Gaining Confidence

BEING confident helps you to do things better. But what is confidence, and how do you gain it? Today there are innumerable courses you can take that are supposed to be confidence builders. This might lead to the conclusion that confidence is something you develop, much as a muscle is developed through rigorous exercise. Often the attempt is to pump oneself up with confidence, just as a bodybuilder works out in the gym. But if this were so, confidence could be gained through a good workout. And it's not that simple.

Then, how do you get and keep confidence? Apparently a great deal of it comes through discipline and experience. When we have sufficient experience in doing something, the confidence comes that we can handle it. But even an experienced public speaker, for example, often has to battle stage fright, a state of mind that springs from fear and doubt. And the lurking feeling of doubt, which is at the root of a lack of confidence, erodes self-reliance. So often, there is the fear that your little, vulnerable ''self'' might mess up, and needs somehow to be pumped up.

It would seem that there must be a better and more dependable solution. And there is. Referring to his own unprecedented confidence, Christ Jesus said, ''I can of mine own self do nothing'' (John 5:30). It is clear from this statement that Jesus was not relying on a limited, human sense of himself. He had a spiritual understanding that God was with him and that he could rely on God to help him think and act. This was knowledge of his real identity, which gave Jesus an enduring and abiding confidence. His confidence was in, and of, God. And it contributed to healing others.

By this example, then, confidence lies in an enduring and an abiding trust in God, and in oneself as a child of God. The peace Jesus talked about is in this trust. He told his disciples, ''Peace I leave with you, my peace I give unto you: not as the world giveth, give I unto you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid'' (John 14:27). This might be like saying, ''My confidence I give to you.'' We cannot doubt or fear and at the same time have confidence or peace of mind. To know oneself as the image of God-His son or daughter-is to know that one's confidence comes from divine power and not human. We don't have to conjure it up. Instead we can find a calm and unwavering reliance on God that promotes lasting and proper self-reliance.

Mary Baker Eddy, who discovered Christian Science, discussed reliance on God in this statement from the book Pulpit and Press: ''Our surety is in our confidence that we are indeed dwellers in Truth and Love, man's eternal mansion'' (p. 3).

This confidence in God comes out in a Bible story from First Samuel (see chap. 17). A young shepherd named David battled a literal giant named Goliath. Historians say Goliath was probably over nine feet tall! David's people were dismayed. But seeing this, David told them not to be concerned. He said with confidence that he would fight Goliath.

David must have had confidence in God, because he had no apparent physical strength for the battle. Relying on God as the source of his ability and strength to do right, he did not hesitate. Nor did David walk; he ran to meet the giant, carrying with him the modest weapons of his own choice and experience. His confidence was in what he could do as a servant of the one God. Had David tried to muster up mere personal confidence to face such a formidable foe, employing the usual battle weapons used at that time, he most likely would have struggled and been defeated. But going out with a clear understanding of the source of his confidence-God-he defeated Goliath. Not only was his victory swift, it was, from all accounts, effortless.

This kind of victory can be ours, today. When you and I understand that God is with us, and that we possess ability in and of Him, our confidence is sound.

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