Why I Don't Believe in Myself (and I Hope You Don't, Either)


In today’s USA Today Letters page, Tom Billington had this to say about Tim Tebow, who either is the next great thing in the NFL (and as a Denver Bronco fan, I’m rooting for that), or his choice in the first round of the NFL Draft was a colossal mistake (as many think).  This post isn’t about Tim Tebow, though, but rather a point Mr. Billington makes in his editorial:

I am very disappointed in USA TODAY. Your front-page story about Florida quarterback Tim Tebow, with a photo of him standing in front of three crosses, was too much for me. The article seems to portray Tebow as the savior of the NFL (“A shining star, or a flop in the making?,” Cover story, News, Thursday). Yes, the NFL has had its character hits in recent memory, in fact one just last week. Boys will be boys no matter what. Of course money helps them stay boys. But Tebow is not the sole answer to this problem, and he is not going to be the savior of the NFL. I realize that he is very much into his faith. He is like many of us. We could not do what we do if we did not believe in ourselves and some other being to give us guidance. Religion has its place, and a person of faith is a wonderful thing. But do not push religion on people who might not agree with it.                                                     Tom Billington, Long Valley, NJ

Mr. Billington is wrong.  I do not believe in myself.  And I sincerely hope you don’t, either.

Here’s what the apostle Paul had to say in Romans 7:
18 For I know that nothing good dwells in me, that is, in my flesh. For I have the desire to do what is right, but not the ability to carry it out. 19 For I do not do the good I want, but the evil I do not want is what I keep on doing. 20 Now if I do what I do not want, it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells within me.

But here’s something else he had to say, in Philippians 4:
I can do all things through him who strengthens me.

Sound self-contradictory?  Not at all.  There’s one difference: Jesus.  In Him we live, and move, and have our being.  In Him, we have life more abundantly.  What do we have, that we did not receive from Him?  The joy of the Lord is my strength—not any self-perceived strengths or abilities or _______.  No, I do not believe in myself; I believe in Jesus.  And in Jesus, I can win whatever victories God calls me to win, conquer any armies He calls me to conquer, climb any mountains He needs me to climb.  G.K. Chesterton begins his magnum opus, Orthodoxy, with these words:

Thoroughly worldly people never understand even the world; they rely altogether on a few cynical maxims which are not true. Once I remember walking with a prosperous publisher, who made a remark which I had often heard before; it is, indeed, almost a motto of the modern world. Yet I had heard it once too often, and I saw suddenly that there was nothing in it. The publisher said of somebody, “That man will get on; he believes in himself.” And I remember that as I lifted my head to listen, my eye caught an omnibus on which was written “Hanwell.” I said to him, “Shall I tell you where the men are who believe most in themselves? For I can tell you. I know of men who believe in themselves more colossally than Napoleon or Caesar. I know where flames the fixed star of certainty and success. I can guide you to the thrones of the Super-men. The men who really believe in themselves are all in lunatic asylums.” He said mildly that there were a good many men after all who believed in themselves and who were not in lunatic asylums. “Yes, there are,” I retorted, “and you of all men ought to know them. That drunken poet from whom you would not take a dreary tragedy, he believed in himself. That elderly minister with an epic from whom you were hiding in a back room, he believed in himself. If you consulted your business experience instead of your ugly individualistic philosophy, you would know that believing in himself is one of the commonest signs of a rotter. Actors who can’t act believe in themselves; and debtors who won’t pay. It would be much truer to say that a man will certainly fail, because he believes in himself. Complete self-confidence is not merely a sin; complete self-confidence is a weakness. Believing utterly in one’s self is a hysterical and superstitious belief like believing in Joanna Southcote: the man who has it has `Hanwell’ written on his face as plain as it is written on that omnibus.” And to all this my friend the publisher made this very deep and effective reply, “Well, if a man is not to believe in himself, in what is he to believe?” After a long pause I replied, “I will go home and write a book in answer to that question.” This is the book that I have written in answer to it.

Believe in myself?  Why would I even want to, or to teach others to?

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