidden, and these masks get heavy.
True confidence doesn’t need to prove itself or hear that it has been accepted. It simply is, and is completely fine if it is rejected, so it doesn’t need to hide behind anything. Adam and Eve were naked, not just physically, but emotionally and mentally, before God and each other.
I hear so many people say how important it is to guard your heart and be careful to whom you open up. The reason is that these people want to avoid getting hurt, which means they’ve given that power to people they’ve shared their heart with. I don’t believe that’s how God wants us to live, though, in fear of what others might do with our hearts, closing up to people. It’s unwise and could be viewed as manipulative or out of control to share deep secrets and emotions with everyone, but neither should your heart be locked away. People should be able to get to know the real you easily.
Here’s why: the heart will attach itself to what gives it value. If that value comes from God, the heart will go to Him. And if He has your heart and you have complete faith in Him, no one can break it. Who can overpower God? People can only break your heart if you’ve taken it back from God and given it to them.
4. Is emotionally stable, yet can be passionate. Here is how I would define emotional stability: not allowing actions to be dictated by emotions. There are some cases that force reactions on someone, like the death of a family member, but how that person actually acts when that happens shows whether they are emotionally stable. In an argument, is it more likely you’re matching the other person decibel for decibel or that you’re calmly explaining your side and trying to work toward a resolution? When rejected, do you try to avoid them at all costs or do you realize their rejection doesn’t devalue who you are as a person and try to preserve the friendship?
At the same time, a confident person has no problem expressing how he or she truly feels. There is no hiding feelings to keep others from knowing the real person underneath the mask, no denying the feelings and thereby invalidating them, just an open and honest admission. This applies to positive feelings as well as negative ones and to passions as well as hobbies.
5. Is not controlling or judgmental. Why do we try to control or judge people? We want control because that gives us feelings of power, security, and importance. It also feeds our notion, which is based in insecurity, that our needs and wants are more important than other people’s.
When we judge, we try to establish our moral superiority over someone else. After all, if we’re morally superior, then the fact that they have a better job or are with someone we want to be with becomes secondary. We can still claim we’re better. Even if our motive is not jealousy, we’re trying to prove our morality is better than theirs.
John 8 tells the story of the people who caught a woman in the act of adultery and brought her before Jesus, hoping He would tell them to stone her. He got them all to turn away, then forgave the woman. There was no telling her she was wrong and had to repent before she would get anything from Him, no begging or service that He required. She was allowed to come as she was and was accepted, even in the midst of sin. That’s how God is with us. He doesn’t demand that we be anything before we come to Him; His goal is to change us, not to keep us at arm’s length until we’ve changed.
Confidence sees no reason to either control or judge someone. For the first, confidence realizes that God is in control anyway, regardless of circumstances or who does what to you. And for the latter, confidence realizes that everyone else is equally as much a masterpiece of God, and so it is He alone who should be judging. When Christians in the New Testament pointed out flaws in behavior, it was almost always directed at those in the church. Jesus never shoved someone away because they were a prostitute or tax collector (tax collectors were essentially government-sanctioned thieves at the time). He welcomed them all. If they rejected Him, He didn’t chase after them or try to guilt them into changing. He simply let them go. Confidence realizes that every person has an equal right to make up their own mind, even if the decision they come to is not what’s best for them.
6. Cares about what others think, but is not controlled by others’ opinions. There are two parts to this. First, is that I care about others and what they think and feel. If I’m wrapped up in what someone thinks of me or trying to get my way, I have little time and energy to devote to caring about them. By knowing who I really am and not having to prove myself, I free myself to actually learning about them and letting them matter to me in a way that is healthy for both of us. I’m free to celebrate their successes honestly, give advice without worrying if it’s rejected, and help them with no fear that they’ll one day be better at something than I am.
The other part is that I take into account what they think of me. Some would tell you that confidence means not caring at all what others think, but I think that goes one step too far. What I mean is if someone tells me I was a real jerk, I can consider my behavior, apologize if I was actually wrong, and mend my ways. Alternately, I can decide that what I said or did was necessary (when Jesus stormed the temple and chased out the moneylenders, I’m sure some people looked on that as rather rude) and respectfully disagree. Either way, I will not have seen my value change, either from having been wrong in my ideas or being rejected. Being confident means I don’t change something that I don’t view as a problem to satisfy someone else. I can listen to criticism – whether constructive or not – but I don’t let it control me.
7. Has an active interest in making others feel better about themselves. A lot of people, even Christians, don’t like themselves very much. They need this freedom, this confidence, as much as you do, and one of the most wonderful things about this confidence is that there’s enough value for everyone.
I think we don’t build each other up nearly as often as we should because we’re so caught up in what we need to do for ourselves or what our problems are. Yes, we should see to issues in our lives, but worrying about them and pitying ourselves wastes time and energy. If we truly believe God is in control, worrying becomes a ridiculous waste of our lives. By not being constantly self-centered, we have the time, energy, and compassion needed to help others as often as necessary.
When they are ready to hear about true confidence, we’ll be eager to share with them if we have it ourselves. Why? True confidence, rather than seeking to build up itself, has no problem building up others. Confident people do this not because they want others to build them up in return, but because if there is no feeling of competition, then there is no reason to not make others feel good about themselves. There is no reason to criticize someone (I do not include constructive criticism here, only the devaluing kind) because there is no way that person will ever be able to make us less valuable. In fact, sharing this confidence with them will build it further in you.