Self-efficacy is a concept first formulated by psychologist and scholar Albert Bandura. It is the belief in one’s abilities to complete a particular task, which Bandura says is shaped by one’s past experiences, one’s whole context as a person.
We are our stories. This, in great part, determines our self-efficacy.
Melissa Schilling, in her book, “Quirky,” points to a high level of self-efficacy as one of the key factors in “serial breakthrough innovators”—the likes of Albert Einstein, Marie Curie, Thomas Edison, Nikola Tesla, Dean Kamen, Steve Jobs, Elon Musk.
These are men and women whose breakthrough innovations allow us to enjoy daily life. They produced groundbreaking technologies that impact our reality now and in the future.
From the simple light bulb to the transmission of electricity to our homes and factories, and from the basic X-ray to the first portable kidney dialysis machine, self-efficacy played a major role in getting these innovators to take on tasks others deemed impossible.
As Kamen—who’s best known as the inventor of Segway—would say, “Don’t tell me it’s impossible. Tell me you can’t do it.”
This is Christ’s exhortation to self-efficacy, having faith in oneself: “If you have faith the size of a mustard seed, you would say to this mulberry tree, ‘Be uprooted and planted in the sea,’ and it would obey you.”
Faith in oneself
Self-efficacy points out that it takes faith in oneself to complete a particular task. In the case of Musk, his innovation is inventing a reusable rocket, which Nasa, as well as the Russians and the Chinese, said was impossible.
Better known for his Tesla car, Musk also overcame one of the biggest arguments against an electric car—the ability to accelerate to a speed that will equal the conventional car. He is now working on the affordability of the electric car for a mass market.
In all this, his main concern was and still is the survival of humanity. Believing that our planet is dying, his passion for the electric car is to help lessen global warming. His reusable rocket project is to allow space travel to Mars where new colonies for humanity might be established to ease the pressure on Mother Earth.
His mission is to help ensure human survival. This is what inspires him. Self-efficacy is what drives him to come up with solutions that are seemingly impossible.
This is the faith that Christ talks about in today’s Gospel. The faith that can move mountains is not a faith of magic, but a faith in mission.
Do we believe we are doing what God wants us to do? In the realm of Christian faith, self-efficacy comes from one’s story as a sinner called by Christ to share in his work and mission. The call is both forgiveness and restoration.
The faith in one’s ability to do his or her mission, sharing in Christ’s mission, comes from the faith that St. Paul writes about (Galatians 2:20): “I live by faith in the Son of God who has loved me and given himself up for me.”
It is this faith that moves “mountains,” the mind, heart and soul of people who have dedicated their life to a dream larger than life, and devoted themselves to following Christ in suffering and humility.
St. Paul, St. Francis of Assisi, St. Teresa of Avila, St. Augustine, St. Ignatius of Loyola, St. Mother Teresa of Calcutta and Jean Vanier were among countless men and women who dreamed of and dedicated their life to building a better world. They saw a need of the world, and whose story developed the self-efficacy to respond to this need.
In responding to the call of Christ, our self-efficacy is transformed into faith in the one who calls us to take on our mission.
Mission is almost always related to our story of brokenness, part of our persona that we often fear and avoid, if not deny. But we must remember that Christ is the wounded healer, and through his suffering and death, his passion and cross, he made possible his and our future resurrection.
Our faith is a faith in his Cross and Resurrection, believing that “in dying to self we are born into eternal life.” The promise and hope of the Resurrection becomes the horizon of our life. It is within this horizon that our self-efficacy assumes the power of faith in Christ.
One final reflection on mission from the perspective of this Sunday’s Gospel: “When you have done everything you were ordered to do, say, ‘We are unworthy servants. We have done what it was our duty to do.’”
Mission gives us the freedom to offer everything to God, to Christ, through sharing in his life, suffering and death as passage to a life lived with joy, in love and in service. And in the end, we are deeply grateful.
This is the freedom of one who has lived his mission well. This is beautifully portrayed in the story of the final stage in the life of St. Thomas Aquinas, the man who influenced Catholic philosophy and theology for centuries. To this day, his work is studied in seminaries and most Catholic schools.
He is a man of great self-efficacy and faith that made him one of the pillars of the church.
It is said that in the middle of writing his final work, his magnum opus, he stopped.
When asked by his community why, he supposedly responded that he had encountered Christ and nothing else mattered.
This is our reward at the end of mission, a mission lived with great self-efficacy and great faith. After we have done what God wants us to do.
We are rewarded with an extraordinary experience of Christ’s presence in us. “I have been crucified with Christ; yet I live, no longer I, but Christ lives in me…” (Galatians 2:20) Truly nothing else will matter. Amen. —CONTRIBUTED