RICHMOND, Va. – If you believe in yourself, you can achieve anything. Visualize success and it will happen. Positive self-talk is the key. Go for the gold and let no one get in your way.
Those tips might help you develop a great jump shot or close that big sale, but they won’t make you a successful person. Have you noticed how many star athletes make a mess of their personal lives? The will to win is great in competition, but it tends to wreak havoc in relationships.
Belief in yourself as an exclusive guiding principle is a recipe for misery. That may sound like heresy in our age of self-worship, but the self is a particularly undependable little idol. What happens when you let yourself and others down? And you will, again and again.
Granted, self-confidence is an attractive, magnetic quality. Many leaders have it. They seem to know who they are and where they are going. Especially in times of chaos and confusion, we are drawn to them. We would follow them anywhere – even over a cliff, which is where some of them take us.
Julius Caesar was adored by his troops, whom he led to great victories in Britain, Gaul and elsewhere. But power went to his head. “I came, I saw, I conquered,” he famously declared after one glorious conquest. Governing Rome wasn’t quite as simple. When he took dictatorial power, delivering a fatal blow to the tottering Roman Republic, his opponents returned the favor by assassinating him on the Senate floor.
“Give us a king,” the Israelites cried out in the days of Samuel, many centuries before Caesar. For them, God Himself as Divine King wasn’t enough; they wanted to be more like the nations around them. Samuel, a faithful servant of God and righteous judge of Israel, took their request to the Almighty. His response: “Listen to the voice of the people … for they have not rejected you, but they have rejected Me from being king over them” (1 Samuel 8:7 NASB). They ended up with Saul, who accepted the crown reluctantly but held on to it violently – long after he had lost the blessing of the Lord.
Moral of the story: Choose your leaders carefully, starting with yourself. They all are fallible – except for Jesus Christ, the sinless One. In this world, seek role models who display authentic confidence, not counterfeit.
“Confidence is not bravado, or swagger, or an overt pretense of bravery,” said Dharmesh Shah, software company founder, author and frequent blogger. “Confidence is not some bold or brash air of self-belief directed at others.”
In a recent article, Shah listed some qualities shared by “truly confident people.” His perspective and primary audience are business-oriented, but several of the qualities he highlighted have spiritual resonance:
- “They listen 10 times more than they speak. Bragging is a mask for insecurity. Truly confident people are quiet and unassuming. They already know what they think; they want to know what you think.”
- “They duck the spotlight so it shines on others. Perhaps it’s true they did the bulk of the work. Perhaps they really did overcome the major obstacles. Perhaps it’s true they turned a collection of disparate individuals into an incredibly high-performance team. … [But] truly confident people don’t need the glory…. They don’t need the validation of others, because true validation comes from within. So they stand back and celebrate their accomplishments through others. They let others shine – a confidence boost that helps those people become truly confident, too.”
- “They freely ask for help. Many people feel asking for help is a sign of weakness…. Confident people are secure enough to admit a weakness…. [Also], they know that when they seek help they pay the person they ask a huge compliment. Saying, ‘Can you help me?’ shows tremendous respect for that individual’s expertise and judgment.”
- “They don’t put down other people. Generally speaking, the people who like to gossip, who like to speak badly of others, do so because they hope by comparison to make themselves look better. The only comparison a truly confident person makes is to the person she was yesterday – and to the person she hopes to someday become.”
Ouch. I wish I could go back and change all the times I have failed to follow those wise guidelines because of insecurity, foolish pride or ego. Truly confident people are humble, teachable, eager to encourage others and help them grow, excited to reproduce and multiply success in the lives of others. That sounds like an effective disciple-maker to me. Compare Shah’s tips to the qualities of authentic love outlined by the Apostle Paul in 1 Corinthians 13:4-7 (NASB):
“Love is patient, love is kind and is not jealous; love does not brag and is not arrogant, does not act unbecomingly; it does not seek its own, is not provoked, does not take into account a wrong suffered, does not rejoice in unrighteousness, but rejoices with the truth; bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.”
That is true confidence in action, because the object and source of true confidence is not ourselves but Christ.
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Erich Bridges is International Mission Board global correspondent. Visit WorldView Conversation, the blog related to this column.)