Saturday, 4 May 2013

Some thoughts on Self Esteem

Where does your esteem lie?  In yourself or in God?  It is easy to grab hold of the latest theories or fads and run with them (I won’t even mention the Atkins diet). Sometimes we even try fads when we aren't convinced they work.  Self-esteem is one bandwagon with quite significant longevity.  It was fashionable when I was in my teens (‘cough-mumble’ years ago) and still appears to be today. Most fads fade with time, but self-esteem seems to have hung on. Keeping it in perspective, Big Mac’s have been around a long time, but that doesn't make them good for you.  I wonder if the self-esteem band-wagon is still going strong because no-one has come up with a secular replacement yet. I’d like to take a few minutes to look at this.

Self esteem has been a popular theme in Christian psychology for a while now but I do wonder what the point is. Attempting to raise one’s self esteem by your own efforts, is like trying to blow up a balloon with a hole in it. Culturally we are programmed to think individually, but naturally we are born sinful and therefore think selfishly.  We put a lot of time in trying to influence how others view us and if they see us in a good light then we feel temporarily fulfilled. Speaking of temporarily fulfilled – retail therapy, anyone???? What people think of us, the conclusions they make of us, how accepted we are by them, sound a lot less like self-esteem and more like fear.

Do we get dressed in the morning to impress others or is it to hide our abdominal ‘muscles’ and wobbly arms? Do we rethink conversations to find different paths that make us appear more funny, intelligent or impressive? Do we extend ourselves financially so we have better clothes, houses, boats, cars and toys, so that others will think more of us? Do we fake humility so others will think we are godly? I know we don’t often consciously make these choices but they can subtly underpin our thought patterns.

“Societies emphasis on self-esteem also contributes to the fear of man.  For example, even though most self-esteem books indicate that it is something you can develop by yourself, almost all the books also say that one of the best ways to raise your self-esteem is to achieve some successes (which are then compared to what others do) or to surround yourself with people who affirm you (which leaves you dependant on their opinion)." Edward T Welch: When people are big and God is small.                                                                     

Ask yourself these questions – be honest. What view do you wish others had of you?  Why is this so important?

Let’s look at motivation: Why is it important we are aware of our motivations? … Ignorance is bliss, and yet it’s still ignorance. When we shine a torch on our motivations, through the power of the Holy Spirit we can take stock and remember who loves us and who we are here to impress.  Fear of Man vs Fear of God. When our fear of man is our motivation for esteem then we are placing people as our idol. So pleasing people is our goal for fulfilment, rather than God.

I think to understand who we are we need to understand who God is.  He created us, male and female and we are created in His image.  My first son has blonde hair and blue eyes, my second son has dark hair and dark eyes and people always comment how our first son is the image of his father and our second is the image of me (fortunate boy to look like a ‘nearly’ middle aged woman!).  You and I, we are made in the image of God.  God is love, God is creative,  God is faithful, God is powerful, God is compassionate, God is comforting, God is just, God is light, God is forgiving, God is gracious, God is merciful, I mean I could go on and on.  If God is all these perfect things, and we are made in His image, and called His children … well it’s not rocket science and I don’t want to minimise your struggles, but shouldn't this change our perspective on things?

Ultimately as Christians our goal should be to honour God with our lives so HE gets the glory. The way this shows itself is that we love more … more than what? 

More than ourselves. Think of the needs of others more often. 
More than yesterday. Tomorrow’s a new day so don’t give up. 
More than the voice in our heads. Shut it down as soon as you realise it’s going off.

This will never be accomplished by sheer will power.  That is where we all fall miserably short. Even those of you with iron wills!!  We have a bias to sin, so we will always default to the dark side. It is ONLY with the power of the Holy Spirit that we can humbly call on Him to empower us to get our focus off ourselves and onto God. If you wish to pray through some issues regarding who you are as a child of God, then please contact one of the Pastors, they desire to run the race with you.

Recommended Reading:  “When people are big and God is small” by Edward T Welch.

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