Self-confidence is not to be confounded with self-conceit. The former is the outcome of a principle upon which a man may rest, when by experience he has entered into a realization of his inherent powers; the latter, an effect of ignorance. To be conceited is to be the victim of illusion, unconscious of serious deficiencies; a football of fate egregious with vanity; immodest, and tenacious of foolish opinions; but to confidently perform one’s daily tasks, and weave around them those conditions which are most desired, is to demonstrate that long since has all pretence been cast aside, and only simple truth is valued. Such a man is not vain, because he recognizes that the power within is common to the human race; and he is modest, having learned how fierce the struggle with temptation is. Conceit must ever be coupled with inexperience and folly; but confidence is won by arduous labors.
The workman realizes confidence as he acquires skill at his craft; and skill is only attained by patient effort. In the degree that he comprehends the intricacies of his work and gains control over the various tools that he uses, is the principle of confidence asserted by attuning the mind in that particular direction.
And thus it is with us. By working honestly, and eliminating our imperfections, we shall enter into a knowledge of the principles of our being, and realize the power within which all possess but few appear to assert efficiently.
We begin, then, by practicing control of those tendencies, impulses, appetites which, when indulged, dissipate our manhood and result in moral and mental deterioration. Some of these faults are gross, and indicate the indifference of dense ignorance; others, when closely considered, are astonishingly absurd, and only given way to through want of thought; and yet others are extremely subtle, (illusions which can only be detected in the pure light of Truth), but all must be overcome before we may advance in a realization of the Truth which alone can impart the confidence of which I am speaking.
Let us take a few examples. There is indifference by which a man yields up to blind fate the conditions of his existence. Caring not what may happen, he embraces the delusion that peace and satisfaction are only to be found in stupor; and the maintenance of this latter must eventually lead to spiritual death. But usually fate (being kinder to him than he is to himself) rouses the sleeper, and makes the darkness intolerable with hideous phantoms. Standing on the brink of a bottomless abyss, it occurs confusedly to his beclouded mind that peace and satisfaction were the objects of his search; and that to take another step will mean oblivion. Therefore he begins to retrace steps; but in the gloom many and grievous the wounds and bruises contracted. The experiences through which he must pass are ignorance be dispelled and the light of knowledge shine upon his path, are necessarily painful, but they shall end in bliss when he shall find himself.
Then there are impatience, discontent, and fruitlessness—these three (pitiable futility!) are one. Their expression is not merely incompatible with self-confidence, but demonstrates the extreme opposite. That which they bring is a loss of manhood, joy, and self-respect. The impatient have frantic convulsions for their reward, and the object they seek, placed further beyond their reach. The discontented have heavy bitterness to sour the sweets of life; and the fretful, impotence and imbecility. And when the outbreaks have passed, when in more sober moments solitude defines their misery more clearly, then does shame take possession of their being, and, suffering from It sense of inharmony with its law, is keen in proportion to the state of individual development. This too is good if they shall use it rightly, for suffering leads to truth, and truth alone can set them free. Of fear and hate it should be unnecessary for me to speak. With all his bitter lessons, man is fast awakening to the fact that these are suicidal; that there is nothing in the universe to fear, and that by hatred he can only reap destruction. The elements of death are in these twain, and those who harbor them must pass to outer darkness. The Great Law of our being is Love, and “perfect Love casteth out fear" and hate. In the language ascribed to the Great Master, “Thou shalt love the Lord thy God, with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy strength; and thy neighbor as thyself"; otherwise, it is impossible to enter into a realization of the Life eternal.
Then there are the more subtle faults which, desiring to indulge, we condone, and seek to justify by false intellectual processes. We satisfactorily explain that it is right and proper to endure all kinds of miseries here and now, in order that we may be rewarded hereafter; when perhaps what we call “endurance” is really laziness and fear which the "miseries” are punishing, and our attitude a direct denial of the living God. (Of course I use the word "satisfactorily" in a comparative sense, because the soul can be satisfied with nothing short of Truth.) We manufacture arguments with facility to prove that that which is more gratifying to the lower nature it is our bounden duty to do, and by reiteration believe in the false and reject the true. We cling to self and selfish cravings as though temporal things were immutable, and Reality but transient, when every fleeting moment would teach us the folly of it. So insidious in its workings and so deceptive is desire, that it is quite possible for a man to mistake it for aspiration, and live in a very fool's paradise. Then will he place confidence in delusion, imagining it to be himself or God; and not until the delusion is shattered shall he be undeceived.
It will be easily seen that until the lower ‘self is controlled, and converted into an obedient servant, until illusion is perceived to lie illusion, and a man, recognizing that he is master of himself on every plane of existence, asserts his authority with effectual power, it is impossible that he should have confidence in himself; because he has no correct idea as to what manner of man he really is. As long as he deems control to be in the hands of a power apart from and outside of himself, so long shall he be a stranger to the confidence that shall stamp him as a man and the master of his destiny; and of course he cannot realize this power while he is swayed by low desires, mocked by ungoverned impulses, weakened by selfish gratifications, and rendered the helpless victim of circumstance. It is only by resolutely purifying himself, by crucifying and transcending all selfishness, that he may attain the vision of the Son of God in whom he may confide.
(To be continued)
Anticipate our sorrows? Tis like those
Who die for fear of death.