by Tom Sims
We so often stagger through life encumbered with the pressures of everyday problems and phantom concerns. We are sensitive to slightest slight and the subtlest gesture. We are quick to take offense and slow to receive healing when offended, much less to extend forgiveness. We step gingerly into new experiences and tremble at the very suggestion of risk or danger. We take our cues about our self-concepts from other people’s words and evaluations. We speak our minds and hearts with question marks. We timidly go where many have gone before and wouldn’t think of venturing where none have trod.
I decided to write a book about confidence because I sensed a great deal of timid living around me. It seemed to me that many people were stumbling cautiously through life and missing daily opportunities by avoiding challenges.
Through the years, I have fleshed out concepts and principles through stories. Many of those stories take place in a town that exists in a realm resembling a valley in the High Sierra near the intersection of my experience and imagination, Polecat Hollow. In Polecat Hollow, through twists and turns of history, people have become accustomed to the sweet smell of skunk.
In Polecat Hollow, people tend to be a tad timid. They’ve lived around western “skunkery” for so long that they have adopted some of their shy demeanor. Some call it cautious, but others see it for what it is, lack of confidence. Take Mayor Byron T. Simpleton, for instance. Every word he speaks outside his home, and some within, is calculated to be just ambiguous enough that none can take offense. Sometimes at the end of the day he feels absolutely exhausted and disgusted with himself. How he wishes he could find a balance between being rude and being a wet rag.
His sister, Billie Blueblood, and her husband, Billy Bud Blueblood, are equally guarded in their speech and their actions. When asked an opinion, Billy always answers with what might be a strong statement if it did not have a question mark intoned at the end. For years, the Bluebloods have dreamed of expanding their restaurant and branching out into new ventures, but their timidity is so overwhelming that they agonize over simple changes in the menu.
That’s just the way folks are all across Doubleback County. It must be something in the air.
Of course, there are some among the townsfolk who are not so timid. Miss Prudence P. Love can be seen on any day boldly prancing about town, tapping her cane with each step as if on a mission. Looking only a fraction of her ninety plus years, she speaks her mind and exercises her autonomy with a gracious flair.
Uncle Hinkey always kindly, yet truthfully speaks his mind, whatever the subject. If the coffee at Mable’s Teacup is cold, he diplomatically declares, “I declare Mabel, you served me a fine hot cup of coffee yesterday. I appreciate that. Do you suppose you could warm this one up a bit the same way? I sure enjoyed that one.”
He has always lived that way, sure of who he was, confident in his deeds and speech, assured that he was loved by a God who never fails, fearless in the face of danger, and gentle in his quiet strength. Over 100 now, Hinkey exudes confidence.
Some have it; some don’t—at least in Polecat Hollow.
I wrote the book while doing a sermon series of the New Testament book of Philippians.
Philippians is a book that oozes with confidence in God. It is the Epistle of Joy and that joy is rooted in deep faith in an unshakeable God. From confidence that, “He who hath begun a good work in you will perform it until the day of Christ Jesus” to the ringing confidence that, “I can do all things through Christ,” there is not a hint of vacillation or wavering in the Apostle’s resolve to trust in God and act on faith.
Out of the study came three grand affirmations:
• I can through Him!
• You can through Him!
• We can through Him!
When we speak the word “can,” we are making a declaration.
“Can” is a powerful word because it is affirmative. It is strong and hearty. It is robust and proactive. It is a dreamer’s word, but even more so, a doer’s word. It is so often taken for granted that even its pronunciation is often shortened so that it does not stand out. When we say, “I can,” we are making a commitment; we are going out on a limb. When we say, “We can,” we are agreeing to work together in cooperation with other people who share a common vision and hope.
When we say, “You can,” we are also saying, “I believe in you and I will support you all the way.” We are investing ourselves in the progress of another person and implying an investment of soul energy to help her accomplish her goals. I can. We can. You can. It grounds our resolve. It announces our belief. It colors us and marks us. “Can” becomes a badge of honor in that it signifies a person of integrity and conviction who is willing to take a stand and believe in something beyond the realm of sight and proof. It identifies an individual willing to march alone to the beat of a distant drummer and keep in step with the heartbeat of God—despite expected outcomes.
