Some women have confidence problems. They hide it well. They feel inadequate, worthless and inferior. They've sought approval all their lives in some form or another from someone-- a mother, a father, society. Even though they've gained a measure of confidence through achievement and success, they remain vulnerable. Some may not even know how vulnerable they are until someone says something that rocks their world.
I know a lady, who is perceived by many acquaintances, close friends and utter strangers, to be assertive, strong and capable. She's often been told she has gifts from God. She's witty, smart, talented and full of gumption. But, the depth of her inferiority supersedes the height of any praise she receives. She does not believe her encouragers; she does not trust them. Within her heart she questions everything she says and does; she analyzes it for hours, sometimes weeks, afterwards. It's a paralyzing thing.
I hurt for her. I know her pain.
She has immense talent and is very gifted. She's discerning and able to motivate and inspire. She's creative and thoughtful, extends mercy and is often generous beyond her means. She's a lover of Christ and leans on Him in every situation. She knows she is nothing without Him. However...
...through the years, she's been so criticized (or ignored), that there are times she cannot rise above the voice inside her head that whispers, "stupid, worthless, lazy". Whenever she faces the demons of doubt and discouragement, she withdraws from the world and cannot bring herself to share any of her talents or gifts because she sees a feckless creature in the mirror of her mind. It's in these withdrawal times she is able to regroup and recoup a measure of her value and potential.
It's an ongoing process to help her and other women like her, break through the barriers that destroy their self-esteem and threaten the vestige of confidence they maintain. The confidence thieves and the hope mongers women face are as real as powers of darkness. In fact, I think they are one in the same.
Unknowingly, we can all be destroyers of faith and confidence. Unwittingly, a word unfitly spoken in an hour of vulnerability can crush the spirit that the LORD is building in a woman.
I once read that "Children are wet cement". It's true. The impression we make on a child is embedded and eventually hardens in the form of that child's personality. Oh, we can chip away at the edges of that form, but it make take years to quicken that which has been beaten down and left for dead. None of us know what another is going through at a time we offer our opinions or whip out our judgmental views. We are rarely privy to what chinks reside in their minds from earlier events that may trigger protective responses. Thus, some things we say may be like a sledgehammer coming down on anothers heart.
A home cannot be chewed up by termites and expect to stand strong in a storm-- neither can the human spirit. Criticism is necessary at times, and it is useful to heed any helpful advice we get. However, critics thrive in this world of social media, and technology-- not all have our best interests in mind. To circumvent the damage of anonymous on-line critiques and some familial insults, the need for encouragers abounds. We need fewer nit-pickers and more picker-uppers. Who doesn't need friends who are quick to listen, slow to speak, and perhaps a bit less free with words of critical wisdom?
"Gracious words are like a honeycomb, sweetness to the soul and health to the body." Proverbs 16:24
Can we just swallow a few of our critical thoughts before they become piercing swords and hacksaws?
"The human spirit can endure in sickness, but a crushed spirit who can bear?" Proverbs 18:14.
Can we be as free with our kindness and mercy as we are with our chicken soup and baked bread when friends are recovering from surgery?
Finally, we need to be our own best friend. Self-examination can be a debilitating thing. We can so over-analyze ourselves that we lose who we are and to Whom we belong. We need to talk nice to ourselves and not demean the marvelous workmanship of God's hands. We are fearfully and wonderfully made. We're special and we need to remember the most important thing of all...God already loves us, He "gave His only begotten Son" to prove it. Our righteousness is as filthy rags; and even on our best day with our best behavior, we all need Jesus to cleanse us and complete us. His grace is sufficient. He is enough. He really is.