Dishonest Honesty – Confidence vs. Negativity

ConfidenceBirdsPeople who know me realize that I pursue life with confidence. That doesn’t mean that I have on the figurative rose-colored glasses. I don’t think everything will always be hunky-dory or that I will never encounter difficulties.

Confidence means that I believe God will work through me, that He will be faithful to empower me to do everything He has called me to do. I have confidence in God and His promises. Since He lives in me, confidence infuses my outlook regarding what I am able to do.

I have noticed a lot of negative personal outlooks in our culture that have become fashionable. For example, when someone says something negative about himself, you often hear someone else say something like, “Thank you for being honest.” Or when a speaker confesses an evil act in his life, frequently one hearer will say to the other, “At least he’s being honest.”

How is honesty connected with a statement of negativity? Am I not being honest if I say, “I wrote a great chapter in my book today”? How many times have you heard a statement like that and then someone replied, “Thank you for being honest.” It is rare.

A few years ago I read a disturbing post on a writers’ forum. Someone asked readers to list two aspects of writing that keep them from being MVP (Most Valuable Player) writers. First, the assumption is that no one believes he can be an MVP writer. The second problem is the question’s dwelling on the negative. Why not ask, “Those of us who are not already MVP writers should strive to be. What aspect of your writing are you working on that will propel you into that category?”

I have no problem believing that I am an MVP writer right now. When I was pursuing writing as a career, I was confident that I would become one. Why not? God had called me to be a writer, so I fully expected to become a good one. I always believe in performing at my very best, so why not have confidence that I can and will perform at a high level?

Now that I am a best-selling author and my publisher perceives me as their top author, it would be dishonest of me to believe otherwise or to display a false mask. Of course I know that I still need to strive to be even better, but I will not lower my head and self-deprecate in order to achieve a false sense of humility.

True humility is to have a correct view of our standing–servants to the Almighty God. Without Him we would be nothing. We would not even be able to take a breath. Everything we do or hope to do is enabled by His grace and empowering. Yet, through Him, we can do all things, and it glorifies God when we stand up and tell the world what His power has accomplished in us. This is authentic humilty–true honesty.

A truly honest person is willing to state his abilities as well as what he lacks. For example, I am highly skilled in analyzing the written word, but I am terrible at most activities that require creating with my hands. Both of these are honest statements, and we would do well to feel free to share truths about ourselves so that others can learn from our skills and perhaps help us where we lack.

Many aspiring writers would benefit from a more confident outlook. While taking care not to gloss over inadequacies in their writing abilities and ignore prudent marketing strategies, they need to pursue their goals with complete confidence that it is God who is at work in them to bring about the ends that He desires.

So, writers, keep working hard at honing your craft. Take care to pursue relationships in the industry in order to learn the business. Seek to be a servant and help others. These are all essential steps. In all these things keep your head up. If you are a Christian, you are a child of the King. You are marching to fulfill His calling, under His orders, and in His power. You are not worms who crawl in the mire, engaging in self-flagellation in order to adhere to a popularly accepted self view.

If you heed this counsel, you will likely be called proud or arrogant. Such accusations will sting. I know. I have felt those barbs many times. Confidence is not popular. But take courage that Jesus endured the same poisoned arrows. He has called us to honor God no matter what, to tell the truth about God’s light in us. We are a city set on a hill. Let us not hide our lights under the bushel of dishonest “honesty.”

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14 replies

  1. Words are inadequate to describe my thanks to this post. I know I strive to be a confidant person/writer and to believe in myself, but as you pointed out; it is quite hard at times.

    Again, though ‘thank you’ is small; it is sincere.

    Thank you.

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  2. Two questions concerning a previous post:

    When you say ‘Begin building a bridge to the Back story’, what do you mean exactly?

    I have two explanations to what a back story is.

    1) The sub plot, like the back seat action or plot B.
    2) Your MC’s back story (or history).

    The second is ‘provide a goal for the protagonist’.

