The Fine Line Between Inferiority and Superiority


I’ve been dealing with a lot of students this year who are emotionally paralyzed because they’ve listened to lies of the enemy versus embracing God’s promises.  This is quite a common mistake we’ve all made, filtering our faith through the terribly skewed lens of this world.

Israel’s first king, Saul was one who bought into self-reliance, success, and public opinion…the very reasons he was removed from the throne.  Samuel the prophet was dispatched to Bethlehem to anoint the new king among Jesse’s sons.  We see immediately the conflict between trusting in human standards versus God’s as Samuel pursues the most “kingly,” God tells him to look elsewhere.  “Looks aren’t everything. Don’t be impressed with his looks and stature. I’ve already eliminated him. God judges persons differently than humans do. Men and women look at the face; God looks into the heart” (1 Samuel 16:7).

The runt of Jesse’s children wasn’t even summoned to appear before Samuel.  We can speculate that David battled feelings of abandonment, alienation, marginalization, often the roots of inferiority.  Inferiority is the feeling of low self-esteem, intense insecurity, or not measuring up.  At an early age, we learn how to compare ourselves to others, often not measuring up to our peers.  This leads to discouragement, self-deprecation, making up excuses, and giving up when faced with tasks or problems in life we feel we won’t succeed in.

The Causes of Inferiority

  • ATTRIBUTES.  “Samuel saw Eliab and thought, “Sure the Lord’s anointed stands here before the Lord” (v.11).  David was certainly not the obvious candidate when measured up next to his brother Eliab.  Simply because of what we look like, our stature or physical characteristics we disqualify ourselves.
  • ABILITY.  Eliab was a very capable soldier while David played a mean harp.  We put too much attention on what people can produce versus who they are.  They have abilities but do they have character?  And we need people with different skill sets…if everyone could do everything, the we wouldn’t need anyone, not even God.
  • ACCEPTANCE.  “Are these all the sons you have?” (v. 11).   They didn’t even see fit to include him David, the lesser, the inferior, unassuming runt. Children learn at early age they’re not their parents’ favorite and are very aware of the areas they’re lacking in.  This would become a cycle in David’s life feeling rejected by his brother at the frontline, King Saul who tried to kill him, his wife Michel who despised him, and his son Absalom who betrayed him.

The Effects of Inferiority

  • Discouragement occurs when we feel we have nothing to hope for, look forward to.  We can here David’s anguish in the Psalms:
    “give me relief from my distress; how long will You turn my glory into shame?”
    “consider my sighing, listen to my cry for help, my soul is in anguish, how long, o Lord?”
    “I am worn out from groaning, I flood my bed with weeping, my eyes grow weak with sorrow”
  • Defeat began to settle in David’s heart.  We feel like giving up, that God has cursed us and destined us for failure.  “It’s no use.”
  • Wasted Potential.  We buy into lies and never fulfill our dreams or God’s plans for our lives.  And if we give up, something is left undone.  I wonder how many unfinished symphonies, unmatched records, unwritten books, undiscovered cures, unreached people there are because someone bowed to inferiority.
  • Superiority.  Strangely, another effect is a delusional self-image of greatness, importance, or extraordinary ability.  These are the show offs who can’t compete in productive ways and the air of preponderance is covering their inability.  David developed this idea of being invincible, even to the point of disappointing God (committing adultery with Bathsheba (2 Samuel 11) and counting his fighting men (2 Samuel 24:15-17).  We are warned to “put no confidence in the flesh”  (Philippians 3:3), but we do it anyway in the name of success.  Success is the enemy of obedience.

The Solution of Inferiority
David, at an early age developed a simple dependence on God by seeing how his sheep depended on him.  We see his inspiration for Psalm 23.  No one believed in him or had confidence him.  He rose to prominence because God said “I HAVE CHOSEN HIM!”

  • David knew Who God is.
    “O LORD, our Lord, the majesty of your name fills the earth! Your glory is higher than the heavens.  I look up at your macro-skies, dark and enormous, your handmade sky-jewelry, Moon and stars mounted in their settings” (Psalm 8:1,3).
  • David knew who he was.
    “Then I look at my micro-self and wonder, Why do you bother with us? Why take a second look our way?” (Psalm 8:4).
    “I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well” (Psalm 139:14).
  • David knew what he needed to do.
    “O God, you are my God. At dawn I search for you. My soul thirsts for you. My body longs for you in a dry, parched land where there is no water” (Psalm 63:1).
    “Your word is a lamp for my feet and a light for my path” (Psalm 119:105).
    “God, teach me lessons for living so I can stay the course. 34 Give me insight so I can do what you tell me – my whole life one long, obedient response” (Psalm 119:33-34).
  • David knew where his strength came from.
    “Some trust in chariots and some in horses, but we trust in the name of the LORD our God” (Psalm 20:7).
    “I lift up my eyes to the hills– where does my help come from?  My help comes from the LORD, the Maker of heaven and earth” (Psalm 121:1-2).
  • David knew how to conquer his enemy:  Get out of God’s way!  “This day the LORD will hand you over to me, and I’ll strike you down and cut off your head. Today I will give the carcasses of the Philistine army to the birds of the air and the beasts of the earth, and the whole world will know that there is a God in Israel. All those gathered here will know that it is not by sword or spear that the LORD saves; for the battle is the LORD’s, and he will give all of you into our hands. (1 Samuel 17:46-47).
    “The LORD is my light and my salvation– whom shall I fear? The LORD is the stronghold of my life– of whom shall I be afraid? When evil men advance against me to devour my flesh, when my enemies and my foes attack me, they will stumble and fall. Though an army besiege me, my heart will not fear; though war break out against me, even then will I be confident” (Psalm 27:1-3).

“Open up before God, keep nothing back; he’ll do whatever needs to be done: He’ll validate your life in the clear light of day and stamp you with approval at high noon” (Psalm 37:5-6).


For reflection:

  • In what ways am I battling inferiority?  Remember, GOD is able.
  • In what areas am I having trouble trusting God?  Remember, GOD is trustworthy
  • What areas have I left unfinished because of failure/fear of failure?  Remember, GOD is victorious.

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