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I recently had an epiphany about a contradiction that has long troubled me:

How can a Christian man display confidence while “seeing others as better than ourselves” and avoiding vain conceit?

The passage in question is Philippians 2:3:

Let nothing be done through strife or vainglory; but in lowliness of mind let each esteem other better than themselves.

Upon examining the passage closely, I realized this is a frequently misunderstood verse. The context is about selfish rivalries and empty pride.

Think of a situation with two co-workers. One gets a promotion. The other does not. The one who didn’t get the promotion feels he was more deserving of the position instead of acknowledging that the other is more valuable to the company.

Or think of wealthy people vs. poor people. Many poor people feel they deserve the money of the wealthy. But they don’t acknowledge that wealthy people are more diligent than poor people.

Or think of a man who gets “oneitis.” He feels he would be a better lover than the man who won the girl over him. But his ego blinds him from learning from a superior man.

Or think of a wife who feels she would be a better leader than her husband. Yet she does not appreciate that men are uniquely designed to lead.

There will always be someone more gifted or higher ranked than us in some area. Even someone who is overall lower status than us will be better/more gifted in some area. Paul wants us to focus on and appreciate the strengths of others rather than assuming that we’re not getting what we deserve.

But this doesn’t mean a man can’t display his strengths or act like a superior to a woman. But we shouldn’t fool ourselves when comparing ourselves to other men. And we shouldn’t fail to acknowledge the gifts of our wives that we ourselves lack.