Saturday, September 27, 2014

Guest Post! "Be Confident, Small Immortals" by CoptRx

I've been in touch with anonymous blogger CoptRx at and she's graciously written an awesome guest post about how medical school taught her the godly meaning of confidence.  Stop by her page and enjoy the read!

Confidence. It's a trait that I've come to realize you cannot really survive medical school without.

Is confidence a "spiritual" virtue? Is it a quality that we as Copts should actively be seeking as we would the Fruits of the Holy Spirit (love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, etc)? Is possessing self- confidence essential to our salvation, or the salvation of those around us? Or is it much the opposite - should we be wary of an excess of self-confidence leading us astray into pride, arrogance, and contempt for others?

When I began medical school, I was under the naive, false, and somewhat arrogant impression that, having attended one of the highest-ranked undergraduate universities in the country, I had somehow garnered a superior education. Entering medical school was like a slap in the face. Not only did I realize that I had basically learned nothing of real value in college, I also realized that I was surrounded by extremely intelligent peers who were at the same time, on the whole, quite humble. I was myself humbled by this realization, as I was also by my own shameful lack of knowledge of many things, both about medicine and also about how to be a basically decent sort of human being who could perhaps be an asset to society.

Medical school is humbling in many ways. There are SO MANY things to know about the beautiful and complex human body that God created - it is impossible to know them all. You're never "done studying" for an exam in medical school - there's always so much more to learn, and when you realize this, you are painfully aware of your own ignorance in so many dimensions. It's never fun being pimped by an attending in the hospital, especially when you have no clue what nerve innervates the gracilis muscle and have to admit as much in front of your peers. It was a rough start at the beginning of first year, realizing that what I passed off as my own "intelligence" didn't amount to much since the fact of the matter was I didn't really know anything about anything.

But that's life. That's medical school. And I'm glad (well, if not "glad" exactly, then at least "grateful") that I was beaten down, humbled, embarrassed, slapped around a bit, because once I became aware of my own enormous limitations and weaknesses, not just as a medical student but also as a friend, sister, daughter, and Copt, then somehow, paradoxically, miraculously, for the first time in my life really, I began to be confident in myself. Because I stopped trying to find any kind of justification for my own existence within myself, and started finding my inner strength from my Creator who granted my existence in the first place.

This brings me back to my original question - is confidence a "spiritual" virtue? This is probably a question better answered by one older and wiser than I. But I know that though an army encamps against me, I will not fear; though war arise against me, yet I will be confident. I am confident that God made me as I am, that I am a sinful human being whom He will forgive when I pick myself up. Confident that I died and arose with Christ, confident that the Lord is my shield and will guide me in all my paths. Confident that what blessings I have, they have been given to me by Christ so that I may do good for others. Confident that my strength comes from the unshakable fortress that is Christ.

Do you see here that what I mean by "confidence" has nothing at all to do with "arrogance" or "cockiness?" On the contrary, when you are confident, it really displaces arrogance. Arrogance is not a manifestation of extreme confidence - it's not that self-confidence is somehow a graded scale sandwiched between humility at one extreme and arrogance at the other. Quite the opposite - I believe that arrogance is rather a shameful way of hiding the fact that one does not possess any self-confidence at all. One of my good friends has complete, 100% confidence in himself, and yet possesses not an ounce of arrogance; he is humbly aware of his own faults, and I have never witnessed him judge another human being in the time I have known him. This is the confidence I would like to have, one day, as an attending. The sort of confidence that allows room for prayer that God steadies my hand when I operate on a patient. The sort of confidence that obviates the need to beat down the residents and medical students working under me. Confidence is not pride. Confidence is as I have described above. Pride is "always looking down on things and people; and, of course, as long as you are looking down, you cannot see something that is above you." (C.S. Lewis).

*The title of this post, "Be Confident, Small Immortals," is a quote from Perelandra by C.S. Lewis, "Be confident small immortals.  You are not the only voice that all things utter, nor is there eternal silence in the places where you cannot come."

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