Low Self Esteem? It’s Worse Than You Think!

Low Self Esteem? It’s Worse Than You Think!

by Andy Constable

We live in a society that has bought into the idea that people need their self-esteem boosted. The problem, psychologists tell us, with people is that they think too lowly of themselves and they don’t love themselves enough. If people would simply think more highly of themselves then they would feel better and live happier lives. We see this in the media as adverts like Loreal tell us “because your worth it.” We see this on TV as people like Oprah Winfrey tell us to believe in ourselves and that we can reach our goals.

Churches often buy into this model of counselling as well. They focus on verses like “love your neighbour as yourself” (and misconstrue this verse completely) . They teach that God loves us and wants us to feel good about ourselves. This is happening in particular, but definitely not exclusively, within ministry to women. Women who feel rubbish about themselves and feel ugly are told that they must love themselves and think they are beautiful. They are told that they have low self-esteem and need to think better of themselves.*

The problem with this notion is that the Bible teaches the exact opposite. The Word of God tells us that humans are very proud people who, if anything, have too high an opinion of themselves. Genesis 2 shows us the foundation of this pride – a wanting to play God. Think about it. Adam and Eve are told by God: “You may surely eat of every tree of the garden, but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in that day that you eat of it you shall surely die.” So what do they do? They eat of the very tree they are told not to eat from. Why do they do this? Well its because they thought they could run their own lives better than God. They wanted to be in control. They thought they knew best. This is the height of arrogance. This is what every human does. They think they can do a better job then God and do things their own way. We too try to play God. And from this over-estimation of ourselves comes vein conceit – we want glory, recognition, acclaim, and importance. We want our lives to matter. We want significance.

But some might say, ‘well I’m not arrogant’ or, ‘I feel like I have low self-esteem. I don’t feel very good about myself. In fact I dislike myself. Doesn’t that make me a humble person?’ The problem is that the root of this is actually a desire for importance and acknowledgment. People who struggle with ‘low self-esteem’ tend to demand the most attention because they crave (as we all do) people to like them.

The Bible doesn’t call the church to boost people’s self-esteem but to be humble. Isaiah 66:2 “This is the one who whom I will look: he who is humble and contrite in spirit.” Jesus said: “The meek will inherit the earth.” What is humility? I think C.J. Mahaney gives us a good definition: “Humility is honestly assessing ourselves in light of God’s holiness and our sinfulness.” The person who is humble recognizes their faults and failures in light of God’s magnificence. Humility is not moping around saying to yourself: “I’m rubbish” and “I hate myself”. It’s getting a reality check that you are not God. It’s not to tell people What they are to think of themselves more but to forget their glory and focus on the majesty of God.

What is the way to humility? Well the way of course is to look at Jesus Christ. Paul writes famously: “Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus:Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped,but made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself and became obedient to death— even death on a cross!” Jesus Christ the very Son of God who deserves all the glory and acclaim and worship left the comforts of heaven to die on a rugged cross. Why? To buy his church salvation. This should smash our pride. This should leave us speechless. This should ground us into the dust. As Isaac Watts wrote: “When I survey the wondrous cross on which the prince of glory died, my richest gain I count but loss, and pour contempt on all my pride.” This is the way to humility as we remember that we are weak, sinful human beings who didn’t deserve to have salvation given to us freely. And we live our lives saying, “don’t look at me! Don’t give me recognition!” Worship Him. Worship the Son of God. Look at Him. Look at Jesus’.

*The Bible talks lots about finding our identity in Christ as forgiven, adopted, redeemed and restored and women should be pointed to their beauty in Christ rather then to simply feel better about themselves. It’s because God sees us through Christ that we have a new identity and can cast off the shackles of self-image.