In the long run, confidence is a matter of the heart. Without heart engagement, we are not fully human. Unless we open our hearts to others, we grow cold, brittle, and timid in our faith. We must become vulnerable if we are to grow confident.
Many of us have control issues. We are most confident when we call all the shots. Moving confidently through life requires letting go of some things we cannot control—including other people and their choices. However, we cannot do it all without them. Success is something we do in community. It is not just about “I can,” but also “We can.”
I have a dream; you have a dream; we have dreams together. Dreams are long term, but the decisions we make about our dreams are daily and moment by moment.
There is always an urgency to confident living. Without a sense of timeliness, we miss opportunities that are for now and for no other moment.
The consequences of not acting in the moment are grave; the dream could die or at least slip into a coma. Can it live again? Of course, but it will take new inspiration (i.e. The Spirit breathing new life into it—and He can! Remember: Do it now because…)
• Delay—Delay of a dream that has come to the birthing point is not prudence, but foolishness.
• Overcomes—Anything overcoming our initiative to act in faith is toxic to our spiritual health.
• Initiative—Initiative is that quality that gets our engines started. Exercise it!
• Till—The clock is ticking, but not forever. “Till” is a sure destination.
• Never—It is a tragic thing to say of a God-inspired notion, “I just never was,” or “It never will be.”
• Overwhelms—There comes a moment when we give up because we feel overwhelmed.
• Will—Don’t let it happen to your dreams.
The inspiration to act is renewable, but it requires an immediate response. Do it now!
Toward the end of the book, I offer an acronym for Confidence.
A New Spelling for CONFIDENCE
C = Courage—You have it in some degree or another, but you’ll lose it if you don’t spend it. Have the courage to move forward and God will give you more.
O = Overcoming—You are not called to be a victim, but a victor. If you must whine, set an alarm clock to go off after fifteen minutes and follow it with thirty minutes of praise and affirmation. You cannot afford the luxury of thinking of yourself as a loser. You are a winner and overcomer!
N = Neutrality—I am not talking about becoming a moral wimp in a sea of ethical ambiguity. I am declaring to you that all events are neutral as far as your confidence factor is concerned. Circumstances are powerless to rob you of your confident joy if they are rooted in the right attitude—the attitude of Christ.
F = Faith—That is the point. That is the “fidence” in “confidence.” Never abandon faith. Nurture it, exercise it, live it.
I = Independence—Take personal responsibility for your life, your attitude, and your choices. There are some things that no other human being can do for you and God will not do. The main one is choose. You must make your own choices.
D = Dependence—In the Christian life, opposites can be true at the same time because truth so often lies in the tension between poles. While we must have a fair dose of independence in our decision making and personal responsibility, we must also consider that the course of life is a concourse. We are neither alone in the journey, nor are we equipped to go it alone. We must develop a relationship of dependence upon God and interdependence with our brothers and sisters.
E = Eagerness—Confidence is, in part, about enthusiastically embracing the challenges of life because they lead us to the goals which are mileposts along the way to the realizations of our dreams which are but steps toward the big prize before us. Why wouldn’t we be eager? That eagerness will become manifest as confidence.
N = Nationality—Christians, according to Philippians hold a citizenship in the Kingdom of God which means all the power of God’s Kingdom is behind us and within us. We can hold our heads up high because we know that we belong to something greater than ourselves. Whether you are a Christian or not, you can embrace a higher purpose for your life that is beyond you and your time.
C = Consistency—Starting and stopping in the process of discipleship and success-building will not aid in the development of confident living. We must keep on keeping on. We cannot, must not, will not quit. We may need to stop to reflect, redirect, or reconnect, but never to defect. Consistency of commitment and effort will make us stronger.
E = Elimination—Some things have to go. And house cleaning in our lives can never be a onetime process because spiritual and emotional dust tends to accumulate. Acknowledgement of our frailties and willingness to change are life time disciplines and joyful ones at that. Make regular self-evaluation a part of your life and readily let go of whatever is holding you back, whether that is a sinful practice or a sinful attitude.
The bottom line is that you are going to make it because there is a God who believes in you, who has begun and will complete a good work in you, and you can do all things through the one who gives you strength.
Excerpts and Paraphrases from The Confidence Factor by Thomas B. Sims
You can find more of Tom’s articles for KRL here.