A godly man is a confident man. His manner instills confidence in those around him. His poise and firmness are invaluable tools for his leadership.
Sadly, however, feelings of inferiority plague many men. An inferiority complex can be a debilitating weakness. It can be a man’s greatest enemy.
Attacks by Satan’s society on modern manhood have left many men feeling weak and inadequate. Many men have lacked strong masculine examples and competent male teachers. Many have suffered various forms of abuse by their fathers, or been hurt by women, or experienced great losses in life.
Even great men of God, at their calling, used their insecurities as excuses. Moses felt inferior as a speaker. Jeremiah felt inadequate because of his youth. Both overcame these feelings.
God can turn a failed life into a magnificent success. “He raiseth up the poor out of the dust, and lifteth up the beggar from the dunghill, to set them among princes, and to make them inherit the throne of glory …” (1 Samuel 2:8). No limitation, deficiency or background is too difficult to overcome.
Debilitating feelings of inferiority and weakness hamper you from fulfilling your calling as a man and must be confronted.
The Void in You
Here is a blunt truth you must face squarely: Most feelings of inferiority spring from actual inferiority. That’s right: To overcome those feelings, you must overcome your inferiority.
Your success in this process starts with recognizing the fact that of and by yourself, you are incomplete.
This isn’t true of just you. It’s true of every man, every human being. God made us from dust. We are clay models out of which God can shape us spiritually into His character image. Our potential is to one day be born of spirit, but we are not there yet.
Herbert W. Armstrong explained: “[W]hat God created in the first Adam was not yet complete. Man was made carnal, material—but he was made to need the Spirit of God. Without this spiritual life from God, man experiences a sense of emptiness, hunger and thirst for that which will satisfy” (Plain Truth, August 1962; emphasis added throughout).
God created man to need a relationship with Him. Man had to go to God to become complete.
Think on this: Every person on Earth is incomplete. You are incomplete without the Holy Spirit. You are like a car without gasoline—you’re not going anywhere.
Everyone feels this need. We all experience “a sense of emptiness, [and we] hunger and thirst” for something to fill it, Mr. Armstrong wrote. So people look everywhere, trying this thing and that, searching and searching for what will satisfy this need. But “[t]he only thing that will impart to him this sense of satisfaction, completeness, abundance, is God’s Spirit—God’s nature—God’s fullness,” he wrote.
“Yet his carnal mind does not recognize that fact,” he went on. “Being incomplete, lacking in the spiritual waters and heavenly food—God’s Word—that would fill him to satisfaction, he has a gnawing soul-hunger that leaves him miserable, empty, discontented. He seeks to quench his thirst and satisfy his soul-hunger in the interests and pursuits and pleasures of this world.”
You see this everywhere. Men try to fill their own spiritual void with money, education, material success, work and career, travel, power, fame, athletic feats, possessions, entertainment, sex, drugs or other things. Many of these things can be good, but none will ever fill the void that can only be filled by God’s Spirit! Men who seek these things will still be missing that vital piece and likely find themselves still feeling incomplete and inferior.
“This very lack within him—this spiritual need—gives him an innate inferiority complex,” Mr. Armstrong wrote. “He senses his inferiority, as compared to God—his lack of what he was made to need; but, not understanding what it is, he seeks to quell the painful sense of inferiority by conceit, and blowing up the ego—the self—with vanity and self-exaltation. This vanity, then, is a substitute for God and His Spirit—another god before the true God.”
That is profound insight. To the human eye, self-confidence may look like the opposite of an inferiority complex. But the reality is that it is a substitute—and a dangerous one—for true godly confidence.
To overcome inferiority—and really, to grow and to be truly happy and fulfilled in your life—you must first correctly identify its spiritual source. Acknowledge that you are incomplete—then seek God for wholeness!
Jesus Christ, our perfect example, recognized the weakness of His flesh and repeatedly said He could do nothing of Himself (Matthew 26:41; John 5:19; 8:28; 14:10). He confronted this reality by maintaining a robust relationship with His Father and relying on Him continually. And look at the effect in His life! Jesus didn’t shrink back, walk around whipped, or exude an apologetic attitude. He was confident, powerful and bold. It was not self-confidence, but spiritual strength that gave Him the fortitude to be a strong leader, a powerful influence on the people around Him, and to accomplish His mission.
This is the foundation of true confidence.
The Fate of the Fearful
Some might consider a sense of inferiority as a type of humility. It is not. It is an aspect of self-centeredness and vanity. It is something that must be overcome.
Revelation 21:7-8 say being “fearful” is a sin that must be conquered; the alternative is the lake of fire. It is mentioned first in this list of capital sins. The word means timid or cowardly.
This trait is spiritually fatal. It causes us to shrink back from growth opportunities for fear of failure.
