Yesterday, I posted the first six steps; today, I’m posting the last five. Keep in mind that you probably won’t master these after reading them just once through. That’s totally expected; it’s a process that can take as much time as you need. Just stick with it. Also, aside from the first four steps, the others don’t have to be done in any particular order. You’ll find that as you do them, your confidence will slowly increase. Finally, to echo yesterday’s note, I’ll be going over forgiveness all of next week because it’s such a large topic and because it’s such a huge barrier for most people having the confidence God wants for them.
Without further ado, here’s the rest of the list:
7.Treat yourself to something every now and again, just because you deserve it. Try to get out of this mode of rewarding yourself only for a job well done. It’s not wrong to do that on occasion and can serve as good motivation, but rewarding yourself only after completing a project or achieving a goal reinforces the belief that good deeds are what cause value and happiness. Invest in yourself simply because you’re valuable. Don’t over-indulge, but sometimes, go on a trip to the movie theater. Go to a ballgame or the spa. Stop at the grocery store early in the morning and pick up a very fresh doughnut. You’re worth far more than that to God, so why not be worth it to yourself?
Even Jesus invested in Himself. When He died on the cross, the soldiers cast lots for his tunic (John 19:23-24). Why? Because it was very nice, having been made without a seam, so they didn’t want to divide it, even though each one wanted it. Contrary to what some people may think about Jesus, He was no mean beggar. He was a carpenter for about 17 years before He began His ministry, and He was apparently willing to spend some of that money on Himself to get a nice, expensive tunic.
8.Focus on others. It’s difficult to really get a grasp of how much God loves and values you without realizing that He values others just as much and for the same reason. 2 Peter 3:9 says, “The Lord is not slack in keeping his promise, as some count slackness, but he is longsuffering toward us, not willing that anyone should perish, but that all should come to repentance.” God wants every last person to come to Him and is willing to forgive them all.
Look at someone else right now and think, “God loves that person as much as He loves me.” It’s a really hard thing to truly realize that God loves Hitler, you, and John the Baptist equally. Yet we are each masterpieces painted by the ultimate Master. His love isn’t dependent on what you or they have done. It’s His choice and He has decided to love no matter what. When it really hits home, at least for me, is when I think about someone who just upset me, whether they lied to me, insulted me, or were ungrateful. God loves everyone, no matter what they do…even when they do it to you.
Why is it important to view others this way? For a variety of reasons:
A. Seeing them this way is a good reminder that it is about how God views them and us and not about how we view each other and ourselves.
B. Seeing them as valuable despite anything they may do will enable us to live like Christ has called us to live: in love and not in judgment. Just like your value doesn’t depend on actions, their value is based on how God sees them as well and is independent of their actions. Judgment is God’s place, not ours (James 4:11-12). Our place is to love our neighbor as ourselves.
C. You can’t guide them toward God very well while disliking yourself and them. If you have no faith that God will work things out in the end and don’t love and accept others and yourself, what kind of marketing tool are you for the Gospel?
The purpose of the Gospel message is not that our lives will be wonderful and perfect and certainly not that we have to live perfectly. In fact, one of the central points of the Gospel is that it is impossible for us to obtain perfection on our own. We are in desperate need of help to even want to come to Christ.
But another point of the Gospel is how much God loves every last one of us, how valuable we are to Him, simply because He chooses to love us. That love is the reason we can love ourselves, why we can love others, and how we know everything will indeed work out in the end. If you aren’t showing this love to others and loving yourself in the right way and for the right reasons, then they are not going to be interested in becoming Christians because it’s obviously not working for you.
D. Loving others is good for your mental and emotional health, too. You’ve probably worked with some really annoying people or maybe seen that guy at the gym who grunts like he’s having a hernia with every rep. The problem is that while the Bible tells us a few groups of people to avoid, “those who getteth thine goat” is not one of them. We’re called to be good to those who spitefully use us; how much more so should we be good to those who happen to have a different sense of humor, are a little cloying, or have annoying habits?
E. Lastly, it’s difficult to be angry with someone without feeling superior to them in some way. Instead, imagine viewing them as equals, as someone whom God has signed off on, as someone who, to God, is worth Jesus’ sacrifice, even after they’ve gone and offended oh-so-magnificent you. Every last person on this planet needs Christ as much as you do and is every bit as valuable as you’ll ever be.
9.Find out what you really want to do. Most people spend their lives doing what others want them to do, and thus they never really get to live their own lives. The Dalai Lama, when asked, “What thing about humanity surprises you the most?” answered, “Man…. Because he sacrifices his health in order to make money. Then he sacrifices money to recuperate his health. And then he is so anxious about the future that he does not enjoy the present; the result being that he does not live in the present or the future; he lives as if he is never going to die, and then dies having never really lived.”
If you’re doing something that you don’t want to do, then it’s time to reevaluate. You are the one who has to live with the results of your decisions. You are the one who will have to stand before God and answer for them, who will reap the rewards or the punishments they bring, and who will remember and be remembered for them. Why then would you let other people make these decisions for you?
Keep in mind, of course, that there is a very distinct line between being irresponsible and being free. It’s wrong to abandon your family or your responsibilities; however, if you can support them with a job doing what you love, do it. Find a hobby you enjoy, a charity that recharges you, or a subject that fascinates you. Life is too short to waste doing only what you think others want you to do.
10.Eat a squid. This one is put in here just for laughs. The point is, don’t take life or yourself too seriously. Life is going to have lots of failures in it, by you, by loved ones, and by acquaintances, bosses, colleagues, and complete strangers. It will have other interruptions in the forms of the economy, bad weather, potential catastrophes, diseases, and a host of other problems. You’ve survived many of these so far, and there will likely be many more to endure. But guess what? You’ve survived them. Sure, those times were probably awful, but hopefully now, they provide some good funny stories or have given you the experience needed to avoid similar mistakes. You’re not perfect and the only people who really expect anyone to be perfect are the people who are dead set on being perfect themselves – that is, those who are so miserably unconfident that they are like I was.
Take responsibility for mistakes, then fix them. If it’s not a real issue, laugh about it and move on. Laughing will feel better than castigating yourself, and you’ll give others the impression that you’re not going to be harsh with them if they let down their walls.
Also, if you are so wrapped up in having to be perfect in the pursuit of confidence, then the entire point of confidence – the freedom to be your real self – is missed and the pursuit is just another thing at which you must excel.
11.Tell someone. This will probably be done by your actions, but be ready to just be open with them when they ask what has come over you. It’s a story not just of your own transformation, but of God’s transforming power, because that is at the heart of it. God can take out a heart of stone and replace it with a heart of flesh, like He promises to in Ezekiel 36:26. Once this change truly takes hold, you won’t be able to help telling others about it.
I honestly believe that this is part of what 1 Peter 3:15 is talking about when it says, “But sanctify the Lord God in your hearts, and always be ready to give a defense to everyone who asks you a reason for the hope that is in you, with meekness and fear.” It’s not just the hope of Heaven, but of finding your true value, and in so doing, finding the freedom you’ve been seeking so long. I think a key factor of the Gospel message has been overlooked, or at least under-emphasized, for a long time. We get that God loves us enough to sacrifice Jesus for us and that’s mind-boggling to consider, but we miss the part where that makes us His sons and daughters, where we get a new identity, a better one than we could ever hope to earn. If you have an infinite supply of something so good and so needed, how could you possibly keep it to yourself?