By Rev. Fr. Tristan Jasper D. Laforteza
Where does self-confidence end, and vanity/pride begin? My mother gave me a book of fables when I was just learning to read. It was meant to help me practice with my reading, but at the same time, learn a few moral lessons along the way. In case you are not familiar, a book of fables is a collection of short stories with animals as main characters.
Anyway, one of the lesser known fables that has struck a chord with me is the tale of the Lion and the Wolf1.
The story goes like this: The Wolf was walking by a mountainside at sundown when he saw his shadow which was greatly magnified by the sun’s light. He said to himself, “Look at me.
I am bigger than the Lion who was hailed the King of all Beasts. Why should I be afraid of him?” As the Wolf continued to marvel at the size of his own shadow, the hungry Lion pounced and killed him.
Just like the Wolf in the fable, people tend to overestimate themselves and their capabilities that ends in their own destruction. Thus, it is important for young people to be self-aware so that their self-confidence will not turn into either arrogant pride or baseless vanity.
Contrary to popular belief, the practice of humility is not to look down on one’s self or one’s own achievements. Rather, it is acknowledging your own importance without over-inflating it or needing to drag others down.
Humility is best described in Philippians 2:5-7 – “Let the same mind be in you that was in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not regard equality with God as something to be exploited, but emptied himself, taking the form of a slave, being born in human likeness.” So, how can the youth achieve a Christ-like humility?
Step #1 ASK HELP AND LEARN FROM OTHERS. As a young child, we all longed to be independent. However, there is absolutely nothing wrong asking for help when you truly need it. Most teens today perceive getting help of any kind as a certain sign of weakness. As an unintended consequence, studies2 show an increasing number of youth suicide in the country with at least one kid committing this unspeakable act per day – all because they are afraid of getting ridiculed if they ask for help.
You don’t have to be ashamed when you need to ask for help. Even Jesus sought the help of the Twelve Apostles in doing His mission. As in Romans 14:7 wisely puts it, “We do not live to ourselves, and we do not die to ourselves”. Accept that there are things you can only do well if you worked well and learn from others. How can you show both confidence and humility at the same time?
Step #2 AVOID BRAGGING AND ALWAYS LONGING TO BE AT THE CENTER OF CONVERSATION OR ATTENTION. Jesus admitted that His purpose was to serve others and not to become the center of people’s attention. Jesus stated it clearly, “just as the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life a ransom for many” (Matthew 20:28).
I remember reading another fable3 back when I was still in grade school. Once, there was a rooster named Chanticleer who lived in a rich man’s farmland along with his hen’s wives.
Chanticleer was adored and revered by other chickens in the farm because of his booming, crystal-clear voice that can wake both men and beasts every morning. He even believed that the sun only rises because it hears his voice. However, animals from nearby lands resented Chanticleer for the very same reason.
One day, the other animals sent the Fox to trick and kill Chanticleer. The Fox told Chanticleer that every great singer he knows closes their eyes when they sing. Eager to prove that he is a great singer, the rooster excitedly closes his eyes as he prepares to crow. As soon as Chanticleer shuts his eyes, the Fox grabbed the rooster with his jaws and runs away to the woods.
While Chanticleer eventually escaped the Fox (largely thanks to his favorite hen wife), the moral of the story is clear: not everyone will share your high opinion of yourself. Bragging and longing to be the center of attention can potentially lead to your own destruction. How can you share your talents and abilities without bragging?
Step #3 GIVE OUT COMPLIMENTS OR APPRECIATION TO OTHERS. GIVE OTHERS YOUR POSITIVE FEEDBACK. Author Oran Tkatchov4 said it best: “Being supportive and building students’ confidence is not accomplished by blindly telling them they are doing a great job every day. It involves assessing weakness and strengths and delivering feedback in a timely manner so that they can build their skills to complete the task at hand”.
In short, giving out empty compliments, much like hurling hurtful criticisms, does not help anybody. When you offer compliments or praises, do so sincerely. If you must give any negative feedback, make sure that it is constructive and can help them to improve. How can you flip a negative comment to give positive results that would be useful for others?
When praising others, use Matthew 23:12 as a guide: “All who exalt themselves will be humbled, and all who humble themselves will be exalted.”
Remember: humility is not equivalent to low self-esteem. False modesty is also not like humility. Learn to acknowledge the fact that your talents came from God. St. Paul would say, “And God is able to provide you with every blessing in abundance, so that by always having enough of everything, you may share abundantly in every good work” (2 Corinthians 9:8). Thus, you must not degrade other people’s talents to inflate your own ego. Sometimes, you might even find yourself hiding behind tasteless humour. You need to learn the difference between ‘being funny’ and ‘being mean’. Even with self-deprecating humour, you need to realize that criticizing one’s self does not make you humble.
Finally, let me share with you the words of St. Augustine, “It was pride that changed angels into devils; it is humility that makes men as angels.”