In the parable of the talents, the man given one talent was a victim of this attitude. What did he say? “I was afraid, and went and hid thy talent” (Matthew 25:25). His fear kept him from growth. His master called him wicked and lazy and ordered him to be cast into outer darkness.
This sinful fear can manifest itself in a number of ways. One is an inferiority complex, which produces chronic worry. It often produces procrastination and indecision—fear to take action.
We must master such emotions and overcome debilitating feelings of inadequacy and inferiority. How?
To Build Confidence, Build Competence
Modern society places a premium on self-esteem. Somehow the idea has infected much of education that praise is the only valid motivator for young people, and that self-esteem is the chief virtue, divorced from achievement or even effort. Thus, children are routinely sheltered from the sting of failure—and therefore trapped in a sunny fantasy world in which bad behavior and poor performance have no negative consequences.
This mistake creates a host of terrible problems. People with unfounded high self-esteem or self-confidence tend to be narcissistic and preoccupied with themselves, have an unbecoming sense of entitlement, lack critical thinking skills, and feel little motivation to improve. Employers are exasperated with graduates emerging from the educational system who are incompetent and unteachable, yet who consider themselves brilliant and believe the world owes them a handsome living. The unmerited praise these young people received sets them up for crushing shocks when reality hits, challenging their artificially high opinions of themselves.
It is invaluable to have a realistic view of yourself. Legitimately healthy self-esteem is built on virtues like self-mastery, discipline, hard work, competence, skill and actual accomplishment. There is no substitute for these. The man who has achieved nothing actually benefits from acknowledging that fact. As Winston Churchill famously commented about one of his political opponents, “Mr. Attlee is a humble man, but then, he has a lot to be humble about.”
This is another way in which overcoming feelings of inferiority requires overcoming actual inferiority.To build confidence, build competence. Find work that needs to be done and do it. Learn useful skills. Pinpoint your areas of weakness and strengthen them. Identify aptitudes and develop them. Tackle a project that seems beyond your expertise and see it through to completion. Work yourself into a more challenging and responsible job. This subject is discussed at greater length in Section 7.1.
Be persistent, recognizing the importance of building successes. A pattern of failure needs to be overcome by starting to score successes, even if they are small at first. The sense of achievement with a new skill attained, a difficult project finished, a job well done, is deeply satisfying and motivating. Success leads to success. Don’t let setbacks derail you. Keep working so you can begin to experience the momentum that successful accomplishment brings.
Insecurity Is Caused by Sin
Feelings of weakness and inferiority also spring—inevitably and appropriately—from sin. These feelings are grounded in reality: A man of weak character will feel weak, guilty about his own frailties. Self-indulgence, sex perversion, abdication of responsibility, focus on self rather than on sacrifice—these are sins. Succumbing to sin reveals a man’s weakness and weakens him still further.
This is a problem in the life of any man. But it is catastrophic in a society that has grown comfortable with sin and actually embraces sin. Today’s men are weak because of sin. Men’s sins are creating weakness, insecurity and selfishness. They are causing the collapse of male responsibility and manly leadership. They are leading to the disappearance of manhood!
When a man or a nation surrenders to sin, God removes His blessings and the devil goes to work.
In Genesis 3, Satan, after successfully entrapping Adam and Eve in sin, immediately instilled within them an unhealthy self-awareness and self-consciousness. They became ashamed, and they “hid themselves from the presence of the Lord God” (verse 8). Why? Adam tells God in verse 10: “I was afraid, because I was naked; and I hid myself.” There was self-consciousness and fear, like the wicked servant who was afraid and hid his talent. This sin, and its subsequent fears and complexes, led to more sins, including blaming and accusing others (verses 11-13).
Satan pummels us with a debilitating kind of “guilt.” He wants us to dwell on our inadequacies and then hide from God. Doing this leads us further from God, at which point Satan can amplify our feelings of inferiority. As Proverbs 23:7 says, as a man thinks in his heart, “so is he.” Fixating on inadequacies can lead to many other character flaws.
When we sin, we need to go to God! “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (1 John 1:9). Have faith in that forgiveness! Satan wants you to dwell on your sins—not to move on once the guilt has been removed upon repentance and forgiveness. Of course, we need to remember our mistakes so as not to repeat them. But we should not dwell negatively on something God has removed “[a]s far as the east is from the west” (see Psalm 103:10-12). Dwelling on and punishing ourselves with past guilt is also a sin.
Hebrews 10:19 states that because of Christ’s sacrifice for our sins, we should go to God with “boldness.” Rather than hiding, we are to “draw near … in full assurance of faith” (verse 22), because our hearts have been “sprinkled from an evil [implying harassed or labored] conscience.” True Christians who struggle with sin should not suffer from guilty consciences. Rather we should boldly approach God because of the sacrifice of Jesus Christ! When we are forgiven, we are no longer guilty and should no longer carry a guilty conscience.
