A key to success is self-confidence
“Self-trust is the first secret to success,” advised Ralph Waldo Emerson.Self-confidence carries a person a long way in life. Its rousing presence creates a robust, fulfilling life. When self-confidence skids, regrets leading to blue moods pester us. Self-confidence is the native ore cheerful people mine so that the steel of strong character is tempered.Life’s unfairness drags down self-esteem. We feel in the pits. We rank ourselves low on life’s totem pole. We habitually see the glass half-empty rather than half-full.I heard Leif Enger, who wrote the bestseller Peace Like a River, tell how he had to beat back defeat before his novel gained recognition. He received enough rejection notices to fuel a fire in the hearth though a long, gray Minnesota winter. He had a young family with bills mounting. To always scrimp takes fun out of life. It erodes confidence. Enger felt his innocent assumption eroding that he could make it as an author. He had to rediscover a fact self-confidence makes clear. Enger often reminded himself that “innocence believes in the Big Picture, and we all matter inside it.When we get down in the dumps, we harp on our faults. We keep on regretting how we bungled an opportunity. We hit ourselves hard for our inadequacies.When dark clouds scud into my mind, I remember what Norman Vincent Peale impressed upon listeners. “Thank God for our problems, rejoice in them,” advised Peale, “for you are never more alive than when, with God’s help, you can call on your creative power to solve them.”God sometimes protects us from success that ruins life by allowing problems to harass us.Remember what happened to Joseph Scriven and how he made the best of a very bad mess. Joseph in 1857 anticipated marriage. His heart swelled with love and hope.The afternoon preceding the wedding, Scriven’s bride took a refreshing swim. What was suppose to be an afternoon of relaxation quickly turned into a horrible accident. Scrivens bride sunk under water and drowned.This terrible loss cut Scriven so deeply he lost confidence that he wanted to continue living. He became more than out-of-sorts. He found it hard to concentrate. He lost taste for food. God didn’t seem as close to him as during those days when he enjoyed long walks with his bride.Christ’s spirit tugged on Scriven, even when he was unawares. His mental agility didn’t immediately return. Despite up and down days, he sensed a restorative power working within him. He started mentally walking with a steadier gate. Scriven sensed that Christ had not forsaken him. As a response, he wrote one of the most cherished hymns Christians sing. “What a friend we have in Jesus. All our sins and griefs to bear. What a privilege to carry everything to God in prayer.”This kind of self-confidence does not come by pumping us up. Worshippers flock to hear preachers who offer pep talks. Naturally, then, the biblical gospel takes on the appearance of slick success. Ben Franklin penned its motto in Poor Richard’s Almanac, “God helps them that help themselves” (1736). This sounds so fundamentally wise that many assume it must be a verse tucked somewhere in the Bible.When we are convinced that we gain self-confidence by glad-handing, then the Gospel gets twisted into a self-help manual, a sure-fire formula to succeed, and an easy blueprint to secure peace of mind.The Bible is then regarded as a giant aspirin tablet, promising relief from slipping self-confidence when read daily. It turns into a simple edition for therapy. Some Bible readers see it as a heavenly code they break to discover instant secrets for success.In a university graduation speech, best-selling author Anna Quindlen offered a recipe for building self-worth that doesn’t begin with self-adulation. She noted that “life is made up of moments, small pieces of glittering mica in a long stretch of gray cement.” Mica sparkles. Grey cement is dreary looking and heavy. Quindlen favors mica, even though critics said she wears pink tinted glasses. They dismiss her because she sounds Pollyannaish.Quindlen doesn’t give ground. She says we feel better about ourselves when we see the embarrassingly rich gifts life gives, even in terrible times. Quindlen reiterates a truth Jesus taught. “We consider the lilies of the field. Look at the fuzz on a baby’s ear. Read in the backyard with the sun on your face. Learn to be happy. And think of life as a terminal illness, because if you do, you will live it with joy and passion, as it ought to be lived.”When life’s aches took their toll, a Hebrew poet caught sight of some rugged Judean Hills. He sang, “I lift up my eyes to the hills. From whence does my help come? My help comes from the Lord. Who made heaven and earth” (Psalm 121:1-2).A quiet self-confidence comes from a rock-like belief that God has confidence in us. Simple, yet so profound. It lifts life when the “buck up and do something with yourself” approach runs out of steam.” The Rev. Dr. Jack R. Van Ens is a Presbyterian ministers who heads the non-profit, tax exempt CREATIVE GROWTH MINISTRIES, enhancing Christian worship through storytelling and dramatic presentations. Van Ens’ book, “How Jefferson Made the Best of Bad Messes” is available in local bookstores for $7.95. Vail, Colorado
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