How can we keep modesty and self-confidence in balance?

The Details of the Question
How can we keep modesty and self-confidence in balance?
The Answer

Dear Brother / Sister,

There is not a contradiction between modesty and self-confidence as long as we do not base these two virtues on wrong sources. As far as we can comprehend, both modesty and self-confidence of a person who believes in Allah and the Day of Judgment are shaped in accordance with Allah, because what enables one to be modest is the awareness of being a servant to Allah and what enables him to have self-confidence is his trust in and nice feelings for Allah, whom he serves.

Accordingly, modesty which originates from a believer’s awareness of being a servant to God is not a symbol of stinginess, clumsiness and weakness. Besides, self-confidence which one feels in himself as a result of help that he expects from Allah is not an indication of conceit and arrogance.

The message “Trust in Allah” which is reminded quite often in the Quran teaches us that the source of a believer’s self-confidence is Allah.

In this verse: “… and consult them in affairs (of moment). Then, when thou hast taken a decision put thy trust in God; for God loves those who put their trust (in Him).” (Aal-i- Imran, 3:159), modesty and self-confidence are suggested together. Actually, it is a proof of a very nice modesty that the Prophet (pbuh), who is a spiritual and material head of state, consults other people – in issues about which there is no revelation - and it is an indication of self-confidence that he does not hesitate but locks on his target, with trust in Allah, which reinforces his faith in Him, once he has decided on what to do.

The limit of self-confidence must be drawn in two ways.

The first one is the physical limit: Man that lives in a physical world is right to have a feeling of self-confidence which is earned by following the prevailing laws in Allah’s circle of causes, which is a manifestation of the name al-Hakim (the Perfectly Wise). However, having self-confidence without acting in accordance with these causes does not result from reality but an imaginary delusion.

The second one is the spiritual limit: As long as one’s self-confidence originates from his trust in Allah, it is a feeling that is worth praise. In parallel to the weakening of his relationship with Allah, this feeling of self-confidence turns into pride that flatters his lower-self and results in a groundless feeling.

It is possible to evaluate the limit of modesty in two ways:

The first one is the modesty which develops in relation with Allah. The modesty which originates from this awareness of being a servant to Allah and from comprehending Allah’s greatness, the modesty of those who do not think they have got anything special – independently – is worthy of praise.

The second one is the kind of modesty that those who do not have a close relationship with Allah and which stems from excessive dependence on causes and not thinking of Allah, who has got the control over and the key to everything, is an outcome of heedlessness and it is better to call it flattery rather than modesty. One who has got this kind of modesty never hesitates to trample his dignity and honor, and to show weakness for any trivial reason in order to reach his goal.

Moreover, modesty means weakness, and self-confidence means arrogance under different circumstances. Whereas seriousness of an authority while working and self-confidence stemming from this seriousness is worthy of praise, it is nothing but self-conceit if he behaves the same way at home. Similarly, whereas his modesty when he is with his children and family is a virtue worthy of praise, it is weakness rather than modesty if he shows the same modesty at work.

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