Wednesday, March 20, 2013

The Bondage of Self Esteem # 3

"Self-esteem for the Christian is a paradox: The more of the real thing you have, the less you think about how good you are.The stronger you get, the more you become aware of your weaknesses.
The better you look, the less you care who's looking. The more self-esteem you have, the less self-conscious you are”. {Arla Caraboolad}

The self worth that we should have comes not from understanding yourself and accepting yourself but from an understanding of who God is and your relationship with God. Godly self-worth needs to be centered around Jesus, not yourself. A Godly self-image is seeing yourself as God sees you; no more and no less. True self worth is knowing who you are, but in order to know that, you must know who you belong to. From that knowledge you will be able to understand and accept your value.

Humanistic Self Esteem vs Godly Self Worth

1) Self-esteem is based on what we do and how we behave.
We judge ourselves harshly on our performance around others that we want to impress. How many times do we lay awake torturing ourselves with "I should have said this, or that or behaved a certain way. What will they think of me?" A self esteem based on performance means that we will feel terrible about ourselves when we mess it up. It is human nature to mess up! We imprison ourselves when we base our self worth on this.

Godly self esteem says otherwise. God's love of us is not based on anything. He loved us first, he extended his gift of Salvation first. His love for us never changes. It is constant and everlasting. He loves us even when our behavior or performance slips. To him, we are more than what we do and how we behave. A self worth based on God's thoughts towards us will never bind us.

2) Self-esteem is based on how we feel about ourselves.
Let's face it, humans are fickle. They love you one moment, hate you the next. You are best friends one moment, fighting the next. We love spending time together one moment, need some space the next. We bag out that drug addict singer one moment and when she is dead rave about how much we loved her. Human emotion is not to be trusted. How we feel about ourselves is decided on what is going on around us at the time - like a thermometer. It is influenced by it's environment.  You reacted badly to a piece of news - you are a bad person. You gave money to a charity - you are a good person. You saved a man's life - man you totally rock!! You hate that your best friend is pregnant and you have been trying for years - you are a terrible, terrible person. You got a promotion - I must be awesome. You got laid off - I must suck.

How God feels about us is like a thermostat, it influences it's environment, keeping it steady and remaining unchanging. Godly self worth does not fluctuate wildly like self esteem does. It is steady and strong.

3) Self-esteem is based on what we think about ourselves.
Some of us loathe ourselves. We are too fat, too thin, too ugly, have a big nose, have a terrible laugh, have no personality, have no skills in certain areas etc. What we think about ourselves are usually a bit warped. For example (this is a true thought pattern that happened) A person in authority made a stupid joke. This guy jokes around all the time and puts people down in jest a fair bit. So after this terrible joke I did a sarcastic fake laugh thinking "if it's acceptable for him to do it, it should be acceptable for me to do it." His response was not positive. In fact I think I offended him! So... here begins my thoughts "Oh no. I don't think he liked that. Oh dear, he didn't laugh like I thought he would. He's looking at me strangely. Oh no, he thinks I'm a bad person, I AM a bad person! How could I be so rude? Think before you speak Skip! Now you just muffed any chance of getting to use your giftings in the church. He will hold that against you. You deserve it you dimwit! You nobody! Man, you can't do anything right. Just shut your mouth and don't say anything. Now you are going to have to try and make up for it. Stupid STUPID girl."

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You can relax, my self worth was not influenced by my crazy thinking. It doesn't stop the crazy thoughts, it's just that I learn to dismiss them and not believe the lies of the enemy. I am not stupid. I am not a bad person. I misjudged the situation. Not a big deal in the grand scheme of things. Who cares what I thought?

“My thoughts are nothing like your thoughts,” says the Lord. “And my ways are far beyond anything you could imagine. For just as the heavens are higher than the earth, so my ways are higher than your ways and my thoughts higher than your thoughts." {Isaiah 55:8-9}
What we think about ourselves is very harsh and usually very warped - like my own thoughts after this relatively minor event. Thankfully I know that my thoughts about myself are less than true. God's thoughts towards me are 100% true though and I can rely on them to be constant and reliable.

