Self-confidence vs. Holy Confidence

Growing up in the 80’s, I was taught to believe in myself. Self-esteem was taught in schools, as we were encouraged to believe we could do anything, be anything, and achieve anything.
I was reading an article that said that since the 70’s we have become more and more narcissistic as a culture. Jean W. Twenge wrote a book called, “Generation Me: Why Today’s Young Americans Are More Confident, Assertive, Entitled — and More Miserable Than Ever Before.” The book took a look at how our culture’s focus on self has affected people born after 1970. The focus on self has accelerated with each decade. But interestingly, the “narcissism epidemic” is spreading to all generations. “Younger people bear the brunt of the changes because this is the only world they have ever known, but retirement ads promising extravagant fantasies (own your own vineyard!) suggest that the epidemic has reached far up the age scale.” [from “The Narcissism Epidemic” by Twenge and Campbell]
In many ways, I am very grateful to have grown up being told that I can do anything, be anything and achieve anything. It is so good to be confident and to believe in yourself—ask anyone you know who is plagued with constant self-doubt.
But there is also something hollow in believing that your self is your most important asset.
A few weeks ago, my holy yoga teacher talked about the difference between self-confidence and holy-confidence. She said that self confidence in essence makes our selves our gods, because that is who we believe in. And that really makes sense. Someone told me years ago that the root of sin—at it’s center in fact—is “I.” What that means is that when we sin, it is usually about us choosing our own self over following God or helping our neighbor.
I also wonder if it is about where we put our trust. Holy confidence is about what God offers us. And that is that we can trust in him. One of my favorite lines in the bible is from Joseph in the book of Genesis. He was thrown into a pit and sold into slavery because of the jealousy of his brothers. He ended up in Egypt and worked his way into Pharoah’s favor, despite being jailed in the process over a crime he did not commit.
When he is finally reunited with his brothers, it is after he has been able to save them and the family from dying from a huge famine. They repent of all the terrible things they did to him, and his response is, “you meant it for evil, but God meant it for good.” That is holy confidence.
He could have said, well, I was too smart to let a little thing like jail hold me down. Or thankfully I’m such a hard worker that I was able to get really rich and powerful and be able to help you. He still did all those things. And he had to believe that he could do them. But he put his trust in God and he gave God the glory for what he did. God was his foundation, not his abilities and smarts and self.
I find holy confidence very freeing. For me it means that God is the one I can depend on. I mess up all the time. I also do things that are wonderful—we are all saints and sinners. But when push comes to shove, I want my focus to be on God and the gifts God has given me. Not on me and my achievements.
That is the foundation for a life that isn’t miserable—like the lives of so many of the young people who were taught they could be anything, achieve anything and do anything. Because really, we can’t always. Life is hard. Bad stuff happens—a lot. But God is with us, bringing life from death, newness from our same-old-same-old. We can have confidence in that. Holy Confidence.


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