Reforming Our View of Self-Esteem
by Bob Burridge ©2018
A quick search for “self-esteem” on Google reported about 68½ million weblinks available on that topic. Reading some of those articles confirms that it’s a wide-spread concern. The Merriam-Webster dictionary defines “Self-Esteem” as primarily, “a confidence and satisfaction in oneself: Self-Respect” but also defines it in a secondary sense as “self-conceit”.
Psychology Today in its article “What Is Self-Esteem?” says that possessing little self-esteem “can lead people to become depressed, to fall short of their potential, or to tolerate abusive situations and relationships.” It also warned that too much self-esteem, “results in an off-putting sense of entitlement and an inability to learn from failures.”
As those who trust in the Bible as God’s word, we need to carefully examine how we should view ourselves. We are surrounded by ideas about our self-image that are not based upon God’s revealed truth that tells us who we are and why we are here. What we believe needs to be re-formed, poured back into the mold God has given to us in Scripture.
We are each brought into this world to be an integral part of God’s unfolding plan of the ages. The primary purpose of every individual here in this life on Earth is to promote the glory of our Creator, each in the particular way God has designed. That’s the purpose of everything he made in all the universe.
Psalm 19:1-2, “… The heavens declare the glory of God, and the sky above proclaims his handiwork. Day to day pours out speech, and night to night reveals knowledge.”
Colossians 1:16, “For by him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities–all things were created through him and for him.”
Some who deserve nothing as fallen sinners, are adopted by an amazing grace into God’s family as his beloved children. These objects of our Redeemer’s love need to accept and appreciate the particular role God gives to each of them. Some will have great talents and outward benefits in this life, while others are less talented and enriched. But each is an important part of God’s great plan. Rather than comparing ourselves to others, we need to humbly and thankfully do our best to fulfill the role in which God has cast us. We should learn to be thankful for any little part we can play in the grand unfolding of our Creator’s purposes.
Sadly, those who fail to trust in the promise of God in Christ are more concerned about their own self-esteem than they are about esteeming their Creator. God’s warnings of his justice and wrath remind us where to place our hope and confidence. It’s not in ourselves. It’s in the grace of the one who died to redeem us.
Our view of ourselves, of others, and of all that happens needs to be God-centered not creature-centered. It means keeping this bigger picture in focus.
We should not center our outlook upon how we “feel” about ourselves, or about how we think others “feel” about us. From the smallest daily task to the most demanding project we take on, we should never forget our purpose in God’s larger plan. We are here to promote the glory of God in every circumstance that is brought into our lives.
1 Corinthians 10:31, “So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.”
We all should strive to do our best in all things, while keeping in mind that all we accomplish is by God’s enablement. Every success should move us to thank and praise God for what he has done for us and through us. Every failure, carelessness, or mistake should humble us and teach us to strive to do better next time by God’s help.
The danger is that in our fallen condition we tend to focus too much attention upon what we or others might think about our accomplishments, personality, or appearance. This should not be our primary concern. Vanity and pride are denounced as sinful attitudes in God’s word.
Psalm 31:23, “Love the LORD, all you his saints! The LORD preserves the faithful but abundantly repays the one who acts in pride.”
Proverbs 16:18, “Pride goes before destruction, and a haughty spirit before a fall.”
Isaiah 2:17, “And the haughtiness of man shall be humbled, and the lofty pride of men shall be brought low, and the LORD alone will be exalted in that day.”
The Bible often commends individuals and groups of believers for their accomplishments and spiritual growth. The focus in those commendations is the work of God’s grace and power in those being mentioned. These comments are not there to build up their ego or self-pride. When we see the good results of efforts we have made, we should be humbly thankful to God that he has made us what we are, and has graciously used us very imperfect creatures to advance a part of his over-all plan. This is a more biblical understanding of what we might call “Self-Esteem”.
It’s perfectly fine to try to look our best, to come across to others in a friendly and respectful manner, and to do well in our every task. But there should not be an obsessive concern about our self-image. Our concern ought to be that we show a proper respect for others, for the work we are called to do, and for the glory of our Savior whom we are here to represent. We should not be trying to out-do others in these areas to appear better than or even equal with them.
We should never disrespect God’s plan for others or for ourselves by comparing what we are in God’s plan with what others are in that bigger scheme of things. It rejects God’s wisdom and power when we are concerned that we are not as attractive, intelligent, healthy, or talented as others. Our attitude toward others ought to be to build them up in a way that they too will focus their attention upon growing spiritually, doing their best with what they have, and giving glory to God in all things. It is also tragic when we take personal pride in being more blessed than others. If God has given us more than others, it should humble us and make us thankful to use those blessings to honor our Creator.
Our attention should be centered upon three basic things.
1. We should keep in mind the goal and purpose of all we are and do.
We should not be focused upon trying to impress others or even upon trying to impress ourselves. Instead our focus should be upon how we can best accomplish what God has given us to do. This applies to every responsibility and task. It ranges from the big projects to our daily duties such as preparing meals, doing dishes, paying bills, mowing the lawn, disciplining and encouraging our children, encouraging our spouse, taking part in worship at church, shopping, making repairs, commuting — and so on. These things are not to be done to show ourselves to be better than others, or even that we are as good as others. The motivation is to do the best we are individually able to do in the service of our God.
2. We should consider how God has prepared us for each circumstance and task.
We need to call upon any past teaching and training God has provided that helps shape us to handle whatever comes along. We should remember the experiences God brought our way that help us handle our responsibilities better. We should also admit and learn from past mistakes or disobediences which God uses to teach us what not to do. What is past can’t be repaired. Rather than seeing those things as failures, we need to view them as learning experiences allowed by our loving, forgiving, and concerned Heavenly Father.
3. We should face every circumstance in a way that honors God’s revealed principles.
We need to stay within the moral boundaries spelled out in God’s word, and consider any specific instructions in Scripture that should be followed while we do each specific task, and face each circumstance. We should never transgress God’s revealed principles for life to advance our own selfish goals or to impress others.
We should ask ourselves, “How can I do each job and live day-to-day in a way that shows the work of Christ in my heart? In what way can I let God’s enablement and grace show others his glory instead of just my own efforts and work?” Those should be the concerns that govern our attitudes and behaviors as we each live out our part in God’s eternal and perfect plan.
Bible quotations are from the English Standard Version unless otherwise noted.