Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Humble Confidence

Sometimes my ego can be a very fragile thing. I balance myself precariously between the pitfalls of arrogance and self-doubt, and I worry about straying too far towards either side. I need to believe in my ability to do the work I've been given to do while recognizing that ability to be a gift from God and not the result of my own merit. I have to be confident but not cocky, humble but not overly self-critical. Trying to walk this fine line is one of the most difficult things I do as a Christian. I work hard to try to see myself and my talents as God sees them and to be happy with my work while still challenging myself to do better.

One thing that is difficult for me is dealing with the compliments and criticisms of others. I don't want to fall short of others' expectations or become complacent when others respond well to me. I used to try to solve this problem by telling myself that I don't care what other people think, but that's simply not true. So much of what I do is intended to be for the benefit of other people. If I am unable to make a positive impact on their lives, then I will feel that I haven't been wholly successful. I have realized, however, that even though commentary from others can help me improve, I needn't live by the praise or complaints of others. Compliments and criticisms can be helpful to me, but they are feedback, not judgment. People's opinions can be useful, but God's opinion is the one that really counts. His is the one I should truly care about. I endeavor to listen to what God is saying and to try to see things from His point of view.

One thing that God has taught me is that I don't have to achieve objective excellence in everything I do. It really doesn't matter whether I win awards or rise to the top of my field or community. What's important is the impact I have on the lives of others and the way I spread God's love in the world. I don't have to be 'the best' to positively impact the lives of others. For example, I frequently sing in church, and for a while I was really frustrated with my performances. My vocal technique was not as good as I wanted it to be, but every time I sang I would still receive many compliments from people who had been moved by my song. I felt embarrassed and frustrated by their praise because I knew I hadn't done my 'best'. I slowly learned, however, that my real goal was to touch people with my music, not to sing with technical perfection. I began to be able to feel good about my musical contributions even if I hadn't sung perfectly.

It's a beautiful thing that God has granted me success in spite of my imperfections. I don't need to be superlative in order to touch people's lives—I just need to be loving and faithful. My pride won't help me reach others, so I can learn to let it go. My failures can be salvaged by God's power and through the understanding of others who love me, so I don't have to punish myself for them. All I have to do is try, and God will turn my efforts into something truly magnificent, no matter how average they may seem on the surface.

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