    In a mystery novel, can you take longer to provide the goal and be a little more obscure about it and not fully reveal it until, say, the middle of the book to add more mystery?

    Thanks.

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    • The back story is #2, the main character’s history. It can also include the history of your story’s world, that is, events that are relevant to the current situation.

      The first goal should be immediate. It doesn’t have to be a goal that is crucial to the story. You just need to give the character something to do that has a purpose. You don’t want the character to be wandering aimlessly as you introduce him or her. Another goal can come later.

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    • I apologize, the first question was unclear. I meant to say that I have heard to opinions to what the backstory is. In which context did you mean?

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  3. Thank you, Mr. Davis, for writing yet another brilliantly insightful post. 🙂

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  4. The way I tend to approach things is often a mixture of positive and negative. I sometimes say positive things about myself and will sometimes say negative things about myself. It is similar to how I prefer to read books that portray a negative ending, and others that portray a positive one. I guess that variety tends to feel most realistic to me when approaching everything.

    This is an interesting post to me because it reminds me of some instances I have encountered in conversations with people. I think one challenge to being positive like you are recommending is that people perceive it as arrogance, even when it isn’t. When I was younger, for instance, I learned that a lot of people might perceive me as arrogant if I said that I was good at art. I didn’t see it that way because I saw art as one of the few things I was decent at. I saw it more as an evaluative thing, since I would be the first to say that although I am decent at art, I am terrible at sports and several other things. I learned to say instead that I like art. I wish I didn’t have to mince words that way, but I force myself to remember that people can’t read my mind or intentions. Especially since one of the reasons people say ‘at least he is being honest’ is because it is often hardest to admit our faults, and when someone says something negative about themselves it is seen as humble.

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    • The problem is with the people’s perceptions. They need to change and not think that confidence or a positive outlook on yourself is arrogant.

      I find that it is harder for people to state positive things about themselves than it is to admit their faults.

      Some people berate themselves because they think doing so makes them appear humble. Some are fishing for compliments, thinking someone will say something like, “No, you’re really good at that.” Some are just following a fashionable trend. They don’t really believe the negative things about themselves. It’s just in vogue to be negative.

      This isn’t being humble. These are dishonest and selfish reasons for negative self evaluation, though such negativity seems to me to be prevalent. Every time I hear someone use “at least he is being honest,” when someone is negative, I cringe. It is wrongheaded thinking.

      People need to change their outlooks and how they perceive others in this regard.

      There are exceptions. Some people will speak negatively of themselves in order to seek help to improve or to ask someone who is more skilled to provide aid. This is legitimate and praiseworthy, and it is true humility. Yet, if someone else doesn’t come and say, “I’m good at that. I’ll help you.” The help might never come.

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      • Yeah, I agree to a great extent. I have seen it as a somewhat situational thing, as well. One time, for instance, I wrote a college essay that was using a situation from my life as an example, and I probably sounded rather hard on myself, but that was because I did some negative things in that situation and when in the middle of that situation, I was rather upset. Being negative was me honestly saying what I did wrong and speaking about the flaws I had to work through. It wasn’t because I hated myself, if I was talking about a situation I did well in I would have sounded far less negative. But still, when writing that essay I was remembering some things that upset me greatly, so if I had been positive throughout the whole thing it would have felt less real, and given any readers a less realistic idea of what it is like to go through the situation I did.

        I think it’s kind of a cultural thing, in terms of how we are used to people expressing arrogance. I say that instead of expecting people to be mostly positive or mostly negative, we should simply assign credit or blame wherever it is due. This helps keep people from being discouraged, but at the same time it allows them to be nitpicky enough that they find things about themselves to continue fixing.

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      • Good comments, Autumn. Thank you.

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        • Thanks and you’re welcome :). And thanks for bringing this up, it’s an interesting topic that I don’t hear people talk about much, and it’s kind of nice to know that I’m not alone in this issue.

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