So many people struggle with thinking that they are not good enough (smart enough, attractive enough—check the box that fits). And it’s no wonder, given the mixed messages sent by our culture.
On the one hand, we’re told that we’ve all arrived, that we’re all winners, and that no one is better than anyone else. We all deserve a trophy and a pat on the back. Yeah for us! All of us!
But on the other hand, we’re told that if we just buy a certain product or “click here,” we’ll at last have that one thing that will make us ageless, thin, or smart.
Apparently, we really aren’t all acceptable just as we are. Hmmm.
I recently learned that the self-esteem movement began not long after prayer and Bible reading were removed from public schools in America. Psychologists recognized that they had to fill the vacuum left by the absence of God and the Judeo-Christian belief system, so they instilled in students the idea that they should turn inward for their source of strength and inspiration, instead of to God.
But without God, esteeming one’s self can lead to confusion, narcissism, and emptiness.
In that light, does self-esteem have any place in a Christian’s life? After all, the Bible emphasizes an attitude of humility, servitude, and selflessness.
Let another man praise thee, and not thine own mouth; a stranger, and not thine own lips. – Proverbs 27:2
I recently heard a wonderful answer to this question, as posed by Ben Schettler (click here for his entire presentation).
Schettler explains that Christians should have what he calls “God-esteem.”
In other words, we should esteem God so highly that we share his viewpoint of us. Created in his image and for his glory, we should take joy in the body, mind, soul, and spirit that he has given each of us, and determine to see ourselves as he does.
I will praise thee; for I am fearfully and wonderfully made: marvellous are thy works; and that my soul knoweth right well. – Psalm 139:14
God intentionally made us each unique, inputting our strengths as well as our weaknesses, so as to accomplish his purposes; and in Scripture, he emphasizes all that he can do through the less-than-ideal aspects of ourselves. As Paul said,
Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities…for Christ’s sake: for when I am weak, then am I strong. – II Corinthians 12:10
To have the type of healthy self-esteem, or God-esteem, that God wishes for us is connected to the condition of our hearts. If we’re focused on loving and living for him, the cultural definition of self-esteem won’t matter to us. There will be no more comparing ourselves to some unattainable ideal or even to each other. Instead, we’ll strive to be the best version of ourselves that we can be—not through the latest diet or beauty product, but by living a life pleasing to him.
Remember Job? In God’s eyes, he attained perfection, and he did it through his godly life.
There was a man in the land of Uz, whose name was Job; and that man was perfect and upright, and one that feared God, and eschewed evil. – Job 1:1
Have you ever struggled with low self-esteem? How have you dealt with it? I’d love to hear from you.
In Part 2 next week, I’ll discuss how body image plays into self-esteem.