Confidence (n) – the feeling or belief that one can rely on someone or something, firm trust; the state of feeling certain about the truth of something; a feeling of self-assurance arising from one’s appreciation of one’s own abilities or qualities.
Firm trust. The state of feeling certain. When there is no firm trust or feeling of certainty, I suppose that is fear. When I cannot trust that you will do the right thing, I fear whatever it is that you WILL do. In many cases, I don’t acknowledge that I am afraid, refuse to give you the satisfaction of presuming that you have instilled fear in me. If my level of distrust is great enough, and if the stakes are high enough, my fear could propel me to respond in a manner that is of little good to either of us. At that point, I am probably not acting under the control of my rational mind, but only my limbic brain. I am in survival mode.
It seems to me that some of us believe that any resistance to our sentiment, our belief, our perception of order and correct action constitutes threat to our very lives. The only common denominator appears to be power – if you feel that you don’t have it, you will revert to limbic brain function to get it. That is a rational proposition when it comes to a life-threat, but not when the context involves difference of accepted truth.
Some of the worst conflicts I have ever seen involve money at the root. Even when it seems the conflict involves something else, when dissected, it begins with money. Money makes people nuts. If you are poor, and living a truth of having no access to health care, food, shelter because you don’t have enough money, entering the limbic brain state is a very quick response.
When you are not faced with a life-threatening circumstance, but perhaps a disagreement over religious belief, or paint color, or political opinion many people go to the survival brain regardless. Loss of power seems to raise a base primal response, and frequently we cannot differentiate actual threats to life from threats whose greatest consequence is negative emotional response.
If I believe there is no divine power, no God, why should that be a threat to someone who believes there is a God who controls every aspect of their lives? Since living in the Bible belt, I have been asking that question, and the closest I can get to making sense of that is…believers are confident that one’s very soul is at risk if there is no acceptance and subservience to God. This is the worst possible consequence that any human could ever receive, and so it is their sworn duty to prevent this for themselves as well as any other person they may encounter.
I firmly believe that everyone has a right to believe whatever they want to believe. I have never been to the Other Side, so I don’t know what’s there and which of us pitiful humans is correct about what we should be doing over here. Maybe there’s not an Other Side. There’s a kick in the butt – we could all be arguing over literally nothing. Regardless, the need to be right gets transformed into some kind of battle for survival, which seems odd.
I was listening to a newcomer to recovery speak at a meeting a while ago, and he was talking about his family. As many of us realize during our recovery, he was coming to understand the harm he’d caused with his drinking, and his selfish behavior. I’ve heard this before, from many an addict, but he added something I found amazing. He said that he’d always been clear with his family that he loved them, and would die for them…but he was now realizing that he was being called to decide whether or not he’d LIVE for them. That’s very different, I believe.
What would I live for? At various points in my past, I have not been sure I had anything to live for. I did not so much want to die, but that is different from knowing that I wanted to live. What is my life worth, not to anyone else or any institution, but to me? What exactly am I living FOR? For a long time, I was not convinced there was anything to report.
The older I get, and the healthier I get (and some days are better than others), the more I believe that I am not living entirely to provide an experience that satisfies my wants. I’m not sure I ever believed that I was living solely to make myself happy – I never felt in control of that anyway – but survivalism is more or less about putting yourself in a position of ensuring your needs. Sometimes we get our needs confused with our wants, but in either case there is a tremendous self-ishness involved. Not self-centeredness, but responsibility for oneself. Self-ish.
Is my life worth more than yours? Is your life worth more than mine? This is where our limbic brain causes us to falter – the instinct to survive is inherent, immutable. When a zebra, or rabbit, or some other prey is running for their life from a predator, the threat is immediate, and real. It’s not a perception, it’s not a possibility, it’s very real.
So, back to confidence. Frequently, I have none, most notably none in myself. Lately, though, I’ve take a couple of steps that have changed my energy a bit. The first was the other night, when I felt so excluded in a group meeting, and spoke up to say how I felt. The situation turned around, and I felt that it was a small victory for me on a very personal level. I rarely do that sort of thing, just let it ride, just sink further into myself. But this time, I stepped out of the unlocked cage.
The other thing I’ve done is even more recent. In fact, it happened today. I was poring through job postings on a job search site, and fretting a bit over whether I should take the proverbial bull by the horns and apply, even if not overly confident that I could meet the requirements, let alone be satisfied with the jobs described. I have been toying with these search results for a while now, and was just about at the point to set myself a deadline to find at least five or six postings that I could live with, and commit to applying. I was talking myself into remembering that if I got an offer, I didn’t have to accept it, so applying was low risk.
