The 16 Traits of True Confidence, Part 2

Continuing yesterday’s list, true confidence:

8. Is not fearless, but is courageous. Confidence doesn’t mean fearing nothing and always pressing forward intrepidly come what may. Even Jesus didn’t do that. When faced with the cross, He prayed that if there was any way that cup could be taken from Him that God would do it. He was willing to submit to God still and, of course, did die on the cross for us, but He was so nervous and stressed that He sweat drops of blood. There was not a lack of fear in Him, but there was a recognition that He had what it took to get through it.

You should always be mindful of the dangerous situations into which certain decisions could lead. That does not necessarily mean not making a given decision, but rather being aware of it, having a plan to tackle it, and trusting God to work out everything in the end.

Confidence also knows its limits. This doesn’t just mean knowing your weaknesses; it means knowing the limits of your strengths as well. There is no need for bravado or for pushing your boundaries because there is nothing to prove to anyone. Value is not dependent on success or failure in a given venture and so there is no sense of pressure to risk it all just to please someone else or prove your own worth.

Most of us won’t have to face crucifixion, so what does that mean for us? It means not being afraid to make important decisions and stick with them. I moved from Virginia, where I had a large group of friends, to Colorado Springs, where I met my wife. Then we moved to Houston, where we know almost nobody. Yet I don’t regret it because I believe this is where God wants me to be, and so this is where I am.

Confidence also allows people to speak their mind when necessary. This includes calling out people when it’s needed, but also only during the appropriate time and place. There’s no need to speak just to be heard, but an opinion or idea that would benefit the conversation won’t be kept to yourself out of fear of being laughed at, rejected, or proven wrong. You’ll be able to take risks when they’re warranted, carefully analyzing the pros and cons beforehand. There will be no fear rejection or failure.

9. Is always honest. Think about it this way: people lie to others and themselves because they are afraid of the consequences of the truth. Why do people tell their bosses lies about car trouble when the truth is that they just slept through their alarm? Why do they tell their girlfriend or wife what they want to hear instead of what’s true when they ask? Why do they keep denying that there’s anything wrong when they clearly aren’t happy with the way life has turned out?

True confidence does not need to hide behind lies for any reason. It allows you to speak when it is necessary and be silent when it is prudent, both for the right reasons rather than any fear. Jesus never deceived anyone because there was never a reason to. He knew that God was in control at all times, so the consequences of actions were never something to fear and try to run from. With faith in God, there comes a peace that things will work out in the end, and that God doesn’t need to be lied to or manipulated into caring for you.

10. Gives without caring if it receives. Most people give in order to get something in return. It can be working for a charity in order to get recognition or to feel they’re holy and righteous. It can be being there for someone in the hopes of this someone falling in love with them. It can be giving a gift so that they can get a hug and draw closer to that person. Whatever form it takes, few of us can give without expecting anything at all in return.

Real confidence, even if it recognizes ingratitude, doesn’t get hurt by it. When Jesus healed ten lepers in Luke 17:12-19 and only one returned, Jesus did indeed point out that there was a lack of gratitude in the other nine. He did not, however, curse them, neither did He revoke their healing or dwell on it at all. His gift was theirs, regardless of whether they praised Him for it, simply because He decided to love them.

That is how we are meant to live, we are supposed to, “…love your enemies, do good, and lend, hoping for nothing in return; and your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High. For He is kind to the unthankful and evil.” (Luke 6:35)

11. Is at least somewhat outgoing. God created some people introverts and some extroverts, so being introverted by nature does not mean confidence is impossible to obtain, Being uncomfortable around other people, however, is a sure sign of a lack of confidence. Regardless of whether you’d rather be around a small group of people or alone or in the midst of a huge party, you should be able to interact with people without fear or discomfort because there is nothing to prove to any of them and nothing to lose.

At the same time, there’s no need to be the center of attention, either. You can simply be there and let someone else have the attention or let there be no center of attention at all.

