Most Wednesday mornings this summer found me trail running with a friend. We have been running together off and on for years. At first, we were part of a larger group, but the group dwindled over the years due to injuries and age, leaving just the two of us still running in the woods.
My running buddy has been asking me for weeks if I am going to sign up for a race he is registered for next weekend. It is a 15k trail race at a state park close to my house organized by a race director known for fun, challenging races. How can I not be jumping at the chance to enter? And yet…
I can’t pull the trigger. I haven’t been able to make myself sign up. I did a trail half marathon last month and twisted my ankle during the race. It hasn’t affected my running, but if I swim, the resistance of the water against my foot causes my ankle to ache, and if I turn it the wrong way – “Ouch!”. I have a destination marathon coming up in August, and I don’t want to risk another injury.
This hesitancy, this reluctance to commit, makes me feel like I am less than a bona fide trail runner. Trail runners are notorious for their devil-may-care, let’s-do-it attitude. One of the traits I most admire about trail runners is their love of a challenge.
Why do we love challenges so much? A trail race that I did for the first time this spring, which has the word “challenge” in its name, advertises itself as “not designed for the ‘leisure’ runner or hiker. Nor was it designed so that ‘everyone’ can easily finish“. Registration opens 11 months before race day and 1,300 spaces sell out in a matter of hours. This race is legendary in local running circles. Completing it gives you immediate “trail cred“.
One reason for undertaking such a grueling race is the pride that comes from completing a difficult task. To add a challenging run to your racing resume makes you feel good about yourself. Feeling good about yourself is beneficial, right?
Proverbs has this to say about pride: “Pride goes before destruction, a haughty spirit before a fall“. I learned this lesson the hard way during a 25k trail race I did about a year ago.
I was running along on a level section of the trail about a mile from the finish line, thinking “I am feeling great! I have this race in the bag!” when, for no obvious reason, I found myself face down on the forest floor. There were no roots or rocks nearby for me to have tripped over. I don’t know the reason for my spill (I suspect God may have stuck his foot out), but in this case, pride literally came before a fall.
Pride based on self-righteousness is universally condemned, but self-confidence, a close relative of pride, is sought after. Recalling this story makes me wonder: what is the difference between pride and self-confidence?
One difference is the volume level. Pride is noisy, drawing attention to itself; self-confidence is quiet, less self-promoting. Pride is based on an inflated ego; it causes us to make bad choices. Self-confidence incorporates a positive attitude and realistic expectations; it allows us to make good life choices.
Pride pushes itself forward, bragging about its accomplishments. It is the result of an anxious personality desperate to fit in. Self-confidence does not need self-promotion. It believes in its abilities and promotes a feeling of faith.
Pride is often cruel, selfish and haughty. Pride is not interested in the accomplishments of others, except to denigrate them, because they are perceived as a threat. Self-confidence is humble. It allows us to trust others, to be open to different possibilities, to hold ourselves accountable to the highest standards. Pride is based on extrinsic affirmations; self-confidence on intrinsic ones.
There are many, many admonitions in the Bible against pride.
From James – “But he gives us more grace. That is why Scripture says: ‘God opposes the proud but shows favor to the humble’.”
From Philippians – ” Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves.”
And from Psalms – “In his pride, the wicked man does not seek him; in all his thoughts there is no room for God.”
Yes. Pride is only thinking about oneself, not about God. The existential theologian Paul Tillich calls that which is our Ultimate Concern “God“. In other words, whatever we spend most of our time thinking about, venerating, worshipping is our god. Through pride, we become our own Ultimate Concern. Pride is a form of self-worship.
Self-confidence, on the other hand, is an attribute to be sought after. There are several verses in the Bible advocating self-confidence.
From 1 Peter – ” Do not let your adorning be external—the braiding of hair and the putting on of gold jewelry, or the clothing you wear— but let your adorning be the hidden person of the heart with the imperishable beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which in God’s sight is very precious.”
From Joshua – “Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be frightened, and do not be dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.”
From Hebrews – ” Therefore do not throw away your confidence, which has a great reward.”
Yes. Confidence is fierce, loving, sacred. Confidence allows us to accomplish feats that seem impossible. It is something to be cultivated and encouraged. Accomplishing difficult things, in turn, increases confidence. It is a self-reinforcing cycle.
Is it pride then or self-confidence that pushes athletes to compete in difficult competitions? My answer to that is an unequivocal “It depends.” If the reason for competing is to have bragging rights on social media or with friends after the fact, then the impetus is pride. If the reason is based on internal motivation and a quest for experience, then confidence is driving the decision.
I have to ask myself “What is my reason for competing?” Honestly, I think it is mostly the latter. I want the experience, the adventure. My motivation is largely internal. But…full disclosure: I have to admit to a certain amount of pride.
I want to work on ridding myself of this pride. External factors are fickle. We cannot count on them for validation. They are outside of our control, may or may not be valid, and really should not affect our self-esteem. Pride causes us to fall, usually flat on our face, just like I did in the trail run.
Here is the thing about falling, though: we don’t have to stay down. Every fall that we take gives us the opportunity to get back up, dust ourselves off, and head off once again toward our destination. That’s what I did in the trail race, and what I aim to do in my battle against pride. As Confucius said, ” Our greatest glory is not in never falling, but in rising every time we fall.“
I am linking up with Patty, Erika and Marcia for Tuesdays on the Run, Char at Trekking Thru, Shank You Very Much for her Dream Team, Rich Faith Rising for Unite, Shelbee on the Edge for Spread the Kindness, Abounding Grace for Gracefull Tuesday, Running on Happy, Crazy Running Girl, and Coach Debbie Runs for the Coaches’ Corner linkup, Nicole and Annmarie for Wild Workout Wednesday, Holley Gerth for Coffee for Your Heart, Eclectic Evelyn for her Words on Wednesday, Sharing a Journey for Wellness Wednesday, Debbie at Dare 2 Hear, Random-osity for Little Things Thursdays, It’s a Small Town Life for Thankful Thursday, Jessica and Amy at Live Life Well, Susan B Mead for Dancing With Jesus,A Glimpse of our Life for Scripture and a Snapshot, Peabea Photography for Sunday Scripture Blessings, and Spiritual Sundays for Welcome.