The other day I had a wonderful conversation with a dear friend about self-confidence and self-doubt. The world is full of individuals who have tremendous amounts of doubt in their abilities – its both sad and disheartening. We are products of our surroundings and our upbringing, which can be both good and bad. Children raised in a home with unconditional love and given the opportunity to thrive grow up to be loving and confident adults. Those raised in homes with little to no love and made to believe that they are incapable of achieving certain things or that its not worth it to try because the obstacles are insurmountable are the victims of a great injustice – they are taught not to be confident. Worse, they are taught not even to try and never have an opportunity to feel the satisfaction of success. Conversely, there are those children out there who are coddled to such lengths that they never experience the opportunity to fail. From the heartbreak of failure comes learning.
We learn best when we don’t achieve our goals. Watching the London 2012 Olympics is a beautiful example of this idea taken to its extreme. The men and women from around the world who have travelled to compete in London are the best of the best. They have achieved their goal of competing at the very top of their game. They didn’t, however, get to London without some degree of failure along the way. Listening to the stories of the athletes, time and time again we hear the idea that someone barely qualified or someone had lost several races prior to their local qualification. These athletes have learned from their failures. They have felt the heartbreak and pain of not succeeding. They have taken that experience and used it to modify their training or their performances such that they might instead succeed the next time.
Aside from being struck by the sheer number of athletes who very publicly professed their Christian faith and thanked God first in their post-win opportunities to speak, it was inspiring to see cross after cross around an athlete’s neck or see them make the sign of the cross before competition. The idea that these Christian athletes would be successful or that many of the athletes would be Christian makes perfect sense. I had never put two and two together before and thought about the idea that as an athlete one needs to believe in their ability to push beyond seemingly insurmountable odds and push themselves to their fullest potential in order to achieve their goals. One has to believe that within them exists the ‘perfect’ athlete, but they have to work to find that deep within and that it is by the grace of God that they are able to identify what is required to bring that perfection to the surface. Making the sign of the cross before competition or thanking God first after competition is a recognition that it is God who gave them the ability and that it was through His graces that they were able to find it within and work to express it to its fullest.
It was not you who chose me, but I who chose you and appointed you to go and bear fruit that will remain, so that whatever you ask the Father in my name he may give you. – John 15:16
Some time ago, I wrote a piece about going to hear Matthew Kelly speak. He told a beautiful story about Michelangelo carving David from a slab of imperfect marble.
When asked about the statue, Michelangelo noted that he had not carved David, but that God had helped him chip away the excess stone in the block of marble so that David could be revealed – but that he had always been present inside the stone.
Christ knows that within each of us is our own beautiful self – just like David inside the block of marble. Doubting that beautiful self exists is a doubt that God did not create us in His image, which – in turn – suggests that we think that God is somehow imperfect.
God doesn’t make junk.
Our faith in God as infinite love and infinite perfection is a pathway to our believing in ourselves and our own abilities. While we may not be able to create the universe or exist across all space and time, we sell ourselves short by suggesting that we can’t do something or we can’t try something. It is our worldly upbringing and those with whom we surround ourselves who convince us that we are something less than what God created us to be. If one believes in God as all-powerful and that He created us in His image, then it is not a stretch to believe that we too can be powerful and capable human beings if we take the time to stop and pray for God’s graces in helping us to find those gifts and talents within.
Let us today and everyday take time to pray for those who have been negatively impacted by those around them such that they may open their heart to God’s graces, find that beautiful self within, and trust in God to be there with them as they find the courage to move forward with the God given gifts they have received.