There is a huge gap between knowledge and opinion in our generation… and there is a huge difference between the worldly concept of “self-esteem” and the Biblical idea of “self-worth.” Any catch phrase that’s widely accepted and constantly championed in our day should be examined before embraced. You will discover that the definitions and usage of popular secular terms are rarely scripturally sound or spiritually true.
Now, I understand both the positive need for confidence and the power of faith. I also believe the choices people make and the habits they form are often related to how they view themselves and others. “Almost all emotional and relational problems, as well as the identity we assign to ourselves, have rejection and failure as major facets”-(McGee). That is why it’s essential that we give attention to making people know and feel valuable, loved, accepted, and honored, especially if they are family or friends. However, I fundamentally disagree with any form of humanism, works-oriented religion or shallow, self-help psychology.
Psychologist William James defined self-esteem as success divided by pretensions (Self-esteem=success/pretensions). In other words, your self-esteem is a measurement of how you are performing (your successes) compared to how you think you should perform (your pretensions)…your achievements relative to intentions or goals. If this is true, your self-esteem should constantly fluctuate based upon your actions and accomplishments in life.
With this view of self-esteem, you’re committed to soul strength and will power. This is a harsh and painful path for learning “the spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak”-Mt.26:41. Jesus spoke this pre-Pentecost, in the context of prayer to remind us that Christians cannot live by their own willpower. Watchman Nee said of this, “To trust to the human will for spiritual ends is to encounter defeat. Spiritual power does not come from the human will, but from the new life in Christ. This life provides another, deeper power beyond our volition.” Or as Zechariah wrote, “Not by might nor power, but by My Spirit says the Lord.”
Another common formula for finding identity and measuring self-esteem is to evaluate ourselves according to what we do and what others say about us (Identity/esteem=performance + others opinions). This will never work well. The unwise practice of “measuring against ourselves and by ourselves” will lead only to the prison of self-introspection. Here, if the grades are good you are shackled with pride and presumption…and if the scores are low, you are punished with isolation and starved for positive affirmation.
This lie paralyzes with the fear of rejection and poisons with shame while enslaving the soul in a relentless pursuit of approval. And more importantly, basing self-esteem upon either personal performance or peoples opinions may cause you to seek the approval of men over God’s will for your life.
“Self-worth, on the other hand, is an entirely different matter. Our value as human beings is not based upon any of our personal abilities. It is predicated upon one simple fact: The infinite Creator of the universe created us in His personal image. Because of that, man’s basic worth never fluctuates because it is secure in the identity of The Image Maker—not the image bearer. So, while your self-esteem goes up and down, your essential worth and value are forever stable. Even though you may feel worthless at times and extremely worthwhile at other times, those feelings don’t change the fact that The Image Maker considers you “fearfully and wonderfully” made” (from my friend Terry Crist).
Self-esteem is based upon what you feel; self-worth is based upon who you are.
Self-esteem is produced by your personal performance; self-worth is the by-product of God’s grace, love and goodness…who HE is and what HE has done!
Self-esteem is attained by efforts and accomplishments; self-worth is accessed through understanding your identity in Christ.
Self-esteem is determined by opinion polls; self-worth is discovered in personal relationship with God and reading HIS word (Bible).
Self-esteem is an existential mood and psychological ruse resulting from humanistic philosophy; self-worth is a spiritual revelation connected to theological truth and relational reality.
The central verse of the Bible says, “It is better to trust in the Lord, than to put confidence in man”-Ps.118:8. Our faith in God works by love, not by “believing in yourself” or from the “approval and acceptance” of others.
Christian…your “Self-worth” is secure, because GOD Almighty created you, cares about you as His child, and calls you as a special agent on Kingdom mission. Man-made and man-measured performances pale in comparison to HIS finished work, and rhema-words of life and faith.
In Christ Jesus, the performance trap is removed, the plague of competition is found unnecessary, the approval addiction is healed, the condemnation of insecurity is halted, and the damnable days of grading each other is finally over. You have nothing to prove and even less to earn…“Let no one take your crown…” –Rev. 3:11.
Take “heavenly glory quite frankly in the sense of fame or good report. But not fame conferred by our fellow creatures –fame with God, approval or appreciation by God…this view is scriptural; nothing can eliminate from the divine accolade…“You are my beloved child in whom I’m well-pleased!” –C.S. Lewis