Security Is Caused by Righteousness
Overcoming sinful fear actually begins with the proper fear of God. “In the fear of the Lord is strong confidence …” (Proverbs 14:26). Psalm 112 says the man who fears God shall not be afraid (verses 1, 8). This kind of fear—reverence, respect, awe and being afraid to disobey—purges other, unhealthy fear and makes a man bold.
Sin leads to weakness. Obedience and righteousness bring confidence and courage. Proverbs 28:1 states, “The wicked flee when no man pursueth: but the righteous are bold as a lion.”
Our level of godly confidence is directly proportional to our success in our battle against sin. We all must grapple with sin and work to eliminate it from our lives. Sometimes it isn’t even our own sin—our lives can be deeply affected by the sins of others. But ridding our lives of sin also rids us of the weaknesses and problems that sin creates.
Something else that casts out sinful fear is the love of God, embodied in His law. 1 John 4:17-18 state, “Herein is our love made perfect, that we may have boldness in the day of judgment …. There is no fear in love; but perfect love casteth out fear: because fear hath torment. He that feareth is not made perfect in love.”
Psalm 119:165 reads, “Great peace have they which love thy law: and nothing shall offend them.” Peace is the Hebrew shalom, which can mean wholeness, tranquility, safety and security. This is the opposite of feeling insecure. Someone who loves God’s law has security. He knows he is safe, protected, tranquil and whole. If we keep and love God’s law, nothing can cause us to stumble. We don’t get tripped up by negative comments; we aren’t insecure about what others think of us. Loving God’s law gives us unshakable peace (Isaiah 32:17; Philippians 4:7).
Don’t Fear Man
Many inferiority complexes stem from the fear of people. We simply put too much stock in others’ opinions, prejudices and judgments. Often, insecurity also comes from comparing ourselves with others. Sometimes it is an unhealthy focus on our own deficiencies and a fear of being a failure in front of others.
The Bible says to keep your focus on God and not to fear man. “I, even I, am he that comforteth you: who art thou, that thou shouldest be afraid of a man that shall die, and of the son of man which shall be made as grass; And forgettest the Lord thy maker, that hath stretched forth the heavens, and laid the foundations of the earth; and hast feared continually every day because of the fury of the oppressor, as if he were ready to destroy? and where is the fury of the oppressor?” (Isaiah 51:12-13). If we rely on the God who stretched out the heavens, He will do marvelous things through us in spite of our shortcomings. We need God. We need His power.
This spiritual power, the Holy Spirit, is not “the spirit of fear [timidity or cowardice]; but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind” (2 Timothy 1:7). If you have God’s power and His love, you will have a sound mind—the opposite of the “spirit of fear.” You must stir up this gift of God.
Godly confidence and faith don’t make you more self-reliant; rather they drive you toward God. The opposite of inferiority is godly confidence and faith. Mr. Armstrong called it “the supreme confidence that is faith in God rather than confidence in self,” and “full assurance, yet in humility. That is a difficult state for any human to attain—but one of the supreme right goals of life!”
Obedience and righteousness bring supreme confidence and faith. The righteous are bold as a lion. Is there anything that makes a lion feel unsafe? When you are trusting in God, obeying Him and able to claim His promises, that makes you bold.
God has no pleasure in those who draw back—those who are timid, who cower, shrink or withdraw (Hebrews 10:38-39). God has no pleasure in those who hide behind fig leaves out of sin and fear, or who bury their talent in the dirt.
Don’t mistake inferiority complexes for humility. Humility is seeing your nothingness in comparison to God’s greatness. Inferiority is drawing back from spiritual growth. The humblest people in the Bible were the boldest. They were the ones with the most confidence. They were the ones who grew the most!
Your Confidence-Building Father
Romans 8:14-15 read: “For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, they are the sons of God. For ye have not received the spirit of bondage again to fear; but ye have received the Spirit of adoption, whereby we cry, Abba, Father.” We are not to be bound or handicapped by fear. With God leading us, we should be free from inferiority complexes. Remember, for those who have God’s Holy Spirit, God is our Abba—our Daddy! Truly understanding that drives away many insecurities: We have a perfect, loving Father!
How many insecurities or inferiority complexes stem from the lack of a strong father? Having God as our Father should give us godly assurance and security. We, His children, must go to Him for physical, mental, emotional and spiritual support. He will help us overcome fear. He will help us keep and love His law, reaping the resultant assurance and peace.
Trust in God. Don’t fear men, or your own inferiorities. Stir up God’s Spirit, the fruits of which are not a spirit of fear or bondage, but godly love—the very thing that casts out punishing fear. Have faith in God and draw close to your Father rather than hiding from Him. You can go to Him with anything. Let Him implant proper boldness and confidence in you!