Becoming Confident, But Not Prideful - The What (Part 1)
By Col. Scott McChrystal, Prophecy Investigators Contributor
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Over the years I’ve discovered a personal challenge—pursuing greater confidence without becoming prideful. Can you identify? These three articles explore the what, the why, and the how of developing confidence without arrogance. Let’s start with the what.
The What (Part 1)
I enjoy being around confident people. When I needed a good surgeon to operate on my shoulder, I shopped around and found just the right guy. In my first meeting with him to assess the need for surgery, he said, “You’ve come to just the right place. We can do this!”
Confident people make our world a better place. This especially holds true in leadership. No one wants to follow someone who doesn’t really believe a job can be done or a need met. Confident people lead, motivate, inspire, and teach. They help both individuals and organizations accomplish more.
Prideful people are a different matter entirely. I’m not talking about someone who’s proud of one’s family, athletic team, or country of origin. I’m referring to people who think more highly of themselves than of others. Some prideful people are boastful, cocky, and clearly enamored with themselves. Others are not as openly prideful, but you still get the impression they have feelings of superiority.
God makes it clear throughout Scripture that He will not bless the prideful person. As just one example: “The Lord detests all the proud of heart. Be sure of this: They will not go unpunished” (Proverbs 16:5, NLT).
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When evaluating confidence versus pride, ask yourself, “What best describes me? Am I a confident person or a prideful one, and how can I tell the difference?”
Consider these benchmarks:
Do you usually put yourself first or others?
Do you constantly seek recognition and attention?
If you supervise others, do you take the credit for their accomplishments?
When challenged by others’ views, do you become defensive?
Do you take responsibility for your mistakes?
Are you open to advice or new ideas?
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I don’t see huge numbers of prideful people. We’ve all met a few, but in many cases their apparent prideful attitude is a cover-up for insecurity. Conversely, I’ve met many folks who lack confidence in a few areas or in many facets of life. The glut of self-help materials today demonstrate that many people chase after almost anything they believe can help them gain more confidence in their appearance, fitness, education, or personal abilities.
Arrogant pride is rooted in an exaggerated assessment of one’s talents and abilities. Let me illustrate. As a newly appointed company commander in the 82d Airborne Division, I interviewed every noncommissioned officer in the outfit. Prior to the interview, I asked each to fill out a 3x5 card on both sides. On one side they were to list their strengths, on the other, their growth areas.
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One very capable NCO arrived at my office and handed me his card. A long list of strengths filled one side; the other side was empty. I asked, “Did you understand my request?” He immediately replied, “Yes, sir!”
“What about your growth areas?”
“Sir, as far as I can tell, I don’t have any.”
I handed the card back to him. “I know one growth area you can add to your card—you’re prideful.”
Initially he was taken aback, but he rebounded quickly. We had a good discussion. By the time he left, I think he realized that everyone has strengths as well as growth areas. He was no exception.
Confidence is grounded in humility. The most genuine humility is rooted in faith in God and our identity in Jesus Christ. The more we understand that Jesus is our Maker and source of our identity, the more we grow in our trust that He wants the best for each one of us and will lead us into the life path that brings about that best outcome. He is the foundation for all that we are, all that we think, and all that we do.
That perspective doesn’t solidify overnight. Throughout our lives we steadily build our confidence through our relationship with Jesus. The Holy Spirit develops our confidence through tests and experiences that include failure as well as success. Where the prideful person denies or remains ignorant of weaknesses, the confident person who trusts God wants to learn about even weak areas. The confident person understands that success in life is not about accomplishments but about pleasing the Lord and doing His will. Doing God’s will doesn’t depend upon human strength; it requires the power of God working in and through people who surrender to Him.
David demonstrated his confidence in God when he battled the Philistine giant Goliath. (Read 1 Samuel 17 for the full story.) Though David was young, and small in stature, he stood confidently before the 9-foot-tall warrior who boasted that he would kill David and feed his body to the birds. David’s response is most telling. “David said to the Philistine, “You come against me with sword and spear and javelin, but I come against you in the name of the Lord Almighty, the God of the armies of Israel, whom you have defied. This day the Lord will deliver you into my hands, and I’ll strike you down and cut off your head. This very day I will give the carcasses of the Philistine army to the birds and the wild animals, and the whole world will know that there is a God in Israel” (1 Samuel 17:45-46, NIV).
As you cultivate godly confidence, you will defeat the giants in your life and experience new levels of success.
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Chaplain (Col.) Scott McChrystal, Ret.
Chaplain (Col.) Scott McChrystal was commissioned in 1970 and served 31 years on active duty, 10 as an infantry officer and the remainder as a United States Army chaplain. His line officer experience included a tour in Vietnam as an Infantry Platoon Leader and three assignments with the 82nd Airborne Division at Fort Bragg, North Carolina. His final assignment was as the senior chaplain at the United States Military Academy at West Point, New York. He retired from active duty in 2005 and served as the Military/VA Representative and Endorser within the Chaplaincy Department for the General Council of the Assemblies of God from 2005-2019. His decorations and awards include the Distinguished Service Award, the Bronze Star, the Combat Infantryman’s Badge, the Master Parachutist Badge, and the Army Ranger Tab. His education includes a Master of Business Administration Degree, a Master of Divinity Degree, a Doctor of Ministry Degree, and graduation from The United States Army War College. In recent years, he and his wife have written several Christian devotionals. In addition, Scott co-authored a Christian action-novel and served as the managing editor for the The Warrior’s Bible, an application Bible for the military community. He presently serves as the Executive Liaison for The Warrior’s Journey, a non-profit organization that supports the military community. He’s also a member of the Distinguished Advisory Board for Battle Ready Ministries. He and his wife, Judy, live in Springfield, Missouri, and have 4 children and 12 grandchildren.