4) Self-esteem is based on how we’re doing compared to others.
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Let's face it, when we compare to others, we tend to feel even worse about ourselves. They are better than me, they have more than me, they look better than me etc etc. The truth is, no matter how amazing we are at any given thing, there will always be somebody better.

Remember what Paul said? But they are only comparing themselves with each other, using themselves as the standard of measurement. How ignorant!{2 Corinthians 10:13-14}

We are running our own race, walking our own journey, living our own lives, making our own choices. I have been created unique and individual and in the image of God. There should not be any comparison to any other person. God doesn't do it! "I wish Skip would be more like Billy Graham. Why can't you be more like Martin Luther?" So if God doesn't do it, why should I do it?

5) Self-esteem is based entirely on judgments, whether from others or from ourselves.

When criticized for doing something wrong or whatever - does your whole self esteem plummet? Do you respond harshly and angrily? Do you feel like you are nothing? Criticism when you are secure in who you are and whose you are should not effect you so drastically than if your security lies in your self esteem. Don't get me wrong, no one likes to be criticized, but if we have a Godly self worth, criticizm will not destroy us.

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Judging and being judged is not Godly. End of story.
"Do not judge others" {Matthew 7:12}

Godly self-worth is not based on what other's think of you, or what you think of you - but how God sees you and values you and loves you. God does not see you as a “personality” but as a “soul,” with unchanging potential and worth. 

6) Self esteem is rooted in fear.
A fear of failure, a fear of your built up self esteem to crumble.... again! A fear of rejection. A fear of judgement. A fear of criticism. A fear of not being liked. A fear of all your failings rearing it's ugly head again. Fear is crippling and binding. 

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Fear has no place in Godly self worth.
For God has not given us a spirit of fear and timidity, but of power, love, and self-discipline {2 Timothy 1:7}

We have nothing to fear if our worth is based on God's love for us. Nothing. His opinion of us will never change. We will always be his kids and his love for us is so vast. 

And I am convinced that nothing can ever separate us from God’s love. Neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither our fears for today nor our worries about tomorrow—not even the powers of hell can separate us from God’s love.  No power in the sky above or in the earth below—indeed, nothing in all creation will ever be able to separate us from the love of God that is revealed in Christ Jesus our Lord. {Romans 8: 38-39}

Don't sell yourself short. Don't buy the whole "love yourself", "accept yourself" and "forgive yourself" "look for inner beauty" lies. Not only are they unbiblical, but they will wrap chains around you, inhibiting you and preventing you from living a life of freedom. Don't look within yourself, look up and out towards your Creator. You were made in HIS image, you are HIS child, and you need to know HIM in order to understand your value and place in this world. Stop reading books on how to feel beautiful and how to love the inner you. Open your Bible and start learning about the Father who created you and loves you. Use what you have learned as a weapon against the lies of the enemy! Start living a life of freedom and possibility instead of accepting humanistic lies and allowing yourself to become a prisoner of self esteem. 

We are all infected and impure with sin. When we display our righteous deeds, they are nothing but filthy rags. Like autumn leaves, we wither and fall, and our sins sweep us away like the wind. {Isaiah 64:6}

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

The Bondage of Self Esteem # 2

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Many people try and justify self love by quoting this scripture: “‘You must love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, and all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment.  A second is equally important: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ The entire law and all the demands of the prophets are based on these two commandments.” {Matthew 22:37-39}
Let's look at this closely. Jesus was asked by the Pharisees what the most important commandment from the law. He answered them with "love God and love your neighbour". There was not a third commandment chucked in there. Loving yourself is not a commandment. We are not told to love our neighbour AND ourselves, but AS ourselves.

So we are to love ourselves? Does this contradict what I have been saying? No. When we love someone like we love ourselves, we are going to assume that we have a desire for our own well being. We shower, we wear clean clothes, we eat healthy meals, we drink water, we exercise (well some of us do anyway! LOL), we live in healthy environment, when we are sick we go to the doctor etc. When Jesus said love your neighbour as yourself, he is saying "have the same concern for your fellow man/woman as you do for your own needs. If someone is hungry, feed them. If they are unhealthy, help them get back to health. "etc etc. You get the idea.