While I was scrolling through what seemed like an endless stream of unexciting job descriptions, I got a sudden notion to check out the UU Association’s website, to see if they had job postings. I did that, and *eureka* there was a job opening posted about three days ago that is right up my alley. I would absolutely LOVE to have this job – it’s a writing-type job with the title of justice coordinator or something like that. Yes, yes, and YES.
Surprising my procrastinating self, I re-read the posting and got the instructions for applying. It said that a cover letter with resume’, via email, was preferred, so I went out and found my resume’. I polished it up just a little, spun out some drivel that I hope doesn’t sound desperate, and hit the ‘send’ button. I did that. I actually did that. Holy mackerel.
I am kind of excited about the possibility. The description sounds like the perfect job for me, and working for the Association that governs my chosen faith. I hate to sound like some holy roller or something, but it would really give me a lift to be working for the justice effort in my chosen faith because…everything I do in pursuit of justice occurs in that context. I wouldn’t have to code switch or translate or adhere to some other standards for how I perceive justice. How cool would THAT be?
So, now I wait, wait to see if they will respond. Actually, I’m sure they will respond, but will their opening salve begin “Thank you for your interest, but the position has already been filled” or something like that? I think I need a nap.
In the midst of this burst of excitement about a possible job opportunity, there has been another shooting of an unarmed Black man. It occurred in Minneapolis again, fairly close to where the Derek Chauvin trial is underway. Police pulled over a driver for expired registration or some traffic violation, then discovered he had a warrant. When they tried to arrest him, things got goofy, and one officer shot him. She claimed she was reaching for her taser, and accidentally unholstered her service firearm instead, and pulled the trigger. The body camera footage was released, and she is clearly heard yelling, “Taser, taser, taser!” to warn her fellow officers that she was about to deploy the taser, but then a shot…and she yells, “Shit! I shot him!”.
Goodness. If nothing else, the timing of this sucks. The location sucks. The guy being dead sucks – he was only 20. There are now protests in Minneapolis, some of them earlier deteriorated into looting. There are more going on tonight, and it doesn’t look good. This is absolutely one of the worst possible things that could happen right now.
As if someone asked “What more could happen?”, more has happened. There was another school shooting today, and an officer was injured. There was another shooting in Georgia, following a high-speed chase of some dudes from Alabama – 1 dead, officers wounded. Another shooting in Syracuse, a baby killed and two other children wounded. And on and on and on and on. I have no confidence that we are heading in the right direction. None. Whatsoever.
Confidence. Trust. Some days I have neither. Apparently some days, nobody has either. The number of shootings is mind numbing, zombie-making, desensitizing. Trayvon Martin’s mother was on CNN earlier, and it seems like a million years ago that Trayvon was killed. It’s been nine years. Nine years and hundreds of deaths later. Sandy Hook. Parkland High School. Marjorie Stoneman Douglas High School. Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh. Las Vegas. Pulse Nightclub. San Bernardino. And most recently, Atlanta. And that’s not even the complete list.
This is ridiculous. I have no confidence the perpetrators of these shootings were good people who were having a bad day. I have no confidence these are isolated data points, idiosyncratic instances. I believe these are trending responses, and there are others who are soon to emerge. It’s a mad, mad, world. And there are so many people out there who are mad, mad, and mad.
I have no confidence these shooters are mental health issues, and no confidence that we can quell the rising tide of revolutionary hatred. We sometimes think of revolution as only the noble effort of warriors on the right side of history. I am not sure about that. There have been many short-lived revolutionary efforts that were seated on the immoral wrong side of history. Rwanda comes to mind. And it wasn’t that simple as overthrowing a government – they had help, and it was a genocide disguised as a revolution.
We’re living on the dark side, apparently, or at least tight-rope walking the line between darkness and light. Our balance sucks, and at this point, I don’t trust that we can right ourselves. I don’t trust that my life has the same value as everyone else’s.
So, full circle brings me to contemplating what I am willing to live for. I know that I’m willing to live for becoming whole. I’m willing to live for making things right, things I’ve screwed up, things I refused to do. I’m willing to live for speaking truth, for making sound that shakes the foundations of status quo. I’m willing to live for learning more of who I am, and who I was intended to be. Willing to be left to tell. Left to tell the story, left to speak the truth, willing to show the pain. Willing to be willing.