If you’re like me, you tend to second guess yourself a lot. Sometimes, you find yourself asking the following questions:
- Was that the right decision or not?
- Should I have said that or should I have stayed quiet?
- Am I the right person for this task?
In mid-September, I found myself at the Seventh-day Adventist General Conference Headquarters as part of some meetings to suggest ways that pastors can receive more practical training at the Masters level through the Seminary and the North American Division Evangelism Institute (NADEI). These are exactly the kind of meetings where my self-doubt tends to run wild. What are some tips that help me fight against this negative self-image? Well, the following ideas are not from someone who’s figured it all out; these are truths I have to repeat to myself over and over again, even as I’m writing this.
- You’re never “just” anything.
The first day, as we were going around the room introducing ourselves, I felt like a little fish in a big pond as everyone introduced themselves as “President, Vice President, Chair, Dean or Administrator of this, that, or the other.” Being the last person to introduce myself, as well as one of two active pastors and the only millennial in the group, I said “Nelson Fernandez, just a pastor in the Carolina Conference.”I quickly realized what I’d said. Someone else realized what I was implying with that and said something along the lines of, “No, you’re not just a pastor; as a pastor, you’re one of the most important voices in here!”Oftentimes, it’s these “I’m just” messages that start chipping away at our trust in God and His ability to use us.The young prophet Jeremiah said in Jeremiah 1:6, “O Sovereign Lord, I can’t speak for you! I’m too young!” I’m just a kid. I’m just not good enough. I’m just not educated enough. It’s important to pay attention to the words we use to describe ourselves and be willing to be positively corrected.
- You’re never as good as people say you are but you’re also never as bad as people say you are.
Those negative messages that you tell yourself can come from a variety of sources. Maybe you had a bad experience with someone in the past. Maybe you had what you thought was a great idea that got shot down. Maybe you don’t want to embarrass yourself or the people you’re representing. Maybe you weren’t hugged enough as a child, who knows! The point is that the extreme voices that tell you, “You’re the best thing since sliced bread” or “You have nothing useful worth contributing” are both distortions of our true identity as children of God. I love what Philippians 2:3-4 says on this in the New Living Translation: “Don’t be selfish; don’t try to impress others. Be humble, thinking of others as better than yourselves. Don’t look out only for your own interests, but take an interest in others, too.”
- You’re never unprepared when you fight in the armor God has given you.
You may remember the story of David and Goliath from 1 Samuel 17. Before the two faced off, King Saul thought that the best option for David’s success would be for David to fight Goliath in the king’s royal armor, an option that was quickly abandoned when David couldn’t move properly in it.David realized a truth we must all internalize. Namely, that we must be willing to fight in our own armor because when God calls you to do something for him, he gives you His own armor. Yet, unlike Saul’s armor, God’s armor comes custom fitted for each of us. Fred Bruce said, “Good judgement comes from experience, and experience comes from bad judgement.” So maybe your life experiences, both your past successes and failures are exactly what God can use to fulfill the task you’ve been called to undertake. Even those experiences that we would rather forget can be used to help teach us something about ourselves or others. How does the Apostle Paul say this?”And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose.” Romans 8:28
Leadership has a strange paradox. The truth is that as a leader, you have to get used to (and even comfortable with) the idea that you will constantly be second guessed by others. However, the moment when you start second guessing yourself, you undermine your ability to lead yourself and those around you as well. And yet, to doubt yourself is healthy to a degree because you are reminded that success isn’t ultimately all about you.
Success ultimately lies in God’s hands.
So go forth and remember these truths!