I have always loved to read. From Anne Shirley to Frodo Baggins, I have often grown to love literary characters almost as if they were real-life friends. In the last several years, however, I have not done nearly as much reading as I would like. (Thanks, Facebook.) So when I recently agreed to read a trilogy that my husband has been asking me to try for years, I may have been a little out of practice for how much I can become attached to certain characters. At any rate, I certainly wasn’t expecting to have a character affect me as strongly as one in this series has done so far (early in the third book currently!).
When I was first introduced to this character several chapters into the first book, I was instantly drawn to him, even though it’s unclear at that point whether he is a character you can trust. As I got to know him more, however, I realized that not only was he a good and trustworthy character, but I identified with him extremely well. His circumstances in this fantasy world were of course very different from mine, but the thoughts and feelings he expressed showed a personality and values that were very much like my own.
By the second book, I was beginning to think of his every choice as something I would do. In this book, he has been chosen as king over a fledgling nation…something that would probably turn every hair on my head white within a week, but whatever…I could at least identify with his desire to help his people. Yet, just as I would do, he doubted himself constantly. He knew what he believed was right, but he was insecure about himself—worried about making mistakes, frequently wondering whether he was really the best man for the job, and often even speaking in a way that essentially apologized for what he was about to say.
Enter another character, a mentor of sorts, whose mission is to teach him to be more assertive, more “kingly.” Of course, she does this by speaking to him very strongly, with a good deal of criticism. In doing so, she toughens his skin a bit and helps him to express himself much more confidently in return.
I must admit, I was a bit miffed with her at first. I didn’t think he deserved to be treated that way. I thought his doubts and questions were legitimate. Then as his confidence grew and he began to change, I worried that his mentor was going to “ruin” his character and turn him into an arrogant bossypants. To my relief, however, he stayed the same at heart…He simply learned to carry himself with much more confidence.
And slowly, I began to realize that I wished I could do the same. Becoming more confident is a subject that has been on my mind a good deal lately. I want to be able to make bold decisions and not be fearful that I will only make things worse. I want to speak the truth without being stressed out about how people will respond. I want to be more confident in my God-given talents, rather than be embarrassed that I’m probably not as good as somebody else.
I’ve begun to realize that I have a habit of thinking that confidence is inevitably tied to arrogance, a trait which really bothers me. So to make up for it, I tend to take the opposite route, putting all my faults and weaknesses on display so that nobody perceives me as one who thinks too much of myself. The problem is, I am still thinking too much about myself, even if the things I’m thinking are negative. It may not be arrogance, but it is still a form of pride.
In this character, however, I can see more clearly the difference between arrogance and confidence. An arrogant person displays the attitude that he is awesome, and anybody who says otherwise is stupid. A confident person knows what he believes and is not afraid to make decisions, but he does not have any illusions that he is the ultimate source of wisdom. He seeks counsel and considers his options carefully. But at the end of the day, he moves forward boldly rather than timidly, and looks ahead rather than behind.
This concept is especially important for leaders. And whether I like it or not, I am a leader: one of the leaders of my children. This responsibility often troubles me…I feel guilty that I am not a better leader, or I fear that I will make some grievous mistake. And yet, God had enough confidence in me to make me a mother. As unqualified and inadequate as I may feel at times, I am the best person for the job. There is no sense in comparing myself to other moms and feeling guilty for not being what I “should” be. Either I should make a change to become more like the person I want to be, or I should dismiss the idealistic fantasy.
This concept applies in many areas of my life. In my home, I want to stop despairing at my poor housekeeping habits and get to work. In my home business and church ministry, I want to step out remembering that I have something valuable to offer, rather than being self-conscious that I may not be as good as someone else. In my parenting, I want to be bolder and consistent in defining boundaries for my children (while still allowing room for respectful objections), rather than letting things slide.
Stepping outside my comfort zone is uncomfortable, no doubt. But I can either hide in my safe place, wishing I was different, or I can step out and make a change.
I think one of these changes will have to be a resolution to read good books more often!
“For God has not given us a spirit of timidity, but of power and love and discipline.”
–2 Timothy 1:7
Photo Credit: Graphic design by Charity Klicka.