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"Don’t think you are better than you really are. Be honest in your evaluation of yourselves, measuring yourselves by the faith God has given us."{Romans 12:3}

The Bible tells us to not think we are better than we really are and to measure yourself by the faith God has given us. I'll be honest with you - when I look at my inside this is what I see:
Bad attitudes
Critical spirit

And this is ok. Because I am a sinner! I can't look at my inside and fool myself that I have "inner beauty". This is not beauty. This is ugly!! And this is ok - because when I am honest in my evaluation of my heart, I am enabling God to say "These are the areas I want to work in your life." If I glossed over these very ugly traits and looked into my heart and only compassion, kindness, love, creativity, inspiration, words of wisdom etc, then I am doing myself a big diservice. I am silencing God and his desire to make me more like himself. I am saying to myself "I don't have to change because I am beautiful. "In his pride the wicked does not seek him; in all his thoughts there is no room for God. {Psalm 10:4}

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When one starts to self-love pride will become a real problem. Love in it's Biblical definition opposes this. Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. {1 Corinthians 13:4} It is written in the Bible that God doesn't look too kindly on pride. So we aren't to loathe ourselves, but yet we are not to focus on our self esteem. Where is the balance?

In Paul's letter to the Church in Corinth he says
"Oh, don’t worry; we wouldn’t dare say that we are as wonderful as these other men who tell you how important they are! But they are only comparing themselves with each other, using themselves as the standard of measurement. How ignorant! We will not boast about things done outside our area of authority. We will boast only about what has happened within the boundaries of the work God has given us... {2 Corinthians 10:12-14}

So I can boast that God has helped me deal with my explosive temper. By God's grace I have been changed from a bitter, abusive, nasty, hateful person into what God has made me today. I have been given boundaries in the areas of myself that I can take pride in. I can take pride in where God has lead me and how God has changed me.

What happens if I start to build my own self-esteem and base my self-worth on the areas outside of these boundaries? I will crash and burn! Because I can't hide the ugliness of my sinful self with all these positive traits that I may have forever. Self esteem is like a sand castle - it may look nice a pretty and sturdy, but when there is shift of wind, or sands the whole thing will crumble. Foundations of self worth and self love will crack and crumble and I will be left to rebuild my shattered or shaky self esteem again. This will become a vicious cycle and I will always be a prisoner of this misguided concept of how I should view myself.

Pride goes before destruction, a haughty spirit before a fall. {Proverbs 16:18} It's inevitable. Self esteem will destroy you.

Monday, March 18, 2013

The bondage of self esteem #1

Don’t be selfish; don’t try to impress others. Be humble, thinking of others as better than yourselves.  Don’t look out only for your own interests, but take an interest in others, too. You must have the same attitude that Christ Jesus had. {Philippians 2:3-4}

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Low self esteem, self esteem issues, good self esteem.... - it's unlikely that you don't know anything about it. It's everywhere! It's likely you have heard teaching about self esteem in the church and how you are to "love yourself" and "forgive yourself" and "accept yourself". Self esteem psychology has infiltrated the church and it's members and instead of giving some a sense of freedom it promises, it has bound them in chains, imprisoning them and preventing them to live the life that they were meant for. Why has it done this? Why has the acceptance of oneself caused people to become restricted? Because teaching us to value ourselves is not a Godly concept. People end up spending their lives trying to feel better about themselves and boost that feeling of unworthiness.

Self esteem psychology is basically humanism. So what is humanism?
Humanism defined is an outlook or system of thought attaching prime importance to human rather than divine or supernatural matters. Humanism is valuing human interests, values and dignity over anything else.

Self esteem in it's definition shows that it is a humanistic idea. The term self-esteem comes from a Greek word meaning "reverence for self." It is a respect for or a favorable opinion of oneself.  Self esteem teaches self love, self promotion and self-glorification and instead of rejecting glorification of oneself. Reverence is not for oneself - but for God alone.

