Do Not Throw Away Your Confidence

by Nicole Austin
As women, we have an especially complicated relationship with the topic of confidence. From an early age, we are inundated with images that leave us constantly competing against a false standard of beauty and perfection. By the time most of us reach puberty, we can pick apart our physical selves in a hundred different ways, and we fight against comparison with the women we see in movies and magazines, and even those we see at church on Sundays. We feel pressure to be the perfect host, perfect parent, or perfect friend, and we struggle to live up to our own expectations for what these things look like. This is made that much harder in a Pinterest and Instagram-fueled world. If we share our insecurities about our looks or our abilities, we are sometimes given a message of empowerment that is based on self-love and personal power, which can be appealing but feels inconsistent with the message of humility and self-sacrifice we read about in our Bibles.

If we enter the workforce, we find that we often face a double standard there, where we are encouraged to be aggressive and bold but are also sometimes admonished and held back for these same traits. We watch as women in business and politics are treated differently from men, and some of us experience this dichotomy personally when we are passed over for a deserved promotion or regularly overlooked in company meetings. We live in a fallen world in which sexism and the sins of the patriarchy are real and relevant, and we cannot help but have our hearts broken for the ways that women around the world suffer and feel they have no voice to defend themselves. In the church, we are told to have a gentle and quiet spirit, but often in practice this simply looks like not speaking up for ourselves and not making a fuss. All of this can lead us to become both disheartened and confused. But then we read our Bibles and see women like Esther and Ruth who challenged every expectation and societal norm to passionately and confidently pursue safety, freedom, and justice for themselves, their families, and their people. What can we learn from their example in today’s times?

In the book of Hebrews, the author is encouraging a group of likely Jewish Christian believers to stand firm in their faith despite persecution and hardship. Toward the end of that letter in Hebrews 10:35, he admonishes them not to throw away their confidence. This word, which in Greek is parrésia, represents not just confidence but boldness, freedom in speaking openly, plainly, and with cheerful courage. In our seminar on Biblical Confidence, we studied this and other relevant passages, taking a clear-eyed look at what the Bible really has to say about godly confidence, and considering how we might apply these principles to our lives. In addition, we looked at stories of both men and women in the Bible who exhibited godly confidence, allowing their example to encourage and inspire us.