“I don’t have a feeling of inferiority. Never had. I’m as good as anybody, never better.”– Katherine Johnson, Mathematician
NASA Mathematician Katherine Johnson is one of the subjects of the movie Hidden Figures which highlights the achievements of the African-American female scientists who contributed to successful US space flights. Though Johnson and her cohorts were initially deemed inferior and assigned lesser roles than their accomplishments deserved because of their race and gender; she states above she did not internally hold feelings of INFERIORITY— the condition of being lower in status or quality than another or others. Katherine Johnson was the exception, not the rule in many ways, including maintaining confidence despite the incredible odds stacked against her. Her mathematical prowess did not bring feelings of superiority. Her grace and humility held that we all have good to offer others.
Psychologist Dr. Alfred Adler coined the term “Inferiority Complex” to mean an intense personal feeling of inadequacy often resulting in the belief that one is in some way deficient, or inferior, to others. He suggested feelings of inferiority may be brought about by childhood upbringing (e.g. being consistently compared unfavorably to a sibling), by physical and mental limitations, or experiences of lower social status. These can cause one to behave in ways that attempt to compensate for feelings of inadequacy.
Have you ever suffered from an inferiority complex? Do you compare yourself to others and find yourself lacking? Does this cause you to hide your giftedness and miss out on opportunities?
The Apostle Paul dealt with this problem. He states in 1 Corinthians 15:9 For I am the least of the apostles and do not even deserve to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God. Paul did not walk with Jesus as a disciple, nor experience His teaching and miracles. He did not witness His crucifixion, resurrection, appearances, or ascension. We can only imagine the shame and regret he must have felt after it was revealed in Acts 9 that he had not only been persecuting Christ followers, but Jesus Himself. Though he authored much of the canonized New Testament, Paul was criticized because his presence and speaking were not as powerful as even the “false apostles” that arose and were commanding audiences in his day. In 2 Cor 5:11a he writes, “But I don’t consider myself inferior in any way to these “super apostles”… I may be unskilled as a speaker, but I’m not lacking in knowledge.” In 2 Cor 12:11b he says, You ought to be writing commendations for me, for I am not at all inferior to these “super apostles,” even though I am nothing at all.” Paul, like Katherine Johnson, soberly and accurately retained his personal worth despite the obstacles placed before him. Negative comparisons and demeaning judgments did not make him inferior. Paul humbly recognized Christ had chosen and promoted Him, and He was leading and serving only by God’s grace.