There is a multi-headed beast that affects a wide spectrum of personality types. Let’s see if you’ve seen this spiritual serpent slither into the actions and attitudes of someone you know. Have you ever seen any of the following people in situations?
- A physically or emotionally abused child who becomes a playground bully
- A gifted student intimidated by less talented students who hides their gifts and talents
- A person who constantly baits others into their crisis and drama
All of these people share the same affliction: Low Self-Esteem
Self-esteem affects us throughout our lifetimes. It can give us the confidence to aspire and achieve great things. It can also crush our confidence and create imaginary barriers that hinder our progress in life. We build our lives on the foundation of our past experiences. Healthy experiences build healthier experiences, but experiences crippled by negative feelings of inadequacy will build a foundation of fear and failure. We need to have a clear understanding of self-esteem if we are going to identify what it is and how it impacts us. Carl Pickhardt, writing in Psychology Today defines self-esteem succinctly:
More specifically, “self-esteem” is two words compounded into one. Separate them, and the meaning of the larger term comes clear. “Self” is a descriptive concept: By what specific characteristics do I identify who I am? “Esteem” is an evaluative concept: How do I judge the value of who I am? Self-esteem has to do with how a person identifies and evaluates his or her definition of self. *
One of the great catastrophes that secular progressivism has visited on humankind is the effort to delegitimize and devalue the authority of Scripture. The social instability caused by the cultural relativism and rationalization of progressivist doctrine un-tethers people from objectivity in their self-worth. If we encourage members of our society to use amorphous and fabricated notions to identify who they are and judge their value, they are likely to become ill-defined of self and crippled in their progress through life.
Christians have the opportunity to define and engage their self-esteem in an active and positive way, thanks to a common connection that we all share; the authority of the Bible. Rather than self-defining to a contrived standard, God gives us a solid basis upon which to judge ourselves. Seeing a comparison and contrast of what the Bible tells us about ourselves, vice what modern philosophy tells us, helps us understand many struggles we face today.
The Bible tells us the truth of our origins:
Genesis 1:26 – 27 “Then God said, “Let us make human beings in our image, to be like us. They will reign over the fish in the sea, the birds in the sky, the livestock, all the wild animals on the earth, and the small animals that scurry along the ground.” So God created human beings in his own image. In the image of God he created them; male and female he created them.
Modern secular philosophy tells us that human beings, and all other land creatures, evolved over millions of years from primordial ooze that crawled out of the ocean. In his book, On the Origin of the Species (1859), Charles Darwin posited a theory that has never been proven, but most academics advance the theory as though it were fact. If evolution was indeed accurate, humanity would be of no more worth than a tsetse fly.
The Bible tells us of a Creator God, Yahweh, who not only created each and every one of us, but did so with a purpose for each:
Psalm 139:13-16 “You made all the delicate, inner parts of my body and knit me together in my mother’s womb. Thank you for making me so wonderfully complex! Your workmanship is marvelous—how well I know it. You watched me as I was being formed in utter seclusion, as I was woven together in the dark of the womb. You saw me before I was born. Every day of my life was recorded in your book. Every moment was laid out before a single day had passed”
If one has faith great enough to believe as an atheist, the purpose for life is very murky and undefined. In fact, a prevalent strain of atheistic thought asserts that human life is actually absurd, as described by David Niose in Psychology Today:
There is a school of thought, called absurdism, that focuses on how humans naturally seek to attach meaning to a world that offers none. If you’ve ever enjoyed a good Kurt Vonnegut novel you may appreciate how absurdism can effectively blend humor and profundity. We struggle through life, try to make sense of it all, experience joys and sorrows along the way, only to ultimately make our exit. In the end, no matter what your philosophical outlook, there is an element of absurdity in it all.**
Human beings are perfectly capable of low self-esteem, whether or not they believe in God. Even if one does have a belief in the God of the Bible, simply knowing what it says about our origin and purposes doesn’t guarantee positive self-esteem. The greatest benefit of following biblical teachings on self comes when we allow the Bible to teach us to mold ourselves in Christ’s image. To be Christ-like requires no special self-image, and it is built on accepting ourselves by God’s known standard for us, as opposed to the nebulous unpredictability of the world’s standards.
Knowing we are loved by our Creator, and that He has a plan for our lives, gives us a central goodness in our lives. Confident that we are supernaturally supplied with an abundance of love gives us a starting-place in all of our relationships. Being loving usually attracts the best in others toward us. We build a confidence based in an equality of worth and a foundation of love.
John Bar Zebedee, the young apostle of Jesus’ inner circle teaches us the nature of Christ-like love, and is instructive as to how it changes us in our confidence:
1 John 4:18-19 “Such love has no fear, because perfect love expels all fear. If we are afraid, it is for fear of punishment, and this shows that we have not fully experienced his perfect love. We love each other because he loved us first.”
The standards of self that are defined by modern philosophy are as clear and predictable as free-form jazz. If we try to follow the values of 2016 earth, we will each have our own definition and none will have the confidence to have a positive self-image. Low self-esteem is the cause of most of our fears, failures and imaginary barriers.
And then there is love… God teaches us that he made us in His image, with a plan for our lives that is centered in His love for us, and our love for Him and our neighbor. Today, this very moment, we can accept and express the love that He gives us. As we give ourselves over to the loving plan of our Creator, we discover the greatest power; love. Love is the bane of all bullies, recluses and drama queens.
Romans 12:1-2 “Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God—this is your true and proper worship. Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.”
**Niose, D. (2014, 2 16). Atheism, Meaning, and the Absurdity of It All. Retrieved 04 05, 2016, from Psychology Today: https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/our-humanity-naturally/201402/atheism-meaning-and-the-absurdity-it-all
*Pickhardt, C. E. (2010, 9 6). Adolescence and Self-Esteem. Retrieved 4 5, 2016, from Psychology Today: https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/surviving-your-childs-adolescence/201009/adolescence-and-self-esteem