When I was in my late teens, I was obsessed with self-confidence. I’m not sure I thought deeply about what self-confidence was. I only knew that I didn’t have it.
It seemed logical that to attain self-confidence I needed to bolster my self. This reasoning—which was less reasoning than a generalized assumption about how the world worked—directed me toward methods of self-actualization, a term from Abraham Maslow, the so-called father of humanistic psychology. In my case, Maslow led to George Gurdjieff and his work on oneself.
Exactly! I thought, encountering the Gurdjieff Work. That’s just what I need to do! Work on myself!
In the past couple of weeks, I have been thinking about confidence again, but in a new way consistent not with Maslow or Gurdjieff, but with my Catholic Christian faith.
This happened only after, once again, I experienced a momentary lack of confidence. The moment lasted a few days, immediately following completion of work on my memoir. With the work, I fell into a sort of postpartum funk.
I recognize that this may have been what St. Ignatius in his Spiritual Exercises calls desolation.
Today my Catholic Christian faith offers me a different confidence. If I remember my Latin, confidence means with faith. Today, I believe that true confidence rests on faith, like a house built on a foundation of rock.
It is a faith that rests on my encounter with Christ in his Church. This encounter takes many practical forms, including the faces of my friends.
Christ works through his Church (including those friends) and the teaching of the Church is summed up in the Catechism (CCC). I read this morning in the CCC about Creation (paragraphs 282–289). That God created the world is a subject for argument, for philosophical conjecture, one that focuses on when and how things began. But in affirming that “heaven and earth” were created by God and that God found everything “good,” Scripture and our creeds offer a foundation for confidence in the goodness of the world.
So when I read (par. 282), “Catechesis on creation is of major importance. It concerns the very foundations of human and Christian life”—I arrive again at foundation.
The Ignatian Spiritual Exercises, in which I am participating with a group of two dozen fellow Catholics (more faces), have been another place of encounter with Christ. Here all of the recent readings and meditations in recent days seem to point toward confidence, or living with faith.
Yesterday, I spent time with the parable of the wheat and the weeds. As a young man (see above), I was quick to tear up anything I saw as weedy, including my needy self. The many Gospel parables based on farming, especially this one, now suggest to me that the field, planted with good seed by the Master, will bear good wheat, despite weeds sewn by “the enemy.” What I need is faith, time, and discernment to understand what feeds me and what, in the end, will have to be destroyed.
Nowhere do I encounter Christ more regularly than in the daily mass. This morning’s reading from Hebrews (10:32–39) brought me back to the notion and the distinct experience of confidence, and it sparked this post. The writer enjoins his correspondents to
“Remember the days past when, after you had been enlightened, you endured a great contest of suffering. At times you were publicly exposed to abuse and affliction; at other times you associated yourself with those so treated. You even joined in the sufferings of those in prison and joyfully accepted the confiscation of your property, that you had a better and lasting possession.
“Therefore, do not throw away your confidence; it will have great recompense. You need endurance to do the will of God and receive what he has promised.”
In this time of discernment following the completion of a distinct phase of my life, I am so grateful for faith and the confidence it gives me.