I also believe that being more confident will make you want to be around people at least a little more. Why? Because part of confidence is seeing others as God sees them. Seeing people as masterpieces rather than competition will give you more compassion and love for them. Their stories won’t be opportunities for judgment or condemnation, but things that show how they’ve sought love, safety, or escape in their own way. You might never get the energy rush an extrovert gets from meeting new people or being in a large crowd, but caring for others will cause you to enjoying meeting them more.

12. Does not seek its own glory. This is because it feels no need to. God is confident and seeks His own glory, but the difference is He’s earned it. You haven’t. Also, glorifying Him keeps us from trying to glorify ourselves, which leads inexorably to failure and pain for both us and those around us. Our glorifying Him adds a life-changing element to us and nothing to Him.

Since we, however, do not deserve worship, we should feel no need to let everyone know we are fantastic and wonderful, or even that we are now confident. We simply are confident and that shows through. True confidence doesn’t even care if other people see it because there is nothing to prove and nothing lost or devalued if it’s missed, at least not by the person who is confident.

13. Apologizes and forgives easily. When we know we’re wrong and refuse to apologize (usually because the other person hasn’t apologized to us), we let our pride get in the way. Pride is just a way of claiming to be better and more important than someone else, and that’s always rooted in insecurity rather than actual confidence. Neither sin nor their lack of forgiveness lessens your value, nor does admitting to being wrong. At worst, you will extend an olive branch and, at best, receive the sought after forgiveness and/or apology. If not, know that their refusal to forgive is a reflection on them, not on you.

NOTE: All of next week is devoted to the topic of forgiveness, as that is one of the biggest barriers people have to obtaining true confidence.

14. Allows you to turn the other cheek without becoming a pushover. Let’s be very clear about one thing: some people will take advantage of you. It happened to Jesus, why wouldn’t it happen to everyone else? But what did He do when it happened? He turned the other cheek. He forgave.

What’s the difference? The difference is that Jesus never felt indebted to people. He never let their will override His own. It was His love for people that compelled Him to do what He did, not a fear of how they’d react if He didn’t. He didn’t forgive and heal because He had to, but because He chose to.

It’s impossible to really turn the other cheek without confidence, because there is something in getting beaten, shamed, taken advantage of, or robbed that will eat at you, further cementing your perceived worthlessness. There are people who believe they deserve for these things to happen to them, or at least, that they don’t really have the right to fight for what they deserve. With that belief, each offense is piled on top of the others to make these beliefs more permanent.

15. Is not defensive. Lots of people have a hard time taking criticism, even the constructive sort. As a writer, I know that editing is a part of the book-writing process. It may be my least favorite part, but I can see the value and necessity of it. The difficulty used to come when that knowledge is tested with other people’s criticisms. Before writing this book, if someone else found a single typo, I thanked them and fixed it. With two or three, I’d get frustrated with myself. By the fourth, I wondered if I did anything at all right and wanted to go through the whole thing again line by line. I started to fear these other people would think I didn’t care about my work or was incompetent or that the message must not be worth reading if there were that many mistakes in delivering it.

What I eventually realized is that these people are doing me a favor by pointing out shortcomings in my manuscript. But even if their reaction was to burn it in front of me and tell me they did it to save anyone else from having to read it, that does not make me in any way a failure or worthless. It means only that this person didn’t like a particular manuscript. It was a hard thing for me to separate my work from my value because of how long I’ve found the latter in the former, but as I find it more and more in God, I’m more able to let the criticism go. If none of my failures matter, then I don’t have to be defensive or prove myself right or better than anyone else. I need do nothing except for thank them for pointing out my errors and then go about fixing them.

16. Is free. Real confidence is, because of all the traits listed above, free to do what it wants. Naturally, I don’t mean that confidence places someone above the law or moral codes; no, I mean that there’s no feeling of enslavement to others or need for approval. Past mistakes won’t be prison cells and current shortcomings won’t be shackles. People with more talent in certain areas no longer pose a threat. There’s no need to impress people or to hide from them. You can be yourself, embracing the uniqueness God has put in you, and let others see it. I have honestly never felt anything like it, and the more I get of it, the more I think that being a true Christian has to include some element of finding this freedom and self-confidence.

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The 16 Traits of True Confidence, Part 1

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.

True confidence:

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.