Spiritual growth requires confidence. Without confidence we fear what others think. This interferes with following Jesus and healthy expressions of our spiritual life.
Many Christians enjoy when a spiritual “favor is granted them in secret”. They can savor the experience in peace without judgment from others. But if they receive a public gift or ecstatic experience “their embarrassment and shame are so strong that the pain and worry over what those who saw it will think somehow take the soul away from what was being enjoyed.” The reason for their fear is they “know the malice of the world”. Those with malice won’t “regard the experience for what it is” — an opportunity to praise God. Judgmental people turn beautiful events into an “occasion for rash judgments” and contempt for others. And we retreat because of their opinions.
But Teresa challenges us about retreating: Are we really humble? “In some ways it seems to me that this pain and embarrassment amount to a lack of humility . . . what difference does it make what others think?” Teresa says, at one point, she was encouraged by the Lord: “‘Don’t be afflicted: either they will praise me or criticize you, and in either case you gain.'”
Warren Bennis, in his book On Becoming a Leader says, “leaders have no interest in proving themselves, but an abiding interest in expressing themselves. The difference is crucial, for it’s the difference between being driven, as too many people are today, and leading, as too few people do.” The distinction between “proving” and “expressing” also occurs spiritually. Those who try to prove themselves do it by imposing their experiences on others or by criticizing what God does in someone else’s life.
The humble and confident (these traits are always linked) avoid flaunting, pretense, and condescension. They know these things come from trying to prove themselves and their source is insecurity. But they also know they shouldn’t retreat into false humility when God blesses them. Instead, with confidence and humility, they participate with passion and act with authenticity. When we possess confidence and humility, what we do and what God does through us simply “expresses” who we are and His activity in our lives.
For additional information on what worrying about what others think, I encourage you to read A Different Perspective on Booing.
For this post I used a translation of The Interior Castle by Kieran Kavanaugh O.C.D. and Otilio Rodriguez O.C.D., ICS Publications, Institute of Carmelite Studies: Washington D.C.
On Becoming a Leader: Warren Bennis. Basic Books – Kindle Edition.