Confidence in the Lord of the Dance

2018.02.25_Confidence in the Lord of the Dance_Paul Patton.jpg

“Humility is confidence properly placed.” –Neil T. Anderson, from his book Bondage Breaker

King David was confident in the midst of battle. Even when threatened with death and enemies all around, he sings that his confidence in the Lord, his light and salvation, never falters (Psalm 27: 1-3).

A lack of confidence can keep us out of some important and necessary battles. It can keep us sitting out a lot of dances. David, it seems, knew the “Lord of the Dance.”

I was raised in a Christian environment where dancing was frowned upon. My religious tradition simply chose to exclude any form of dance as legitimate cultural expression. It is the same prohibition that set the scene for the movie and subsequent musical production, Footloose. But when dance is prohibited, the body typically rebels.

In grade school, I was excused from dance classes that took up a couple of weeks of the physical education curriculum. In 5th grade I was certainly too young to authentically own any religious prohibitions on dancing; but I appreciated the excuse for not having to participate in the highly vulnerable act of initiating requests for a dance partner, thankfully escaping the potential humiliation of being turned down. So, I sat out the ordeal: hey, it was “against my religion.” So, I had a religious “excuse” for avoiding my lack of social confidence and insecurity.

Then I got to high school in the late 1960’s and attended a school dance for the first time. I went on my own and stayed on the sideline.

And I watched.

I remembered one couple especially, the fellow a teammate on the school basketball team. He and his dance partner were magnificent. Their joy in expression, thoroughly in the moment, demonstrated (show-offs) a compelling freedom. Their disciplined exuberance about life and the possibilities of partnership looked intoxicating. But I lacked the skills, the experience, and the fearlessness (which sometimes makes up for some of what is lacking) to join them on the dance floor. I wasn’t even willing to embark on the infamous “funky chicken,” a dance option for the underdeveloped and under-confident.

Living with the dance prohibitions meant I had missed out on some cultural opportunities to express a lot of things in a variety of paces. I never thought I could dance. I still feel challenged, a bit threatened, at the occasional wedding reception where all celebrators are invited, then coaxed to join the wedding party on the floor. Even after three bouts of dance lessons with my wife—the third course curtailed after feeling lost in the flurry of instruction—it is not one of life’s informed joys for me.

My lack of confidence kept me off the dance floor. The only remedy—if I wanted it—was to keep trying. But I lacked the confidence.

My lack of confidence has kept me out of some important, necessary dances that some might call battles.

Oh, and, by the way, King David was also an uninhibited dancer.

Paul D. Patton, Ph.D., is a professor of communication and theater at Spring Arbor University in Michigan. He has graduate degrees in Guidance and Counseling, Religious Education, and Script and Screenwriting, and a doctorate in Communication with an emphasis in theater arts. He has been married to his wife Beth for over forty years and has three daughters (all actresses)—Jessica, Emily, and Grace, three sons-in-law, David, Joe, and Eric, and four grandsons, Caleb Rock, Logan Justice, Micah Blaze, and Miles Dean.