“For by the grace given to me I say to everyone among you not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think, but to think with sober judgment, each according to the measure of faith that God has assigned.” -Romans 12:3
I’m bad at taking compliments. Horrible at it, to be honest. I don’t know where to look or what to say. People’s compliments make up some of the most embarrassing and uncomfortable moments of my life. On our first date my boyfriend told me I was beautiful and I ended up awkwardly responding, “Umm… thank you. So are you.”
In the past three years I’ve made leaps and bounds in the area of self-image, both in my appearance and character. I’ve slowly learned to embrace the real me; makeupless, sensitive, talkative, and apt to be stubborn. I’ve learned to love little things about myself that I grew up hating and to accept the unique things about me that contribute to my identity. I still don’t always appreciate the way God has made me, but I’ve come a long way in that regard.
But with this progress I’ve also wondered how to handle that confidence in the proper way. Here I am, finally learning to love the person that God has created me as, yet also fully aware that prideful self-love is harmful to my faith, my relationships, and myself. Ultimately I am created to honor God, to boast in Him and glorify Him through my life. But what does that look like? The Bible makes it clear that arrogance and pride are not desirable traits (Proverbs 16:18), but is being humble really about continually denying your worth, strengths, accomplishments, or abilities? Is it Christian humility to never consider yourself attractive in heart, mind, or body? I wonder if, in avoiding arrogance, we tend to run too far in the opposite direction.
The problem I see with most trying so hard to avoid pride is that they end up stuck in a rut of insecurity and self loathing. And while the Lord takes us through humbling times of realizing our own inability and shortcomings, it is not His intention to leave us wallowing in despair. It seems to me that as Christians we ought to have the greatest understanding of who we are, both the good and the bad. After all, the better we know our Creator the better we will understand our own selves.
It is right that we acknowledge our shortcomings and understand our weaknesses. It is good that we see what a small spec we are in the history of the entire universe. Understanding that the world does not revolve around us and that the Lord is not dependent upon us is vital to understanding our place. However, we must balance this with the knowledge that we are God’s creation, purposefully brought into being. To say that we have no worth at all is to deny God’s ability both in creating and using us. We ought to be honest about ourselves, keeping our priorities in their place and understanding that God is the giver of all good gifts.
“For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them.” -Ephesians 2:10
So what does Christian confidence look like?
We are honest about life, about the good and the bad, being genuine and real. We speak truthfully of where our gifts come from (God) and our struggles and shortcomings. We know that our natural strengths and abilities are from Him. We know that our weakness is an opportunity to rest in God’s strength. We know that our sins are forgiven and our broken lives redeemed only through Him. Our hearts are not focused on presenting the best version of ourselves, but rather in presenting the reality of ourselves so that God will be glorified through it all.
“Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me.” -2 Corinthians 12:9
Our lives are characterized by praising God in all things and rightfully attributing our blessings to His goodness. Instead of continually denying our own strengths and gifts, we praise God for blessing us with them and allowing us to use them as He does.
“I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made. Wonderful are your works; my soul knows it very well.” -Psalm 139:14
3). A Teachable Heart
We are not of the mindset that we are above being taught or that we have learned all we can. We know that God can use all kinds of people or situations to teach us and we honor the wisdom and instruction of others.
“The way of a fool is right in his own eyes, but a wise man listens to advice.” -Proverbs 12:15
4). Proper Priorities
We do not build our confidence merely on physical beauty, knowing that beauty within is not only of much more importance but will last throughout our lives as outward beauty fades (1 Peter 3:4). Though we do not deny our God-given strengths or blessings, we know that they are not to be our main focus. We know that our worth is not ultimately tied up in the way we look, what we are able to do, or what we have. While those things may make up parts of our personality they will ultimately waver or fade. Instead, our true worth and identity lies in belonging to our Savior. He is our first priority.
“No one can serve two masters, for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other.” -Matthew 6:24
We don’t go out of our way to talk about ourselves or our abilities. If we are praised, we accept it with gracious honesty. But we do not live for the praises of others and our lives are not characterized by self praise (Proverbs 27:2).
“And when you pray, you must not be like the hypocrites. For they love to stand and pray in the synagogues and at the street corners, that they may be seen by others. Truly, I say to you, they have received their reward. But when you pray, go into your room and shut the door and pray to your Father who is in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you.” -Matthew 6:5-6