Self-Confidence Wins – Sometimes

Then the Lord said to Moses, “See, I have chosen Bezalel son of Uri, the son of Hur, of the tribe of Judah, and I have filled him with the Spirit of God, with wisdom, with understanding, with knowledge and with all kinds of skills—to make artistic designs for work in gold, silver and bronze, to cut and set stones, to work in wood, and to engage in all kinds of crafts.

  • Exodus 31:1-5

“Now, Lord my God, you have made your servant king in place of my father David. But I am only a little child and do not know how to carry out my duties.  Your servant is here among the people you have chosen, a great people, too numerous to count or number.  So give your servant a discerning heart to govern your people and to distinguish between right and wrong. For who is able to govern this great people of yours?”
The Lord was pleased that Solomon had asked for this.

  • 1 Kings 3:7-10

And you, Ezra, in accordance with the wisdom of your God, which you possess, appoint magistrates and judges to administer justice to all the people of Trans-Euphrates—all who know the laws of your God. And you are to teach any who do not know them.  Whoever does not obey the law of your God and the law of the king must surely be punished by death, banishment, confiscation of property, or imprisonment.

  • Ezra 7:25-26

“Ahad Ha’am was the pen name of the Ukrainian-born Jewish philosopher Asher Ginzberg, a leading Zionist thinker who advocated a Jewish spiritual renaissance. In 1890 he claimed in a semi-satirical essay that although we worship wisdom, self-confidence matters more.  In any difficult or dangerous situation, he says, the wise are those who hold back, weighing up the advantages and disadvantages of any action. Meanwhile (and greatly to the disapproval of the wise) it is the self—confident who forge ahead, and often win the day.  Ha’am wants to suggest—and when reading him we should remember that this is a suggestion that is meant half-seriously and half-satirically—that individual folly can often yield a result, simply because of the self—confidence that goes along with it.”

  • Sam Atkinson (senior editor), The Philosophy Book, Big Ideas Simply Explained

Ahad Ha’am (or Asher Ginzberg, if you prefer) (1856-1927) has a point, even while being satirical.

How many speeches have we heard in the past few years, most regarding Climate Change that state “We must do something.”  That something could be horribly wrong.  It might be the opposite of what needs to be done.  The “science” is espoused by “yes men” who do not get paid unless they repeat what the politician wants done, and we all know how “smart” our politicians are.  See!!  Ahad Ha’am isn’t the only one who can use satire!

The wise person will do the research.  If mathematical models apply, the wise person will run countless iterations of the model to get as many possibly scenarios as could be conceived.

But the self-confident person stands at the edge of the minefield.  This person places headphones on his ears, closes his eyes, and begins to dance across the minefield.  Picture the Riverdance.

Who knows?  He might make it, or she, to the other side, finding a safe path.  It could happen!  Chances may be one in a million.  But what about trip wires? For the full ensemble, not a tinker’s chance in Hades, but…

We must remember that this is a satirical statement, at least in part.  I have often misquoted the Congressional Medal of Honor winner (because I cannot find the quote) who said, “We are all scared.  It is the hero who is so scared that he runs in the wrong direction.”  That may not be an example of self-confidence, but it is in the same vein of acting without thinking.

I wrote about a training exercise that went horribly wrong.  We were in earthen bunkers with sod roofs, in other words, fairly safe.  We were prepared to demonstrate to politicians in the stands a classic battalion in defense.  The rolling artillery got closer and closer, designed to stop short of the barbed wire in front of our positions.  This was all with live ammunition, no blanks.  The artillery read the map incorrectly.  The artillery shells landed in the barbed wire and got closer.  I was about to start firing an M60 machine gun, at night with tracer rounds to wow the politicians.  My ammo bearer panicked and began to run, running out of the bunker, into a storm of flying shrapnel and barbed wire.  When he got to the uncovered steps leading out of the bunker, I tackled him and saved him from the barrage of shrapnel and tiny pieces of barbed wire, placing my body over his.  The sergeant was screaming over the radio to stop firing.  The grandstands had been quickly emptied.  And after the firing stopped, the frightened ammo bearer got on the truck without being chewed out, but the sergeant had a couple of people helping him, removing all the shrapnel from my uniform, not falling with enough velocity to penetrate the flesh since I tackled him before we got above ground level.  They were afraid I could sit on a piece that would cut deep, bleeding out on my way back to the barracks.  The sergeant, who had served in Vietnam, whispered as he picked shrapnel, “Don’t ever do that again.  We don’t need any more dead heroes.”

While we live in a world that seems to flaunt a disdain for wisdom, while praising the self-confident fool who got lucky, we need to know that the wise are going to reach the far side of the minefield with regularity.

We may praise an occasional hero, but far too often it is posthumously.  Let us be wise, and the source of great wisdom is a life-giving belief and trust in Jesus Christ our Lord.

If you like these Tuesday morning essays about philosophy and other “heavy topics,” but you think you missed a few, you can use this LINK. I have set up a page off the home page for links to these Tuesday morning posts. I will continue to modify the page as I add more.

Soli Deo Gloria.  Only to God be the Glory.

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