There’s confidence and then there’s overconfidence…

29 Oct

I used to be impressed by confidence and probably sometimes still am. As I have grown older however, I have noticed that confidence doesn’t always equal knowledge or even skill. Shocking, I know but believe it or not, there have definitely been times when I have been fooled. I have tended to think that if someone was that confident he was right about something, he must have really thought things through because I certainly wouldn’t want to say I was that sure about something until I had worked hard at thinking it through myself.

Not always so, obviously.

In an interesting post over at Mockingbird, David Zahl writes, “Apparently, there exists demonstrably little evidence that the oh-so-marketable quality known as “confidence” has any bearing on actual skill or expertise, that if anything it is a reliable indicator of self-delusion.”

Now the point is definitely not that there isn’t a time to be confident and certain. At least, that’s not my point. There is definitely a time to be certain and a time to be confident. Ephesians describes spiritual immaturity as constantly going back and forth between various doctrines. We need stability. We need to become more certain about what God teaches, not less.

But as we pursue this kind of biblical confidence, we must be very careful not to become sinfully overconfident.

There are people who are confident because God has opened their eyes to see the truth clearly. Thank God for them. There are also many other people who are confident because they are as Zahl quotes someone saying later in the article, “blind to their own blindness.” I have known individuals who were so confident in themselves that everything, and I mean, absolutely everything served as a proof to them of the fact that they were right and better than others. If someone criticizes their preaching, that has to be because that person isn’t concerned about the Scripture and so the criticism actually becomes a compliment. If someone compliments their preaching that becomes a proof of how godly that person is and how much insight they have into biblical preaching.

It is an amazing thing to watch this kind of confidence at work, it is almost like a gift, or actually a curse.

For a guy who often has a lot of self-doubt, I am sometimes amazed by these individuals who seem to have not have the smallest trace of it. It is obviously difficult to follow a leader who is constantly doubting himself and his decisions, but it is a tragedy to follow any leader besides Jesus who has no self-doubt.

Jesus doesn’t need to doubt himself. He’s perfect. The rest of us could use some self-doubt because we are not.

Thinking about confidence, overconfidence and overdoubt, it makes me wonder how can we develop biblical confidence without falling into the trap of overconfidence or overdoubt? Here are two suggestions:

1. We need to pray that we wouldn’t be so proud that we would begin doubting what God has clearly said, while at the same time, not being so proud that we think we understand absolutely everything God has said as well as He does.

2. We need to develop good friends who are able and happy to give us different perspectives, to challenge our assumptions, to take us back to the Word of God and help us think through what we believe and why we do what we do. I have a hard time trusting someone who doesn’t have friends like this. It is very easy to become overconfident when we don’t have real friends or when we put ourselves in a superior position over everyone else and don’t look at anyone else who has an actual day to day relationship with us as peers. The guys who are far away, they are easy friends, because we can present to them our own version of reality which we know they will agree with. We need friends and not yes men, but real friends who will challenge us and help us think more carefully about what we are saying and why we are really doing what we are doing.

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