Dear Teacher, Stop Believing in Yourself
The title for this episode might just be throwing you for a loop. We're supposed to believe in ourselves, right!? Kind of, sort of, but maybe not really. Join us to discover why we shouldn't be trusting in our own ability and what (hint: WHO) we should be trusting instead.
What does our culture say?
The title of this article may sound strange or controversial- why shouldn’t you believe in yourself? I want to preface this conversation by saying that these things are really nuanced, and what I'm trying to point out is a nuance, but it's a really important nuance. We have to remember as Christians that our culture is looking for solutions outside of Christ, outside of God, outside of His Word. By and large, our culture does not want to acknowledge God, the Bible, or Jesus, so it is looking for answers outside of that.
What our culture comes up with is a very interesting and very confusing combination of truth and error. They are looking for truth and finding pieces of it, but they don't want God's way of doing things to always be part of the answer, so the result is a mess of partial truths, riddled with errors. The biggest error is trying to find the solution without having God, our Creator and Father, being part of that answer.
Today, we're going to talk about this topic of self-reliance. As we go through, remember we are not rejecting out of hand everything that our society says. Some of what they say is good, but some of it is off because they're ignoring God. We're going to be trying to find that nuance- where is the truth, but what are they missing and how should we be viewing these same topics, as Christians. We should be thinking about and viewing these same things through a different lens. When we bring God into the equation, it changes things. That's what we're trying to do.
Self-reliance and growth mindset are super popular right now, and for good reason. There are lots of issues that they help address. We are told to believe in yourself, love yourself, create your best life, believe you can, or just, you can do it. There is a lot of talk about the power of positive thinking, and adding the word “yet” to anything you can't currently do. For example, instead of saying, “I don’t know how to solve this equation,” say, “I don't know how to solve this equation, yet.”
the problem with what our culture thinks
But there is one issue with all of this. It's heavily self-reliant, and, in most cases, it ignores God. Rachel Hollis is a wonderful example of this thinking. Here is just one of her many quotes I could have pulled: "You, and only you, are ultimately responsible for who you become and how happy you are." It's you, me, it's us. We are responsible for ourselves.
Now, if you are a non-believer, I suppose this is about as good of advice as you can get. If you're a non-believer, what you really need is God, but if you don't want to acknowledge God, then all we are left with is ourselves. That's all we have. I just have me; I am the only one I can count on. But ultimately it does not fulfill us, it just doesn't.
The goal is good in trying to encourage people to stop staying stuck in failure and frustration and to instead make better choices by believing what's possible. But when that belief is founded on ourselves, it's pretty shallow and it's not ultimately going to fulfill us. It's going to come crashing down at some point. Think about it- we know ourselves and just how messed up we are. If myself is all I have to rely on, to be honest, that is not going to work out very well. All we can do in this case is have that “fake it ‘til you make it” self-confidence. That can work for a time, but it almost always inevitably comes crashing down at some point because it's not a sure foundation.
By the way, even if it worked, there's a big problem. It puffs you up with pride and helps you think that you don't need God, when God is the ultimate thing that we need the most. It can be counterproductive because when we're trusting in ourselves, we're typically not relying on God, which ultimately leaves us empty because we are created with a need for God. We were created for a relationship with God, that is our soul's deepest need. When we fill up our needs with other things, including self-reliance, we're missing what we truly need most.
what does scripture say?
How should we, as Christians, be thinking? We do have that question of “What happens when I don't know if I can do something? Do I just believe I can't do it?” Well, yes and no. All of our insecurities, frustrations, and fears have their answer in Christ. Our confidence doesn't come from telling ourselves, "I'm amazing, I can do it," and affirming ourselves. It instead comes from our firm belief, which is not made up or propped up, that God is amazing and that God can do anything. We go back to our firm belief that Christ has promised to be enough, that He will work in us and through us, and that His strength is enough to carry us through our weaknesses.
