There are few character traits or attitudes that are so underrated as humility. Humility is the strongest foundation to your confidence you could ever wish for.
Why then is humility so underappreciated? You would think that Christians at least, would get this, and yet, we don’t seem too.
I just finished an awesome book by Matt Ham called Redefine Rich: A New Perspective on the Good Life, and as awesome as the book is, he too, paints confidence and humility as opposite forces. As something we can have too much of. As in, if we have too much humility, we won’t have any confidence. And if we have too much confidence, then we won’t have any humility.
In other words, too much humility produces an inferiority complex. And too much confidence becomes arrogance. May I propose a different explanation to that?
Those of you who have known me for a while know that my brain rattles, and sometimes something good gets born. Other times not. You also know I tend to think a bit differently about things. But the way humility and confidence get pitted against each other has truly bugged me for years. Some of you have also heard me talk about this.
You are almost too confident
Years ago I worked night-shift in a CNC machine shop and one of the other guys, a fellow Christian, wasn’t sure what to make of me. He believed confidence was good, but he didn’t like that I didn’t deflect the compliments that came my way. For example:
Somebody would say something like: “Wow Milton, you’re really good at seeing the big picture.” “Thanks,” I would respond, “God seems to have wired me for that.”
He thought I should deflect that with a, “Oh, I am just trying to do my job the best I can.” As is, he thought my confidence was almost pride. He too thought that confidence becomes arrogance. I think such a deflection is a false humility. When God says He has created us for a specific purpose, true humility agrees with God and says “God equips me to fulfil this purpose”.
And when someone acknowledges you for your gifts, you gratefully accept that, and pass the acknowledgement to your heavenly Father who gives us all ability.
The popular perception of humility versus confidence
The popular view of humility versus confidence is that they are all kind of spread as one straight line with the bottom being inferiority, then a little higher humility, up a bit is confidence, and to top it off is arrogance. And the perfect place to be is somewhere between humility and confidence. And to pass by either of those is totally bad.
With a view like that, and the need for confidence to move ahead in life, it is no wonder we don’t very much like humility. The lesser sin of the extremes in this case feels like arrogance, because we are meant to pursue something, right? And inferiority cripples into inaction.
Re-framing humility and confidence
Let me re-frame that perception with a different mind picture. In this mind picture there are two parallel lines. One holds inferiority on the bottom and humility at the top. The other holds arrogance at the bottom and confidence at the top. And while you can be in somewhat different places on these two lines at the same time, they are also tied in the sense that one affects the other. Very much so!
So if you are very humble, you will likely also be fairly confident. And if you feel inferior, you are probably pretty arrogant too. Wait a minute, how is that possible? I am so glad you asked. Let me explain. According to Scriptures, there is a lot of correlation between humility and the fear of God. They are the beginning of wisdom. And wisdom always agrees with God.
Because God created this world, He knows how this world really works. So I have an over-simplistic definition of humility. It is this: humility is agreement with God. You can’t have too much of that.
Two types of confidence
Now let me tackle confidence. Confidence is a less complete word. We often use it as a stand alone, and the dictionary allows it as such when it means “sure of oneself.” But we also often refer to that as “self-confidence.” That would be the full term for that meaning.
But the deeper meaning of confidence is: “to trust in, be sure of, to have faith in.” When we are self-confident, then we have faith in ourselves. That can be a good thing. Well, if and when it is the faith that God says we are to have in ourselves. After all, He says we can do all things through Christ Jesus who strengthens us. Wow!
But it is also easy to have faith in ourselves where we are not meant too. That quickly becomes arrogance. As in, I got this, I don’t need You, God. Or, I know everything I need to know, I don’t need your wisdom.
But what if your confidence is based in humility. In agreement with God. That would be God-confidence. Trust in God. Faith in God. Sure of God. That kind of confidence would cause us to be confident of ourselves where God asks us to be, and wary of ourselves where God says we tend to err.
That is the kind of rock solid confidence you need to live the abundant life God desires for you. The “best life” that God asks you to live. The kind of boldness that allows you to fulfil your purpose. And in my experience, such a complete agreement with God’s assessment of ourselves results in far more confidence than any other source of confidence can provide.
Detaching inferiority from humility
It is time to detach humility from inferiority and confidence from arrogance. In fact, the crippling feeling of inferiority is the opposite of humility. Because there is nothing in an inferiority complex that agrees with God’s assessment of you; “You are fearfully and wonderfully made.” Inferiority is arrogance. Disagreement with God. A rejection of God’s assessment of you.
Humility doesn’t breed an inferiority complex. It is true, humility will at times put us in our place. And as such, create an awareness of our need of God. But humility will also make us incredibly aware of the love and purpose our Heavenly Father has for us.
Hey, once again, Matt Ham does a great job in Redefine Rich: A New Perspective on the Good Life. Go grab the book from Amazon now. If you do that through the links on this page, you’ll support this blog. I recommend it!