BY: Revd. Father Anthony Arowolo.
How would you console or approach the situation of someone who comes to you frustrated, depressed, angry that they have failed yet again, that they cannot take it anymore, that they are not loved, not popular, “Nobody likes me. I’m too shy. Whenever I’m around other people, nobody even notices me. I’m too much of an introvert and will never be popular. My self-esteem is non-existent”? Would it be in their best interest for us to try to boost their view of self?
Oftentimes, we ourselves experience similar things in our lives. We at one time or the other have had similar thoughts and feelings ourselves. The feelings of inadequacy, feeling unloved, not given the proper respect we deserve, or being ignored. And how have we viewed ourselves in such circumstance?
Self-esteem as a term became popular as a result of the rise of psychology in the 1960’s. Now it is a household term. Schools have entire curriculums based around the so-called importance of thinking highly of oneself. But is self-esteem all about thinking highly of oneself?
There are Christian thinkers those who object to the idea of self –esteem. For them, self-esteem contradicts the core teachings of the Christian faith, for it is an assertion, an independence from God. They are also of the idea that emphasis on self-esteem is actually indulging self-glorification, pride and over-dependence on material things and talents and achievements as basis of self-worth. What can we find from the Scriptures about self-esteem, and should we Christians key into the self-esteem drive? These shall be addressed in this discourse with the Bible as the basis of departure.
SELF-ESTEEM: WHAT IS IT?
Self-esteem simply is defined as confidence in one’s own worth or abilities; self-respect. It is synonymous with:self-respect, self-regard, pride in oneself/one’s abilities, faith in oneself, pride, dignity, morale, self-confidence, confidence, self-assurance, assurance etc. According to the online encyclopedia, Wikipedia, self-esteem reflects an individual’s overall subjective emotional evaluation of their own worth. It is the decision made by an individual as an attitude towards the self.
1 . Self-esteem encompasses beliefs about oneself, (for example, “I am competent”, “I am worthy”), as well as emotional states, such as triumph, despair, pride, and shame.
Renowned psychologists, Smith and Mackie in their publication Social Psychology (2007) defined it by saying “The self-concept is what we think about the self; self-esteem, is the positive or negative evaluations of the self, as in how we feel about it.
2 . Self-esteem is attractive as a social psychological construct because researchers have conceptualized it as an influential predictor of certain outcomes, such as academic achievement, happiness, satisfaction in marriage and relationships, and criminal behaviour.
SELF- ESTEEM FROM CHRISTIAN PERSPECTIVE
While it is true that much of the world derives their self-esteem from categories such as wealth, appearance, strength, occupation, popularity, celebrity, and relationships. And inevitably, the self-esteem of these individuals rises and falls based on how they are doing in these categories, especially in comparison to others, what does the Bible say about self-esteem? How are we to determine our worth? What is the true source of our worth? The terms self-worth and self-esteem do not appear in the pages of Scripture. And there are many Christians who believe that the concept of self-esteem tends towards pride, and unholy gratification of oneself, an exaggerated sense of worth, and a rejection of God. However, Christians must approach self-esteem and self-worth from 3 perspectives:
(1). That we are, in fact, made by God and in the image and likeness of God, and this truth is the basis of our worth. We can say with David, “For you formed my inward parts; you knitted me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made. Wonderful are your works; my soul knows it very well” (Psalm 139:13–14). The Book of Genesis tells us we are created in the image and likeness of God (Gen.1:26-27). Therefore, our self-esteem truly comes from God.
(2). That Helping Others Helps You: It has been discovered that people who volunteer actually improve their self-esteem. Science also seems to support the idea that helping others is good for us. Researcher Jennifer Crocker and associates found that, “People with compassionate goals feel clear and connected, cooperative, close, and have less conflict.”
In short, people who consider the interests of others are more likely to feel loved and accepted and therefore feel good about themselves. The reason why serving others helps us to feel good about ourselves is because we more accurately reflect the character of God when we do so. For even the Son of man came not to be ministered unto, but to minister, and to give his life a ransom for many (Mark 10:45).
(3). That by ourselves, we can do nothing good. We are undeserving of His goodness which He pours out upon us—also called grace—since we have rebelled against Him through sin. It is God that lifts us up from our fallen, sinful state. We see our value in how He loves us. We do not have any inherent goodness, but all goodness we exhibit comes from Him.
For by grace, you have been saved through faith; and this is not your own doing, it is the gift of God. Not because of works, lest any man should boast. For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared before hand, that we should walk in them (Eph.2:8-10).
OVERCOMING LOW SELF-ESTEEM
Since God wants us to keep improving on ourselves, here are some activities based on Biblical principles that can help us to improve our sense of self-worth.
(a).Volunteering: Helping others is a great way to get connected. In God’s economy, when you help others, blessings also come to you (See Luke 6:38).
(b).Reject negative thinking: When we find ourselves thinking negative thoughts about ourselves and being overly critical, we must stop. We need to remind our self that God loved us so much, He gave His only Son as a sacrifice so that He could live with us forever (John 3:16). God did this knowing that we are not perfect.
(c). Forgive yourself: Everyone makes mistakes. As humans, we make mistakes. This does not gloss over our wrongs. When we make mistakes, we should admit our sin or error, and repent,
asking God for forgiveness. He promises to forgive us and this enables us to forgive ourselves. (I Jn.1:9)
(d). Surrounding Oneself with Positive People: Spending one’s time with people who see good in others, encourage others, and are not overly critical of other’s misdeeds truly helps.
1Thessalonians 5:11 tells us to encourage one another and build each other up. Seek relationships that are mutually up-building
(e). What God thinks of us is most important: You do not have to be liked or approved of by others to feel valued. God proved how valuable you are to Him by sending His Son to die for you.
(f). We must realize that God wants us to care for ourself as well. Although the Bible tells us to “esteem others,” we cannot neglect or abuse our self. Even Jesus took breaks from caring for others to care for Himself.
(g). Learning to say “No” sometimes: Some people fall for the deception that caring for others at the expense of their own health gains them favor with God. This is untrue. It is also untrue that God condones covering up for others when they are sinning or submitting to someone in authority when they are asking you to do what is wrong. Rather than asking, “Am I expected to do this?” ask, “Does God require this of me?”
(h). We can do all things through Christ who strengthens us (Phil.4:13). Because we are loved by God, we can survive whatever life and people throw at us. This should be the mindset
of every Christian in the face of rejection, disappointment or failure, or even when faced with an uphill task.
(i). Finally, we must remember that nothing can change our worth to God. In the words of Jesus: “Are not five sparrows sold for two copper coins? And not one of them is forgotten before God. But the very hairs of your head are all numbered. Do not fear therefore; you are of more value than many sparrows” (Luke 12:6-7).
A true feeling of worth, one that is not exaggerated will do us a lot of good, knowing fully well what the Bible tells us about God and about ourselves. Our worth is not dependent on anything outside of ourselves, or based on our circumstances, but based on what God has planted in us, who we are to God and who God wants us to be to others. This reaffirms the discourse of Jesus with the Pharisees, that: “The kingdom of God is not coming with signs to be observed, nor will they say, ‘Behold, here it is’ or ‘There!’, for behold, the kingdom of God is in your midst” (Lk.17:20-21). In every one of us is the worth and value that is God-based.
AUTHORED BY: REVD. FATHER ANTHONY AROWOLO.