It’s been one of those days. Or maybe it’s been a week.
At any rate, it feels like everyone I know is more accomplished, organized, and better at life than I am.
Do you ever feel that way?
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Some people might tell me that I just need to have more confidence; I shouldn’t compare myself, love myself the way I am, etc. But I don’t think confidence is the problem or the solution.
I think my feelings of inadequacy, insecurity, and inferiority arise when I’m out of touch with the truth. Let me rephrase that—my feelings of inadequacy arise when I’m out of touch with the Truth.
When I lose my grounding in Christ, I flounder about for something to provide my sense of self-worth and purpose. I look to what I do to provide meaning in my life. I look to other people and their opinion of me. I look to the things I possess, whether it be material goods or qualities or family.*
None of this provides a firm foundation for understanding who I am, my purpose in life, and my relationship to God and the world around me. Rather than needing a boost of confidence, I actually need a dose of reality and humility.
Bishop Robert Barron describes humility as “knowing our proper place. Knowing that God IS—He is the I am—and we are His creation. And knowing that God reaches down into His creation and says YOU are infinitely valuable.”**
In our quest for significance and security, though, the tendency toward either self-denigration or self-righteous arrogance is much more common than humility. Both stem from an improper pride. Self-denigration develops out of a misplaced belief that I can achieve perfection on my own power (but brings despair upon seeing the reality of my failure). Self-righteous arrogance arises out of the illusion that I actually am all that I should be.
A true humility, or remembering my proper place, protects against both of these. God is the I AM and we are merely His creation—but a creation that He amazingly calls Beloved. Humility entails a proper sense of identity, of understanding who I am.
When I am shaken, when doubts and insecurities lurk all around me, the answer is not to build myself up on a broken foundation of confidence in misplaced self-identity. The answer is to turn and look squarely and humbly at who I am. And I can only see that when I am looking fully in the face of Jesus. When I am more focused on listening to God’s word in Scripture and seeing Him more clearly, the truth He speaks about who I am seeps deep into my soul.
Lysa Terkeurst states, “Confidence is being more certain of our abilities. Conviction is being more certain of God’s instructions.” Conviction, in this case, is a firm trust in who God is, what He says, and who He tells me I am. I have no cause for pride or confidence on my own account, but every reason to stand firm and courageous on the humble conviction of who God says I am in Him.
Are you looking for a place to begin hearing God’s word about who you are? Here’s a great place to start:
5 Thomas said to him, “Lord, we don’t know where you are going. So how can we know the way?”
6 Jesus answered, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. 7 If you really know me, you will know my Father also. From now on, you do know him. And you have seen him.”
8 Philip said, “Lord, show us the Father. That will be enough for us.”
9 Jesus answered, “Don’t you know me, Philip? I have been among you such a long time! Anyone who has seen me has seen the Father. So how can you say, ‘Show us the Father’? 10 Don’t you believe that I am in the Father? Don’t you believe that the Father is in me? The words I say to you I do not speak on my own authority. The Father lives in me. He is the one who is doing his work. 11 Believe me when I say I am in the Father. Also believe that the Father is in me. Or at least believe what the works I have been doing say about me. 12 What I’m about to tell you is true. Anyone who believes in me will do the works I have been doing. In fact, they will do even greater things. That’s because I am going to the Father. 13 And I will do anything you ask in my name. Then the Father will receive glory from the Son. 14 You may ask me for anything in my name. I will do it.
15 “If you love me, obey my commands. 16 I will ask the Father. And he will give you another friend to help you and to be with you forever. 17 That friend is the Spirit of truth. The world can’t accept him. That’s because the world does not see him or know him. But you know him. He lives with you, and he will be in you. 18 I will not leave you like children who don’t have parents. I will come to you. 19 Before long, the world will not see me anymore. But you will see me. Because I live, you will live also. 20 On that day you will realize that I am in my Father. You will know that you are in me, and I am in you. 21 Anyone who has my commands and obeys them loves me. My Father will love the one who loves me. I too will love them. And I will show myself to them.” (John 14:5-21 NIRV)
*This is a paraphrase of Henri Nouwen, who famously points this out saying, “Spiritual identity means we are not what we do or what people say about us. And we are not what we have. We are the beloved daughters and sons of God.” For more, check out this video of a sermon by Nouwen.
**This quote comes from a homily on the Word on Fire website. For more great thoughts on the true meaning of humility and it’s place in the Christian life, check out the rest of this great homily by Bishop Robert Barron.
If you’re interested in reading more by the authors quoted here, check out these books!