Our confidence is not in our own ability or our own worth. It is in Him and in His worth and all of the things that He makes us. If you are a believer in Christ, God makes you loved, redeemed, sanctified, holy, and declared righteous. You are enabled by His Holy Spirit every day; you are His child. There is so much there. It's not fluff, it's not just made up, it's not put on so that we feel better. It is true, it is the most true thing in the universe. When we meditate on that, it is so powerful. That confidence is not shallow. It doesn't fall apart when we think too much about it. It is a sure and firm foundation.
When it comes to the future, Christ is the answer as well. Rather than just trusting everything will work out, in Christ, we have much more assurance. We can face the reality that things actually might not work out anywhere near what we are hoping. The diagnosis might not be what we want, the result might not be what we want, the situation with the parent might not work out the way we want. Whatever it is, large and small, we can know without a doubt that our loving Heavenly Father holds all of this in His perfectly capable and sovereign hands, that He will be with us through every trial, and that He will redeem even our deepest pain and use it for good. That is a deep well of assurance that we can rest in, even when things are swirling around us. Do you see how much more sure of a foundation trusting in Christ is rather than simply relying on ourselves?
Here it is in a nutshell: When it comes to being a teacher, or anything in life, we do have to believe that we can do it. If I’m thinking, "I'm not sure I can teach this stuff," that is going to create a lot of problems. We do have to have this confidence that we can do it in order to persevere and find the solutions we need to do something. It's almost like a self-fulfilling prophecy. Think of the phrases, “She believed she could so she did” and “Whether you think you can, or you think you can't--you're right.” There is truth to these things. Remember, the world mixes truth, but they mix it with error because they're ignoring God. There is definitely truth to the fact that we do have to be able to envision something and believe that it's possible in order to work forward towards it.
But here is the key: When we think about needing to believe in ourselves and our abilities, we need to ask, “Why do I believe that?” As a Christian, I'm just propping myself up with self-confidence. I don't believe it because I'm telling myself to believe it. I believe it because my confidence isn't that I will muster the ability in myself, but the fact that God has called me to this work and that He will work in and through me to accomplish His purposes. I'm not trusting in my ability, I am trusting in His faithfulness. That is the difference. When it comes down to it, don't believe in yourself, believe in what God can and will do in and through you. That's my plea.
some practical applications
What does this look like? Or maybe the better question is “How do I retrain my mind, if I find I am often relying on myself, to look to God instead?” This is not a one-time decision, "Okay, I'm going to trust in God versus myself." This is something that we have to continually work on. Every time we catch ourselves trusting in our own abilities, we have to go back to him.
Here are three practical thoughts for you when facing challenges:
- When you're facing challenges, fears, and frustrations, pray about them and ask God to intervene and guide you. This doesn't mean we just sit passively by and do nothing. As teachers, we would continue to innovate and take the next best step that we know to do, but rather than stressing and trusting in ourselves, our trust is in Him. That's the difference. Praying about it is an incredibly important way to realign. Taking the problem to God and talking to Him about it realigns the way we're viewing it really quickly.
- Meditate on scriptural truths to renew your mind so that you are thinking rightly. We want to be meditating on scriptural truths all the time, and there are so many different ways you can do this. Memorizing scripture, Bible reading, and Bible study are incredibly helpful. Another thing I've done, especially when struggling, is to write out a list of truths that I know to be true and going back to them when I'm experiencing doubts and fears. In this way, rather than just trying to muster up strength in myself, I'm going to God and His truth.
- Surround yourself with Godly influences that will point you to Christ when you’re struggling to keep your eyes on Him. Who do you go to when you're struggling? Is that a person who's going to point you to Christ? If not, start developing friendships with people that you know will point you to Christ when you need him the most.
I actually have two things that I'd like to share with you that can help out with this, particularly around meditating on scriptural truths and helping to point you to Christ. One is our Rise Up Summit, a free conference for Christian educators. It is all about renewing our minds, renewing our strength, renewing our strategies, so that we can teach effectively with the power of the Holy Spirit. Check it out here.
The second resource is our Teach 4 the Heart Mentorship Program to help you master classroom management, time management, and balance so that you can just be successful as a teacher without the stress and to really fulfill the calling that God has given you as a teacher. You can find out more about the mentorship here.
We also have a free training that helps share some of the mindset shifts that are important and tells you more about the mentorship. You can access it here.
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