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Self-Esteem From a Christian Perspective

By Pastor William R. Cunningham
Sunday April 23, 2006

 

Matthew 22:37-39 (NKJV) -- {37} Jesus said to him, ‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ {38} This is the first and great commandment. {39} And the second is like it: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’

Jesus was asked what the greatest commandment is.  He said that it is to love the LORD God with all that is within us.  He also continued by saying the second commandment is to love your neighbor as ourselves.  This is second statement is based on a standard not a commandment.  Matthew 7:12 is a similar concept. 

This is not a command to love ourselves, but an assumption or standard that we have to use to love others.  Similarly Jesus said that we should treat others based on how we would want to be treated in Matthew 7:12.   Love should be thought of here as a general well-being for ourselves and should not be confused with self-pride or the like.  True self-esteem (self-love) does not promote selfishness.  True self-love that comes from God spawns love for others as well as self.

  • Why is it that what others think of us or say about us is so important to us?
  • Why do the opinions of others affect us so much?
  • What others think of us influences the way that we think of ourselves?
  • God has given us the amazing ability to rise above our past and the things that have influenced us and affected us in the past
  • Stephen Glen, an advisor on child development to several US presidents said that we can realize the God-given capacity to rise above our past influences by believing three things.
    1. We are capable people who can think, lean, and change
    2. Our lives are significant and have meaning
    3. We can determine how we let things that happen to us in life affect us.  We have to believe that there is much that we can do through our actions, prayers, choices, commitments, and faith to influence the events in our lives.

What is Self-Esteem

The word “esteem” means favorable regard.  It is the condition of being honored or well regarded.  It is a feeling of delighted approval and liking.  Self-esteem is therefore ones regard for self.  Self-esteem is to honor and think favorably of oneself.

Self-esteem is a major part of our life.  However, the source of this self-esteem is also very important.

Most of the feelings about ourselves are established when we were children.  Many people suffer from a low self-esteem, which leads to many other problems in their lives.  Self-esteem could for example lead to depression and even a life of oppression and crime as one strives to feel good about themselves.

Causes of Low self-esteem

  1. Physical features – People may suffer from a low self-esteem because of a physical feature that they may have.  Some may feel less of themselves because of their weight, shape of their nose or many other things.
  2. Lack of education – People may have a low self-esteem because they do not have as much of a formal education as someone else.
  3. Physical or Emotional Abuse – Some people suffer from a low self-esteem because of past physical or emotional abuse.
  4. Sin – One of the greatest causes of self-esteem is sin.  We look back on our past deem ourselves unworthy of love and therefore develop a low self-esteem.

Characteristics of Low Self-Esteem

  1. Substance abuse – We attempt to hide from our true feelings of ourselves by drug abuse and the like.
  2. Sexual Promiscuity – Some submit themselves to anyone that show any form of affection in search of a better perception of themselves.
  3. A judgmental spirit – The attempt to exalt oneself or demean others due to our own low self-esteem
  4. Materialism – The belief that if we could surround our things with nice things that we would overcome the feeling of insecurity and low self-esteem.

Examples of Low Self-Esteem

The following are taken from “Exploring Christianity” website (http://www.christianity.co.nz)

Norman Vincent Peale, in Power of the Plus Factor, tells how he came across a tattoo studio in Kowloon in Hong Kong. In the window, among samples of words or images one could have tattooed on one's body, were the words Born to lose. Peal says:

I entered the shop in astonishment and, pointing to those words, asked the Chinese tattoo artist, "Does anyone really have that terrible phrase, Born to lose, tattooed on his body?"
He replied, "Yes, sometimes."

"But," I said, "I just can't believe that anyone in his right mind would do that."
The Chinese man simply tapped his forehead and said in broken English, "Before tattoo on body, tattoo on mind."

In her book Your Child's Self-Esteem, Dorothy Corkville Briggs, educator and child counsellor, says:

Your child's judgment of himself influences the kinds of friends he chooses, how he gets along with others, the kind of person he marries, and how productive he will be. It affects his creativity, integrity, stability, and even whether he will be a leader or follower. His feelings of self-worth form the core of his personality and determine the use he makes of his aptitudes and abilities. His attitude towards himself has a direct bearing on how he lives all parts of his life. In fact, self-esteem is the mainspring that slates every child for success or failure as a human being.

Types of Self-Esteem

First let me say that the Bible does not indicate that we shoulding think highly of ourselves. The problem may come when we think of ourselves more highly than we should or with a prideful attitude (See Romans 12:3). There are at least two types of self-esteem.  The first is a worldly based esteem that is focused on self.  This type of self-esteem is the exaltation of self.

Luke 18:10-14 (NKJV) -- {10} “Two men went up to the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. {11} The Pharisee stood and prayed thus with himself, ‘God, I thank You that I am not like other men—extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even as this tax collector. {12} I fast twice a week; I give tithes of all that I possess.’ {13} And the tax collector, standing afar off, would not so much as raise his eyes to heaven, but beat his breast, saying, ‘God, be merciful to me a sinner!’ {14} I tell you, this man went down to his house justified rather than the other; for everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted.”

We see here how the Pharisee had an esteem that was based on self.  He was judgmental of whom he considered lower than himself.  This type of self-esteem is indeed prevalent in the world and is active in many disciplines.  Religious people think they are more special than someone else because of their religious activity or the like.  They look down on people they consider less pious then themselves.  This type of self-esteem is not of God.

The second type of self-esteem is based on a Christian perspective.  This second type of self-esteem is based on God’s view of us and not merely our view of our own self.  You realize that you are who you are because of Jesus Christ.  You also realize that you are really not better than anyone else.  Our occupations don’t make us better than anyone.  Our education doesn’t make us better than anyone.  We are who we are because of God and not because of ourselves.

The Way Out

How can we cure our low self-esteem?  We can have a healthy good self-esteem, but the source of that self-esteem is critical in this case.  If our self-esteem is based on self then we can never have a healthy self-esteem.  If you suffer from low self-esteem then realize that you can turn it around.

A good self-esteem is not merely to feel good about oneself since that would be an esteem based on self.  A good self-esteem is not based on what others think of you or even what you think of yourself since these tend to be superficial.  The way to a good healthy self-esteem is given below.

  1. Know who you are – We were made in the image of God.  We are special beings to God with whom God desires fellowship.
  2. Know that we have been redeemed by Jesus Christ.  God demonstrated His love for us showing how special we are to him.  See 1 John 4:10, John 3:16.
  3. Know that we are accepted by God because of the blood of Jesus Christ.
  • We should consider that God loves us intimately
  • Remember that God wants us and he demonstrated that love for us by sacrificing His son, Jesus Christ (Romans 5:8).
  • Our true value is in the fact that God loves us.  God does not love us because we are valuable.  We are valuable because He loves us
  • However the realization of the above is directly proportionate to our realization of the reality of God.
  • We are the object of God’s love and affection.

 

Self-esteem is not a realization of worth because the fact is that we are not worthy of anything.  True self-esteem is based on who we are in Christ and what God has bestowed upon us, namely His love.  We should realize that we are esteemed by God and it doesn’t matter what others think of us or even what we think of ourselves in regards to truth.  However, we can allow external opinions to cloud who we are and override God’s esteem for us.

Philippians 2:3-4 (NKJV) -- {3} Let nothing be done through selfish ambition or conceit, but in lowliness of mind let each esteem others better than himself. {4} Let each of you look out not only for his own interests, but also for the interests of others.

 

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