Self-Confidence and Self-Criticism Are Naughty Twins

Just the mention of "self-confidence" can stir an assortment of emotions. It sounds so essential to well-being, doesn't it? Who wouldn't want more self-confidence in his or her life? Actually, quite a few people. Let me explain.

Self-confidence is confidence in "self." Confidence in yourself is very natural. Unless you were raised in an atmosphere of condemnation and criticism, you probably have more than enough self-confidence.

One of the problems with self-confidence is that man was not created by God to be confident of himself. He was created by God to be confident of God. Confidence in God's goodness and love is a far cry from confidence in my ability to handle everything myself. Just because you may feel internal pressure to be "self-sustaining" does not mean God created you to feel that way. You developed that attitude over time, and by nature each of us is prone to embrace that mindset as the dominant feature of our thinking.

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On one end of the spectrum is self-confidence, and on the other end is "self-criticism." These "twins" of "self-obsession" are equally naughty and actually dangerous to their "parents." (that would be you and me) What common denominator do we see in these twins? That's right. Both of them are way too caught up with themselves. And that is exactly what gets their parents into such a spiritual and emotional bind.

If I am applauding myself and trusting in myself, I will tend to either ignore God, or greatly minimize my need for Him. On the other hand, if I am criticizing myself, I will be way too distracted and dejected to find much if any joy in the Lord. The twins of self-confidence and self-criticism are very proud characters. We don't tend to think of that second twin as being proud, but she is just as proud as her sister. (or "brother" if you prefer)

It all comes back to our natural obsession with our "self." It's just what we tend to do. It is the default position of man. In contrast, we do not by nature embrace Jesus Christ and His free gift of forgiveness. That miraculous mindset requires an outpouring of living water into our soul before we ever begin to get energized, or even aware, of God's free gift. Without the Holy Spirit, we have no clue as to why Jesus Christ came to earth. We may think we have a clue, but we don't. That insight only comes when the Holy Spirit reveals the good news of the Gospel to our heart and mind.

Up until then, we tend to "moralize" our concept of Jesus. That is, we accept Him as a good teacher. A fine example. An inspirational prophet and religious leader. But Savior? And of my soul no less?

The correct understanding of Jesus only comes into clear focus when we stop allowing the twins to drag us around here and there. Those twins are way to proud to admit any need for a "Savior." And besides, they don't want to give up their dominant position.

But life isn't about us, or the twins. It is about God. He is our Creator, and our Savior. Until we get focused on Him, we will continue running in circles chasing our own tail. And it will be a very proud approach to life because one of the twins will constantly be at the forefront of our mind.

So which one of the twins presents the biggest challenge to your emotional and spiritual health? It generally tends to be one or the other, rather than both. The two of them are very proud and self-absorbed. That's why we take such satisfaction in our self-adulation or self-condemnation. It feels good to build ourselves up, or beat ourselves up, depending upon our particular proclivity.

Pride does that to a person. And every single one of us has to battle pride, whether we realize it or not. Among other things, pride is that tendency to take everything personally rather than allowing stuff to bounce off and float away.

"But just how in the world does a person accomplish such a thing Dan? I mean really?" Well, I know of only one way. And that is to have a little "come to Jesus" visit with the twins. Inform them that you are replacing them with someone who is going to treat you much better than they do. And His name is Jesus Christ.

Look at the testimony of that former persecutor of Christians, none other than the apostle Paul himself. His experience in this realm was deeply transformative. He wrote, "I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me." (Galatians 2:20) What? Are you kidding me? How did he pull that one off?

Well, the Lord is the One who actually did it in Paul. "Self" got the boot. The twins were evacuated. And in came the King of Kings and Lord of Lords. And you know what? Focusing on Him is so much better than either one of the twins.

Paul wrote "I no longer live" because "self" was off the throne. Self was no longer the object of praise or ridicule. Now it was all about Jesus. Isn't that awesome! And the most incredible thing is that it really does happen every time a person is spiritually reborn through faith in Christ. Self gets replaced with Christ. The naughty twins don't like it, but so what? They need to get kicked to the curb. After all, they didn't die on the cross for our sins, and then rise again. Jesus did. He is the victor, and not them. And boy what a victory He has won.

Don't think for a second that this transformation couldn't happen to you. If it happened to a hater of Christians like the apostle Paul, it can happen for anyone. God can replace your hate with love, whether that hatred is directed toward others, or yourself. Either way, it will only eat you alive until you bring it to Christ. I mean just look at all the people who go to their grave basically worshipping at the altar of one of these twins. And for what? What good did it ever do for any of them?

This is why Christ came. We needed the Savior to deliver us from ourselves and our sin. And only Jesus was worthy to do such a thing. If you have been boasting in yourself, or beating yourself up, you are in need of grace and healing from the One who died on the cross for your sins.

I assure you that your life will be much more fulfilling once you give the naughty twins the boot. They need to go. They really do. That is, if you want to fulfill the purpose for which God created you. He did not create you to proudly worship your "self" with all this attention you are presently giving him or her.

That's what "worship" is really about - giving our devotion to a person. And you get to decide whether to worship your "self," or your Creator. Think about it. There is a whole new life for anyone who will turn to Christ and trust Him as Savior. Believe me. He will do a much better job of saving you from yourself than either of the twins could ever do. All they end up doing is battling one another for control. And whichever one of those two you end up with, you lose.

But not with Jesus. That's why He is the only wise choice. And He is the only One who will lead you to victory. Pride or victory. The apostle Paul learned the difference. How about you? Are you ready to finally be out from under the control of those naughty and annoying twins?

Oh they will still attempt to assert their dominance, even after Jesus comes to live inside your soul through faith. But you will have One by your side who is more than able to keep them in their place. When they step out of line, just talk to Jesus about it. That truly is your path to peace my friend, and your path to victory over those two narcissistic nuisances.

Today is the day to make the change. Trade in the twins for the One who loves you with an everlasting love. And your life will never be the same again. You have God's Word on it.

Dan Delzell is the pastor of Wellspring Lutheran Church in Papillion, Neb. He is a regular contributor to The Christian Post.

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