“My eyes have seen all this,
my ears have heard and understood it.
What you know, I also know;
I am not inferior to you.
But I desire to speak to the Almighty
and to argue my case with God.
You, however, smear me with lies;
you are worthless physicians, all of you!
If only you would be altogether silent!
For you, that would be wisdom.
- Job 13:1-5
Woe to those who are wise in their own eyes
and clever in their own sight.
- Isaiah 5:21
“I, wisdom, dwell together with prudence;
I possess knowledge and discretion.
To fear the Lord is to hate evil;
I hate pride and arrogance,
evil behavior and perverse speech.
- Proverbs 8:12-13
“When I was in sixth grade, I attended a school where either you had to pass all of the subjects you took, or you had to repeat the grade. In what must have been an attempt to motivate us toward passing, my teacher drew several pictures on the chalkboard – an airplane, a train, a ship, an automobile, and then a field of sheep.
“If you made A’s, the teacher wrote your name in large letters under the picture of the airplane. .. If you made an F in any one of the six or seven subjects taught that year, she put your name in large letters in the sheep field.
“Many days I would walk into the classroom and look on the board to find that the only name in the sheep field was Charles Stanley.
“My teacher’s actions reinforced what I was hearing at home from my stepfather, who repeatedly told me that I wasn’t good for anything, wasn’t worth anything, and would never amount to anything. …
“God doesn’t expect you to get it right all the time. …
“God doesn’t expect you to reach your definition of potential. …
“God doesn’t grade on the curve. …
“What must you do to overcome your feelings of inferiority?
“Guideline #1: Praise God for your gifts, talents, and abilities.
“Guideline #2: Thank God for His transforming power.
“Guideline #3: Obey God’s leading.
“Guideline #4: Choose to become an intercessor.
“Guideline #5: Become an encourager of others.”
- Charles Stanley, The Source of my Strength
The first Scripture speaks of Job not being inferior to his friends, Eliphaz, Bildad, and Zophar. (Elihu does not appear until Job 32.) Job’s friends are putting him down because Job must have sin in his life for all this calamity to have stuck at once. Job maintains his innocence. The next two Scriptures speak of pride
There is a delicate balance between knowing that we are sinners and the boldness required to share the Gospel as someone who God has forgiven. There is a delicate balance between being self-confident and being self-absorbed. There is acceptable pride in having done a good job and unacceptable pride in thinking you are beyond reproach. And sometimes, a feeling of inferiority is really pride and self-absorption taken to the extreme, where the reality is that we are not being accepted for our wonderfulness and thus our presentation of our greatness is inferior to these inferior people around us that are all show and no substance.
To illustrate, at my old job, I was being groomed as the heir apparent for the lead of the department. The department was a combination of traditional training services with me as the manager and computer-based training development which my boss managed directly. Okay, I managed the day-to-day, but the boss had his finger upon the quality of the work, and he shuffled funds from one pocket to another when a project was running over budget. All communications with the VP of Operations went through me. The boss managed quality and made sales calls.
But then, the company president decided that our department should be combined with the engineering services group. They made the other group’s boss the top boss, and my boss refused to work under the guy and quit. There was a mass exodus of people since the new boss had no idea what he was doing, and he was aloof, not abusive, just in his own world and we were left to guess what was required. But the new boss pulled me aside to explain what I would face working with his people. He said of one guy that he was a strange mix of an arrogant jerk with an inferiority complex.
For quite some time, I wondered how you could be arrogant and have an inferiority complex at the same time, but in working with the guy, it seemed a fitting description. He would get angry and yell at you for disrespecting his brilliance, but that really was a defense mechanism to cover the fact that we might be correct in our criticism, and he was just as worthless as others had claimed him to be. But once you got beyond the pretense and false fronts that he created as his defense system, he could be a nice guy, a competent associate, and a wealth of information. The boss’ aloofness never allowed him to try to break through those barriers. Both the arrogance and the inferiority complex went away when you worked at a personal level. He was not a Christian and he made it clear any discussion in that area was off limits, but then he would slip and ask a question about faith on rare occasions.
As for me, I have often written that my goal in life was to hear a boss say something that my mother never said, “Job well done.” I think one of the key reasons that I thoroughly loved the Nero Wolfe series of mysteries by Rex Stout is that Archie Goodwin, Wolfe’s field operative since Wolfe almost never left the brownstone, craved to get Wolfe to give him his greatest praise, “satisfactory.” Never “good job” or “I could have never done this without you.” No, it was either “satisfactory” or something worse. For me, the greatest compliment my mother ever gave me was “it is not adequate because I know you could have done better.” It was a compliment in that she felt I had better within me, but I always felt worthless because I never even heard “satisfactory.” I made “A’s” and “B’s” in school. I had the brain power to make straight “A’s”, but my feeling of inferiority blocked the drive to achieve greater. Why bother? I would never achieve what I craved.
And do not get me wrong, for the work that I did, I became a perfectionist, as Rev. Stanley states we should not be, but it was not deep enough to get the “A”.
Then Bozo the clown came along and when the two teams of children popped balloons or some other silly game, Bozo would award prizes to the winners and the almost-winners. Then we now have safe spaces for people to go so that they never hear a differing opinion to their own. “It might harm them.”
No! They might grow up a bit to realize that their perfect picture of their self-image may be tarnished a bit. We have seen the wrongs of past generations, the “tough love”, and instead of stopping somewhere in the middle, with a balance, we have gone to the far extreme. And all since Rev. Stanley’s book came out in 1995.
But the guidelines that Rev. Stanley gives boil down to one Bible verse, at least this one.
“I can do all this through him who gives me strength.”
- Philippians 4:13
In Rev. Stanley’s guidelines, why does praising God work? Why does thanking God work? Why does obeying God, thus trusting God, work?
Those things work because it is Christ within us that provides the strength to do all, never us having our own strength to do it. And sometimes, it takes getting totally drained of our own strength to realize that we are barely standing, but we are still moving forward on Someone else’s power.
But the biggest reason that an inferiority complex is not who we are (or the perfect self-image on the other end of the spectrum) it is that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.
We were born flawed, but God loves us. And we can become His family by believing and trusting in Jesus. With Jesus in our hearts, we may be a servant to all, but we are inferior to no one.
Soli Deo Gloria. Only to God be the Glory.