Self-Esteem and You

Self esteem is a topic that fires hot discussions among the Christian community, and with good reason. The first sin, the sin of the devil before he was cast down to earth, was the sin of pride. (See Isaiah 14:12-15.) Sometimes we have a hard time distinguishing between a sinful pride in our hearts and a healthy love for our unique selves as made by God. That's why the hot discussions and misunderstandings.

So here's my take on this issue, forged in the fiery furnace of trials....

In January of 2008, my husband had a psychotic episode (aka: "nervous breakdown") which landed him not only in the hospital, but led to an entire year in a locked ward of a nursing home. As it turned out, the year of professional care was good for both of us and gave me a chance to get my bearings and deal with my own response to the emotional roller coaster of the previous ten years or so.

Anyway, the year before, 2007, in May, we celebrated our 20th wedding anniversary. I turned 50 that year, too, and had been struggling with menopause symptoms for a couple of years. Not the health kind of symptoms, like hot flashes, but the mental health kind of symptoms. Explanation of those symptoms will have to be saved for another article, but suffice it to say that I had a real crisis of doubting my self-worth along with a lot of irrational thoughts that I didn't seem to be able to control.

I felt like that 20th anniversary needed a real celebration, so I planned a party in the park. One of the decorations I bought for the party was a large mylar balloon in the shape of a sun, which had a big smiley face on it and the words "God loves you." I intended to give the balloon to some special person after the party, but lacked the confidence, and it's just as well because I was really the person who needed that balloon.

(By the way, I think the whole topic of finding the confidence to give gifts to others needs to be explored. I don't know if others struggle with that, but my husband and I both have had serious problems in that area. But that's for another time....)

After the party, I hung up the deflated balloon on the kitchen wall across from where I had my morning Bible time every day. I left it up for a long time because it seemed to bring me great comfort to sit and look at that smiley sun and think about God's love for me every morning.

During the early months of 2008 when my husband was hospitalized, I was on the road a lot going back and forth to visit him. On those drives, I stumbled across the radio program of Joyce Meyers, "Enjoying Everyday Life."

It was amazing how much of her teaching reinforced the things I felt I was learning directly from the Lord. She spoke of spending an entire year meditating on and studying God's love for her in order to get a "revelation" of that love from her brain into her heart. If you've ever listened to her, you know that she suffered a lot of abuse as a child. The result was what she calls a "shame-based" view of herself. The revelation of God's love was the only way she could get past the shame of the abuse she had suffered.

I realized that my months of looking at that balloon were my way of getting past the shame of the previous few years, and getting a revelation that I was specially loved in the eyes of God!

And you are, too.

And that's what a healthy self-esteem is all about for a Christian. It's realizing that God sent His only begotten Son to give His life so that you and I can live forever in heaven with God. He loves us that much. He loved you that much and He loved me that much.

God is no "respecter of persons." (Acts 10:34.) That means that a person who is, say, really strong and healthy is no more dearly loved by God than one who is sickly and weak. The physically beautiful person is no more loved than someone with a disfiguring handicap. The genius is no more loved than the person with mental retardation.

That doesn't make sense to our natural minds. We have to accept God's love by faith.

So how can you tell the difference between basking in the love of God or promoting oneself from an evil heart of pride? Here are some signs that you have a (scripturally) healthy self concept.

Signs of the right kind of self esteem for a Christian:

1. Your attitude toward others will be one of helpfulness and acceptance, not of competition and comparison. You will feel and act from love and not jealousy.

Whosoever shall confess that Jesus is the Son of God,

God dwelleth in him, and he in God.

And we have known and believed the love that God hath to us.

God is love; and he that dwelleth in love dwelleth in God, and God in him."

1 John 4:15-16

Let nothing be done through strife or vainglory;

but in lowliness of mind let each esteem other better than themselves.

Look not every man on his own things, but every man also on the things of others.

Philippians 2:3-4

2. You will come to value, and even welcome, the pain of contrition. Do you like reading Psalm 51? Or does it make you squirm? A Christian with a healthy self-esteem can look at his or her own behavior through the filter of the Scriptures without losing hope, understanding that it's the truth that sets us free. This results in an ability to take responsibility for our mistakes while resting secure in God's love.

The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit:

a broken and a contrite heart, O God, thou wilt not despise.

Psalm 51:17

Sing unto the LORD, O ye saints of his,

and give thanks at the remembrance of his holiness.

For his anger endureth but a moment; in his favour is life:

weeping may endure for a night, but joy cometh in the morning.

Psalm 30:4-5

3. You will be able to pray with boldness.  You won't grovel before God's throne assuming He doesn't want to do anything for you.

Let us therefore come boldly unto the throne of grace,

that we may obtain mercy, and find grace to help in time of need.

Hebrews 4:16

Then shall ye call upon me, and ye shall go and pray unto me, and I will hearken unto you.

And ye shall seek me, and find me, when ye shall search for me with all your heart.

And I will be found of you, saith the LORD....

Jeremiah 29:12-14a

4. You will know that anything you have been able to accomplish was really done by the Lord working in and through you. (Note: In the KJV, the word "wrought" means "worked.")

For it is God which worketh in you both to will and to do of his good pleasure.

Philippians 2:13

LORD, thou wilt ordain peace for us: for thou also hast wrought all our works in us.

Isaiah 26:12

(For he that wrought effectually in Peter to the apostleship of the circumcision,

the same was mighty in me toward the Gentiles:)

Paul, in Galatians 2:8

5. You will be able to like yourself, the unique and gifted person God made you to be. You won't be constantly comparing yourself or your lot in life with others and finding yourself coming up short. Instead, you will accept God's design and plan for your life.

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

For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, saith the LORD,

thoughts of peace, and not of evil, to give you an expected end.

Jeremiah 29:11

6. You will have a healthy balance between humility and confidence. Consider the life of Jesus. He was humble but also bold and confident before God.

Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus:

Who, being in the form of God, thought it not robbery to be equal with God:

But made himself of no reputation, and took upon him the form of a servant,

and was made in the likeness of men:

And being found in fashion as a man, he humbled himself,

and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross.

Wherefore God also hath highly exalted him,

and given him a name which is above every name:

That at the name of Jesus every knee should bow,

of things in heaven, and things in earth, and things under the earth;

And that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.

Philippians 2:5-11

In whom we have boldness and access with confidence by the faith of him.

Ephesians 3:12

Hopefully, I have been able to express what I believe to be the Biblical truth that God wants us to like ourselves and have a healthy self concept. Sometimes a confident Christian may look like a person with pride, but God sees the heart. If you are dealing honestly with God on a regular basis, confessing your sins and weaknesses and seeking your strength from Him, there is no reason why you should be beating yourself up or indulging in negative self-talk (a topic for another time!)

God bless you!


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