Another nugget from Glennon Doyle Melton’s book, Carry on, Warrior: Thoughts on Life Unarmed. In this passage from a chapter called “The Golden Coin,” Melton explores how we can be both confident and humble, and how this seemingly difficult balance is actually quite simple.
We usually think of confidence and humility as character traits. She’s so confident. He’s so humble. But these character traits are easy to fake. Insecure people hide it by boasting. Prideful people hide behind false humility. It seems the more insecure a person is, the more likely she is to behave confidently. And vice versa. Tricky.
Then there are people like me who just get the two constantly mixed up. Like when I write an essay about humility and then spend the rest of the day wondering whether it might actually be the best humility essay ever written by anyone in the history of the world.
…I think about [this confidence/humility issue] all the time in terms of my writing. Spilling myself out like this, is it an act of humility or confidence? I share my faults and flaws, which seems humble—but doesn’t the fact that I assume that others will care enough to read and maybe even find my flaws charming betray the confidence behind my humility? Writing, painting, acting, creating, living out loud. Are they acts of humility or confidence?
Yes. They’re both. That’s what I’ve decided. Confidence and humility are two sides of the same coin. They are character traits that stem from the two beliefs I hold most dear. I think most of our character traits are simply manifestations of what we believe to be true.
I am confident because I believe that I am a child of God. I am humble because I believe that everyone else is too.
They go hand in hand. They’ve got to.
If I am humble but lack confidence, it is because I haven’t accepted that there is a divine spark inside me. It means that I don’t believe in the miracle that I was made by God for a purpose all my own, and so I am worthy of the space that I occupy on this earth. And that as a child of God, no one deserves more respect, joy, or peace than I. As a child of God, I have the right to speak, to feel, to think, and to believe what I believe. Those dreams in my heart, those ideas in my head, they are real and they have a divine origin, and so they are worth exploring. Just because I am a child of God. And thankfully, there is nothing I can add to that title to make it more impressive. There is nothing I can do to lose that title.
…That is why I am confident enough to write honestly. Not because I am a good writer. There will always be somebody better. I rely on the belief that I am a child of God, and as such, I have a right to speak my mind with love… Being a child of God is a free pass to be brave and bold and take great risks and spin around in circles with joy. If and when I fall, who cares? He will always be there to pick me up. That’s his job. He’s my father. So if I seem noncompetitive, if I seem as if I don’t care if I’m the ‘best’ parent or housekeeper or dresser or whathaveyou, it’s not because I don’t care about being important. It’s because I believe I am the most important thing on earth. Why would I care about competing in any other category when I am already a child of God? Why would I argue over a penny when I have already won the lottery?
If I am confident but not humble, it is because I have not fully accepted that everyone has won the lottery. Because everyone has the same amount of God in her. If I am in the habit of turning my back on others, it is because I haven’t learned that God approaches us in the disguise of other people. If I am confident but not humble, my mind is closed. If my mind is closed, my heart is closed…A heart expands exactly as much as her owner allows.
Humility is how I survive praise and criticism of my writing, ideas, and beliefs. Because I remember that neither praise nor criticism is really about me. We are all just trying to find the truth. So I try to see different points of view not as reasons to step back further into my corner, but as opportunities to take baby steps toward the middle of the ring—if for no other reason than to see my opponent a little closer. That perspective change is usually all it takes to remember that I have no opponents other than my pride.