Once I was heckled by a guy buying lotto tickets at the liquor store next to the coffee shop I was leaving. He was mad that I looked well-groomed and drove a car from a posh manufacture. In this man’s perception I was a “high roller” confident, rich, and worst of all entitled. There were many other accusations of a more vulgar nature that followed. Apart from being upset and leaving as quickly as possible, I thought it was ironic. In reality I was wildly insecure, had very little money, and entitled to nothing. The trench coat I was wearing was purchased for a dollar from a mission store and had a hole in the sleeve. My purse was a Gucci replica from the Chinese market in town. My car was 4th hand and working on two out of six cylinders. In fact, it died shortly after the incident. I went to that coffee shop largely on account of their inexpensive tea and unpopular location, which meant I would run into no one who knew me. I was anything but a “high roller” but this man’s perception of me caused him to lash out.
Isn’t perception always dangerous like that? Especially perceived confidence. Someone in leadership who everyone perceives as confident and follows, even though that person may have no leadership skills. Someone who through perceived confidence becomes a cultural influencer, though they may have no moral compass. Someone who ends up with a microphone, and has nothing life-giving to say, or empty of all substance, yet there they stand running their mouth. They were perceived to have confidence and that perception assigned value and depth that maybe wasn’t there.
What is behind perceived confidence? Something must be there, or else people wouldn’t have noticed in the first place. Honestly, this is my opinion, but I think all it takes to look confident is some nice clothes, a full smile, and a sizable helping of arrogance. Just add attention from others and you’ve got yourself some perceived confidence.
Why arrogance? When in a state of arrogance you feel like you know the answer, how to do what needs to be done, be the person everyone wants in their life. Someone who has the answers has no weakness to worry about. Someone who knows what needs to be done has no uncertainty. Someone who is the person everyone wants to be around could never be lonely. In short, the opposite of small and insecure. Or, a false sense of confidence.
But what happens when all the bravado fails you? A question comes, to which you don’t know the answer? You’re assigned something you don’t know anything about? Your friends stop calling? Suddenly perceived confidence cannot get you out of the humiliating truth that you’re just a man or woman with shortcomings and vulnerabilities.
Without arrogance the whole thing is deflated and you’re left standing there looking terrified or dumbfounded. No dress can cover that. No amount of dental prowess framed with the latest color in lipstick can make up for the emptiness of silence.
Where can you go when perceived confidence is not enough? Where can you go to find true confidence? The only answer there is to last you through your lifetime is: Jesus.
There is a phrase about pride and humility that shows up three times in scripture, which makes it significant. Every time we see it, another layer of meaning is revealed. The phrase is: He resists the proud but gives grace to the humble.
The first time we see it is in Proverbs. Solomon is warning not to envy oppressors because God is silent towards the perverse but keeps the righteous in His secret counsel. This is when he says, “The curse of the LORD is on the house of the wicked, but He blesses the home of the just. Surely He scorns the scornful, but gives grace to the humble. The wise shall inherit glory, but shame shall be the legacy of fools.” (Prov. 3:33-35 NKJV) The NIV says, “He mocks proud mockers, but gives grace to the humble.” Solomon is telling us that when we humble ourselves before the LORD and counsel with Him in the secret, quiet place we will find blessing, grace, wisdom, and an inheritance of His glory. All contrasted by the life of the oppressive and perverse: becoming an abomination to God and therefore separated from Him, curses, scorn (or resistance), and shame. (Prov. 3:31-35)
The next time we see it is in James. We learn that living with sin rather than dealing with it creates conflict with the Holy Spirit within us, as well as others in our community. James confronts fighting with others in church and points out that all those fights are a result of various sins rooted in the hearts of people. So James encourages his church to deal with their sin in order to restore peace within the community and within the individuals. (Jam. 4:1-4) Then he says, “Or do you think that the Scripture says in vain, ‘The Spirit who dwells in us yearns jealously’? But He gives more grace. Therefore He says: ‘God resists the proud, but gives grace to the humble.’ Therefore submit to God. Resist the devil and he will flee from you.” (Jam. 4:5-7 NKJV)
The way to deal with sin is to humble yourself before the LORD, submit to Him, and find grace. In other words, because of Christ and the outpouring the Spirit, you do not have to stay in sin and all the curses that come with sin that Proverbs lists out. You can submit your life to God and the redemption of Christ and enter His grace. Therefore leaving the curse and entering His blessing.
Last of all we find our phrase in 1 Peter. Peter talks about church life and what it means to be a part of the body of Christ, “Likewise younger people, submit yourselves to your elders. Yes, all of you be submissive to one another, and be clothes with humility, for ‘God resists the proud, but gives grace to the humble.’ Therefore humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God, that He may exalt you in due time, casting all your care upon Him for He cares for you.” (1 Pet. 5:5-7 NKJV)
This expands what James taught us. Now being humble before the LORD means submitting to God as well as your fathers and mothers in Christ and brothers and sisters in Christ. Share your life together and you have the benefit of the strengths and wisdom you find in your elders and peers. In turn you may have strength or bit of wisdom to share with another during their time of need. God likes to work and move through us.
Here’s the thing about my story at the beginning. I read vogue, I knew I looked the part of a high roller to some extent. I was trying very hard to infuse my insecurity with some shred of confidence. Even if I looked the part, it didn’t solve the problem. Looking the part only procrastinated the need to deal with the problem and prolonged conflict in my life. I was still insecure, and none of the perceived confidence or attention (good and bad) from that perception solved my problem or healed the insecurity in my heart.
Rather I should have taken James’ advice. I should have put away my $1 trench coat, and the replica purse and just been myself. Instead of hiding in public, I should have gotten alone with God and submitted my insecurity to Him. Better yet, found someone to confide in. However painful it might’ve been to share it. I could have found the grace of God and been comforted. Which would’ve been better than feeling even more insecure after what happened outside the coffee shop.
What makes the whole thing truly ironic, is chasing after perceived confidence as means of running away from humbling yourself before God only leads to being humbled. What does resistance do if not humble you? James is saying, you can either choose to humble yourself and find comfort. Or, you can go on being proud, meet resistance that will humble you. After which, there is no comfort from the resistance in your life. Usually there’s just a lingering sense of humiliation.
Now I am older and though I sometimes dress the part when going into a setting that makes me feel insecure, I go to God first and talk about it before going. I like going out but now I try to do so with the intention to meet people rather than avoiding them. I still like nice clothes and pretty bags. I drive a mom car and it makes me happy to have something where the whole family fits. I’m not a high roller, or a perceived high roller. I’m just a daughter of the Father, and the confidence I have from that is enough for me.