Confidently Incompetent

“You know, the really great thing is that at least he is confident in his beliefs,” my friend whispered to me as we sat at a motivational seminar listening to a 23 year old in an oversized suit waste five hours of our day talking to excess. With effects quite as damaging as if he was simply drinking to excess. Instead, his main intention seemed to be using the catch phrase “we are who we want to be” as many possible times within a single sentence. I counted seven times as his all time high.

While I quickly forgot his inspirational fluff, my friend’s words stuck with me. Was it possible that confidence made up for lack of competence? If as long as you are sure of yourself, is it a good idea to make yourself look like an idiot—albeit a confident one? For your dignity’s sake, I would say no.

I am confident that the military of the United States army will protect me. I am confident that this chair is structurally sound and will support me. I am confident that my God is all-knowing and that His sovereignty can be seen almost everywhere I look. This type of confidence is warranted and quite possibly a sign of sanity. A man who is so unconfident of his life and the world he lives in would be walking around trembling for fear the ceiling was about to fall down or that his life was about to collapse. That man would be seen as mentally unstable. Yet there is another type of mental instability that goes largely unchecked. It was this type of instability the motivational speaker suffered from.

Hubris is an ancient Greek word that means false overconfidence. While being simply overconfident will lead to one being thought of as pretentious and presumptuous, false overconfidence has much worse consequences. What of the man who is unshakably sure that he will have what he needs when he needs simply as a result of that need? He wholeheartedly believes that necessity is the mother of invention. This hubristic fellow will find that his exceptional confidence won’t save him when he jumps off a cliff, sure that his need to be able to fly will allow him to sprout wings.

You may say that I am being ridiculous, that that would never happen. Tell me the difference between that scenario and this one: a man is so confident that he can change his circumstances by simply imagining they were different. He spends his entire life pretending to live in a world that isn’t real, forsaking real relationships and real experiences in the meanwhile. The only thing that separates him from our cliff-jumping friend is that his is a slow and gradual death rather than a fatal plummet. Both were blinded by their overconfidence. I’m afraid that is the fate of our well-intentioned and hubris-afflicted motivational speaker.

If a man claims to be a bird, we would think him deranged. The sincerity of his belief would not change the fact that he was incorrect in his thinking. No matter how genuine a person is, their confidence in their insanity will not make him the least bit saner. Confidence is invaluable; it inspires armies and sets uneasy minds at rest. It is only when we are overly sure of things that are utterly false that we run the risk of jumping wing-less off of a cliff.

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