I want to be bold. I want to live a life that makes a difference and one where people don’t have to wonder who I really am or what I believe. I think that’s good. Right?
Lately, as I study the scriptures, I have been encouraged by the boldness of Jesus and his followers. Interestingly, what is standing out to me is what boldness is not.
As a personality expert, I spend an abnormal amount of time analyzing my personality type and it is, in most every way, bold. I’m not afraid to speak my mind (which does come in handy since I am a speaker), wear loud clothing or make decisions and stand by them. But, I’m slowly realizing that a big, loud personality is not the same thing as boldness — at least not boldness that is effective.
So, here are the top four things boldness is not:
1. Boldness is not arrogance.
If I’m not careful, I can really twist this up. All it takes is a moment of self-righteousness and an attitude that says, “I am right. You are wrong,” to come off as arrogant. Even if those words never come out of your mouth, the attitude of your heart is always evident to others.
2. Boldness is not jumping up to be heard.
When I try to visualize what boldness looks like, I see a brave — loud — person standing up in a room full of people and making some controversial, but important statement. Others applaud while some mock or get angry and, I cheer them on. Why? Because I like their courage. (It’s my personality’s issue, again.) But the kind of boldness that matters does not demand a crowd.
3. Boldness is not creating your own flashes of glory.
Effective boldness waits and intently watches for opportunities composed by God as grand and divine appointments, then seizes the moment. It’s more about being obedient and following the leading of the Holy Spirit than trying to manufacture times of intervention.
4. Boldness is not kicking opponents to the curb.
Too often, we want to draw lines and pick fights in the name of boldness. When others don’t agree with us, we may think we are being “bold” by taking strong stands and sending challengers packing. We may feel better about ourselves for being so “strong,” but what we haven’t done is made any kind of difference.
So what does effective boldness look like?
When I wrote King Hezekiah, Examining a Life of Bold Faith, I discovered a few insights about boldness. Hezekiah was one of the boldest people I’ve ever read about, but he wasn’t arrogant and he wasn’t just trying to make his point — he had to wait on the Lord to put him in a position for effectiveness, and he understood his opposition. Let me tell you what he was that was so effective in turning the hearts of people: he was honest.
As soon as Hezekiah was crowned king, his first priority was being honest with the people. He neither sugar-coated the mess they were in nor dwelt upon it. Later, when he found himself in desperation, facing death, he was honest before God in prayer. He held nothing back. Later yet, when he faced serious threats from a ruthless enemy, he was honest before God and his people about what could and should be done in order to be victorious. It was his ability to speak truth about circumstances and about God that made him so effective as a leader and as a king. Hezekiah was not perfect, nor did he always do the right thing, but he was truthful before God and before his people, and I believe God honored the integrity of his heart.
That is what boldness means. It means honesty with yourself, with God, and with others. It means you have integrity in your heart that produces truth from your mouth.
A young lady I mentor sent me a podcast from a church in my home state of Missouri this week. To my delight, the speaker addressed this issue of boldness. He stressed the point that the biggest differences are made in the lives of others through the small moments when we speak the truth. We don’t need to be scripted, calculated or even prepared. We just need to tell the truth.
For example, when someone asks you how your day is going, tell them the truth. When someone asks you what you think about a controversial issue, tell them the truth. When they want to know how you do what you do and stay happy or sane, tell the truth. In doing so, the true believer and follower of Christ will always point back to him. Like this:
How am I doing today? Better than I deserve because God is gracious.
How do I do it? I depend on God for everything. He is my everything.
What do I think about that issue? Well, I do my best to know and trust God’s word and I’ve surrendered to what he has to say about it.
See how that works?
Perhaps if I would shift my energy from trying to impress, remain neutral, be inoffensive or from being fearful of rejection, I could reroute that energy into focusing on simple honesty that points to Christ. Now that’s bold.