Self-esteem and the Bible

I’m bringing this here, because I’ve made my point as clearly as I can on Tozhannah‘s blog, and I’m done there.  But because a lot of *my* readers don’t follow links or mess with comment sections, I want to address my stance here.  On my turf.  ((Forgive if it’s a little choppy – I’m gonna try to paste my thoughts together from 3 of her comment sections.  Oi…!))

Is having high self-esteem is a biblical concept, and must love oneself before one can love others?

I think this is a tricky question.  Because it depends on one’s definition of ‘love’.  I always go with the Biblical one – it’s a nourishing of someone physically, spiritually, emotionally, and relationally.  By Biblical definition, Messiah loved Himself before He loved others – He grew in wisdom and in stature, in favor with God and man. (Luke 2:52)  Likewise, when He defined love, He said You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength, and the second is this: loving your neighbor as yourself.  (Mark 12:30-31)  Therefore, by Messiah’s testimony, you must love yourself before you are able to truly love another.  But before you can learn to love yourself, you MUST love the Father.

Esteeming someone is not an easy thing.  But because God esteemed us by sacrificing His only begotten Son for our sinful selves, we should also esteem ourselves as worthy to stand in His presence – a priviledge that humbles to the core.  But that means self-esteem is self-love, and we’re back to Messiah’s greatest command… We fashion our love after the love we show ourselves, and in displaying that, we find we can do the same for others, just as God has done it for us.

Josh MacDowell said that we should NOT marry until they are able to display a love for our own body first – because if we cannot meet our own needs, how could we possibly meet the needs of others?  Which is why Paul said Husbands, love your wives as your own body.  (Ephesians 5:28)   So…  I SAY TRUE.  Self-esteem (aka self-love) is needful and quite Biblical, as is the need to love onesself before loving others.

Webster’s has two definitions for ‘self-esteem’:  1: undue pride in onesself; conceit and 2: self-respect.  The division comes in with the differing definitions.  The ‘falsies‘ see self-esteem as conceit and pride, or placing yourself above others.  The ‘truebies‘ see self-esteem as finding worth in a renewed vessel by the grace of God.  Therein lies the first division, and dilemma.

Is “love your neighbor as yourself” a command to love yourself or an acknowledgment that we already do love ourselves?  Depends (once again) on your definition of love.  Going on Mark 12:30 and Luke 2:52, it would be nurturing yourself physically, spiritually, intellectually, and relationally.  Do people do that naturally?  I’m not so sure.  Speaking for myself, it’s terribly easy to sit instead of ‘do’, to watch a movie instead of read scripture, to do what *I* want instead of making a pan of baked beans and hiking it down to the church men’s dinner.  That tendency would be the carnal side of me… while by the Spirit I find the strength to rise and learn and grow and give.

Then there is another camp that claims that love is kindness, gentleness, goodness, etc… (which are actually all different, according to Galatians 5:22)  At my site it’s LUVV vs. love.  Again, two different definitions of love.  Therein lies the second dilemma which results in division in the camp.

How does this relate to “sober judgment” (Romans 12:3)?   Sober – according to the Greek Lexicon – is on par with ‘sound’.  Thought-out decisions, not feeling-based.  Herein we find another division in the camp – the experience-seeking group versus the faith-based group.  See the pattern here?

And, is there a connection between high self-esteem, self-love, and pride?  See above given problems… it explains why you’ll recieve 10 yeses, 5 not-in-the-manner-implieds, and 6 I-don’t-dare-chooses.

Statement:  When we think too highly of ourselves, we find no reason to be dependent on Christ. And when we spend all of our time trying to ‘be‘ humble, we are *still* focused on self, and are of no use to Christ, either.  Dependancy on Christ and self-esteem are not synonymous – just as joy and peace are not synonymous.  They are separate qualities that either work together in the Christian life or against each other – depending on which stance you take.  For example, some people believe peace means ‘quietness, serenity’, and others believe it means ‘lack of worry and trouble’.  So if joy is exuberance, it would work against peace (quietness), while working with peace (lack of worry).  See?

It’s the same with Christ-dependancy and self-esteem… if self-esteem is ‘pride’, then it works against Christ-dependancy, but if it means ‘finding worth in a renewed vessel by the grace of God’, as I said yesterday, then it works *with* the dependancy on Christ, since apart from His sacrifice we have no worth.

If I were to be *humble* in the way humility is being potrayed in all of this, I would be nothing, having no right as a mere sinful human to claim the promises of God and the authority of His Word. Instead of being a new creation and a joint heir with the Son of God.  I would have no right as a worm to testify against the things of the world, for I would have to admit that I am no different in my humanness (regardless of my salvation) than the world is.  Instead of being of a chosen generation that will shew forth the glory of Him who has called me out of darkness into this glorious light.

Confidence in Christ and assurance of faith and boldness to approach the throne of grace are not antonyms of humility – if they were, it would cause scripture to contradict itself.  But that’s what I see being put across here – that humble is the opposite of bold.  That self-esteem is opposite of Christ-dependancy.  I don’t agree, personally – I believe I can be humble while boldy approaching the throne of grace.  I believe I can find respect for who/what I am in spite of what I am as a result of depending on Messiah.

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