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Monday, June 9, 2008

The Confidence-Humility Paradox

By Mike Barden

"You know what you need? To be more confident--remember, you are special and extremely valuable!"

"You know what you need? To be more humble--remember, it's not about you!"

And there you have it--the two most basic instructions we are ever given in life, when you really boil it down...how confusing.

For anyone who's ever tried to live a good life, these two instructions can keep us conflicted, even tormented at times.

You want to excel at your work, so you strive to do better than everyone else. At some point, the guilt kicks in: "Oops--I'm getting too self-centered. I need to settle down and be more humble."

So, to compensate, you downplay your strengths and try not to draw too much attention to yourself--you know, be more humble. But then someone notices you're not living up to your potential, and in the spirit of encouragement says, "Why are you devaluing yourself? You have so much to offer the world!"


Maybe it's a balance...maybe if I'm just excellent enough to do a good job, but plain enough that I don't seem arrogant, that will do the trick! Yeah, that's the ticket!

Welcome to the world of in-between living. Is that balanced, or is it wishy-washy?

I'm thinking the latter.

You can't point your life in two directions at the same time! I wrote in "Slavery is as Slavery Does" that you have to serve somebody...which way are you headed? On the road to excellence, or the road to obscurity?

Much of our entire culture is deeply conflicted about this--business, social life, even religion. We know confidence is a good thing, and we know humility is a good thing. How do you do both?

Here's a thought. What if confidence and humility were essentially the same thing?

The word confidence comes from the word that means "trust" or "reliable." When we have confidence in something, it means that we trust it. What if God gives you an ability or a gift to use? Is it right for us to trust in the power of that gift? In other words, should we have confidence that we can do a certain thing, because God made us that way, or is it better to just say "Well, no, I really can't do that, because I don't believe in the way God made me."

In it's purest form, confidence is simply trusting that God gave you the ability to do something well. To deny that is not humility--it is cowardice. You are afraid it may not work every single time, or that people will think you're arrogant. If you were really good, you might lose some friends.

How about humility? It is related to the word "humus", which refers to earth, or "dirt." It's a classic religious virtue--not just in Christianity, but in the other major world religions as well. Now of course, true humility is a beautiful and godly thing. But on the other hand, it is also a very powerful way that religion has tried to keep people guilty and compliant. Hmm...what's a well-meaning person to do?

As usual, Jesus is the best example of confidence and humility--of authority and self-sacrifice. The perfect ruler, and the perfect servant--awesome. But I think it's important to understand that this was not because Jesus had a split personality! There was not one Jesus that was confident and another that was humble; or one Jesus that was the King of kings, and one that gave Himself as the sacrificial Lamb.

Somehow, Jesus managed to be the highest authority and under authority all at the same time. How was this possible?

My thought is that maybe, just maybe, confidence and humility, in their purest forms, are the same thing!

Consider this:

Confidence comes when you realize you are a creation of God, formed from dirt but breathed into by God crafted into a masterpiece! When a person really gets this (emphasizing the "masterpiece" part), confidence appears, and accomplishment, overcoming, and greatness are the result.

But humility comes when you realize you are a creation of God, formed from dirt but breathed into by God, and crafted into a masterpiece. When a person really gets this (emphasizing the "dirt" part), humility appears, and forgiveness, mercy, and servanthood are the result.

Did you see the common theme? Both confidence and humility are the natural result of realizing we are a creation of God, formed from dirt but breathed into by God, crafted into a masterpiece. Depending on which part of this truth you dwell on, either confidence or humility results.

Even better, what if we really "got" both sides of this truth at the same time? Those two sides being:

1. I am a creation, formed from dirt.

2. I have the breath of God and am therefore a masterpiece.

"Created for This" tends to emphasize the "masterpiece" side of this truth, because there are already plenty of voices trying to convince us we won't amount to much because we're too screwed up. I'm here to remind people that grace gives us the ability to live a great life, even if we have screwed up.

But we never forget that all this comes from God, not ourselves. We were "Created For This"--we are not "The Creator"!

When we really get this, we are living on the cutting edge--the paradox of confidence and humility. If we tip too far to one side, we'll either start worshiping ourself, or we'll start devaluing ourself--neither one is right.

Where are you at today? Which part of this paradox do you need to embrace today? The best life is the life of confidence AND humility.

Mike Barden, Life TARGET Consultant, is the founder of Created For This, a revolutionary process that identifies a person's calling based on the "signs" within that person's life--their passion, their ability, their personality, their supernatural gifts and their most life-changing experiences. For more information, visit http://www.iwascreatedforthis.com , or email Mike at mike@iwascreatedforthis.com

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