Look in your Christian bookshop. How many books are being sold in the millions that are based on self esteem? Anything with the title "Beautiful" in it appeal to women who long to raise their self esteem and feel beautiful.  Parenting books are filled with advice on raising your child's self esteem so they don't feel inadequate and inferior. The list goes on and on.

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Nowhere in the Bible do we see God instructing and encouraging us to have a healthy self image. Look at some of the greatest people in the Bible - and we see exactly what they see themselves as.

When Abraham was beseeching God on behalf of Sodom and Gomorrah: “Since I have begun, let me speak further to my Lord, even though I am but dust and ashes." {Genesis 18:27} Abraham new that he was nothing before the Father yet God loved Abraham and him in a mighty way and he lived his life to his full potential as the Father of many nations. Yet he saw himself as dust and ashes. He's not exactly exuding self esteem here.

When God called Moses to free the Israelites from 400 years of slavery: "But Moses protested to God, “Who am I to appear before Pharaoh? Who am I to lead the people of Israel out of Egypt?” {Exodus 3:11} the chapter later he went on to say “O Lord, I’m not very good with words. I never have been, and I’m not now, even though you have spoken to me. I get tongue-tied, and my words get tangled." {Genesis 4:10} Here is a man who knew that he was not capable of big things and didn't pretend to either. His greatness did not come from within himself, but from where God lead him. Moses felt insecure in his abilities and doubted God's choices, but he was used in a mighty way as the Deliverer of the Hebrew slaves.

On the eve of Saul being annointed as the King of Israel - a powerful job and by a powerful prophet. Samuel said to him "And I am here to tell you that you and your family are the focus of all Israel’s hopes.”Saul replied, “But I’m only from the tribe of Benjamin, the smallest tribe in Israel, and my family is the least important of all the families of that tribe! Why are you talking like this to me?” {Samuel 9:20-21}
Saul had been chosen BY GOD and Saul did not have a self-appreciation of himself. He knew that he was nothing special. But yet was annointed to be the very first King of Israel and he ruled for many years. He muffed it in the end, but the point is that in the beginning he had appropriate humility and a view of who he was.

John the Baptist told the people around him "But someone is coming soon who is greater than I am—so much greater that I’m not worthy even to be his slave and carry his sandals." {Matthew 3:11} John the Baptist had the most mighty ministry in his time, preparing the way for the Messiah! He lived his life in the complete will of God. He would have been quite chummy with Jesus - afterall they were cousins. We don't see name dropping, and pride in the fact that they are related. John knew he was not worthy.

The Bible tells us: Be humble, thinking of others as better than yourselves. {Philippians 2:3}; "Don’t think you are better than you really are. Be honest in your evaluation of yourselves, measuring yourselves by the faith God has given us."{Romans 12:3} 

Self esteem psychology is a trap. We are not asked to accept ourselves and love ourselves. We are not asked to look within us and build ourselves up. Our eyes should be looking at God and those around us, not ourselves! Self esteem is a very selfish idea. Our identity should be wrapped in God, not in our attributes and how amazing we are. If we are looking at how we feel about ourselves and let that define us and control us then we are not living the life that God intended for us. 

Now don't get me wrong. I'm not saying that you have to believe yourself as dirt and scum and have no worth whatsoever. That would be depressing!! I believe that the self esteem movement is a lie from the devil designed to bind and destroy God's people.

In "The Facts of Self-Esteem, Psychology and the Recovery movement, it is said "In fact the very 'self' that modern psychology exalts is the fallen self, whose exaltation God teaches will result in self-destruction. It is the selfism of modern psychology and culture that leads to widespread social desolation about us…The psychological concept of self-love leading to esteem and the biblical concept of self-denial leading to self-enrichment are diametrically opposed…The teaching of the Bible, human history and personal experience tell us that it is principally holiness that leads to emotional wholeness, and not vice versa. In fact, when emotional wholeness is pursued for itself, it rarely leads to personal holiness."


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