The airwaves are full of people who give advice about the importance of self esteem. I had a profoundly different message that I delivered last week at my church’s youth group.
The gist of the message is that we all have innate desires to be loved and accepted. These are natural feelings. The big problem comes when we seek affirmation and love in wrong ways from the wrong source.
Since God is our Creator, only He can give an accurate estimation of our worth and value. Only He can ultimately answer our longings for acceptance and love. Christianity speaks in a unique way to our desire to be loved and affirmed. All the other major world religions focus on man trying to reach up to God. In contrast, the Christian Gospel reveals God coming down to love people and sacrifice to save mankind. God demonstrated our value by sending His Son to save us.
The Scriptures are clear that our real value cannot be measured by what is on the outside. But why do we struggle to believe this reality? It can be easy to focus too much on how we look or what other people think. All it takes are a few comments for us to develop a negative self image about something.
Research shows that people with a poor self image are slaves to the opinions of others. They are not free to be themselves. This can become a lens that impacts how you look at yourself and the world. A negative self image can cause a never ending spiral of introspection and depression. People with a negative self image tend to filter out positive messages and only absorb the bad ones. Failures become big deals because they validate negative feelings.
What does the Bible say about our self image and value?
God loves you more than the best parent does a treasured child.
1 John 3:1 (NIV)
How great is the love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are! The reason the world does not know us is that it did not know him.
You were created in God’s image and bear the mark of a grand design.
Genesis 1:26-27 (NIV)
Then God said, “Let us make man in our image, in our likeness, and let them rule over the fish of the sea and the birds of the air, over the livestock, over all the earth, and over all the creatures that move along the ground.”
So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them.
Psalm 139:13-14 (NLT)
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.
One of the biggest problems with talking about this issue is that people tend to get distracted by self when God is the focus of life. Josh McDowell, a noted Christian author and teacher, came up with the following definition for a healthy self image. He wrote in His Image, My Image that it was “seeing yourself as God sees you – no more and no less.”
Notice that the source of his definition is not our own opinion or that of other people. God is the source. While there is nothing wrong with positive relationships and affirmations from other people, the opinions of man should never be the basis for judging one’s ultimate self worth. According to the New Testament, our identity, even our life, is found in Jesus not anything we do.
Colossians 3:1-4 (NLT)
Since you have been raised to new life with Christ, set your sights on the realities of heaven, where Christ sits in the place of honor at God’s right hand. Think about the things of heaven, not the things of earth. For you died to this life, and your real life is hidden with Christ in God. And when Christ, who is your life, is revealed to the whole world, you will share in all his glory.
While all the self help stuff may sound good looking at earthly goodness, it cannot come close to holiness. You can never reach your ideal you on your own. It isn’t possible. But with God, all things are possible. With God’s power, we are perfected and transformed to be the people that we know we should be.
John 1:12-13 (NLT)
But to all who believed him (Jesus) and accepted him, he gave the right to become children of God. They are reborn—not with a physical birth resulting from human passion or plan, but a birth that comes from God.
Consider these quotes from leading Christian thinkers…
“The more we the more we get what we now call ‘ourselves’ out of the way and let Him take us over, the more truly ourselves we become.”
– C.S. Lewis from Mere Christianity
“Having a healthy self image is not the ultimate goal. Knowing Jesus in all His fullness is.” – Josh McDowell
A Biblical teacher wrote the following and placed it on the Web. I believe he hit on a good point. “So I revealed to him that his problem was low self-esteem, and he, like all people with low self-esteem, readily agreed to that assessment. Then I chastised him for thinking that he needs a self-esteem! I told him that he should not be esteeming himself at all. That is Jesus’ job! I said it is none of your business to evaluate another man’s slaves, especially if that man is Jesus, and even if the slave is you! The fact that you have a self-esteem at all is proof that you are judging Jesus’ slave; in this case, yourself. Leave the esteeming to Jesus.”
The above message can so hard to accept because we want self esteem. In this culture, we want to prove ourselves. A solid track record can seem like encough security to help us feel good about ourselves. But there will always be a critic or something that we could do better. We get trapped when we try to find our ultimate validation in ourselves or others because we are looking in the wrong place.
The good news is that God can redeem any negative thought that you have believed about yourself. But you have to let go and let him reveal His truth to you. You must get real with God for Him to make the true you come through.