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“What does the Bible say about ‘self-esteem’?”—Chris
Our culture is fascinated with the idea that elevated self-esteem is the answer to a host of social problems.
The assumption goes like this: if you feel good about yourself, you will live longer, be happier and more productive and will get along well with others.
Clearly, it seems, a positive sense of self-worth cannot be a bad thing. Conversely, the “self-esteem movement” does not appear to have produced the psychosocial remedy some anticipated. But that is not our question.
In regard to human nature, the Bible presents two sides of the same coin. Humans are created in the image of God (Gen. 1:26-27).
This is indeed the theological basis for a lofty estimation of the value of every person.
On the other hand, the problem is precisely that humans, consumed with self-aggrandizement, pride, pursuit of pleasure, etc., fall far short of the grand place God had in mind for them (Rom. 1:18-32; 3:23).
In this condition, no matter how many good thoughts we think or how many times we are told how awesome we are, we remain painfully aware of our weaknesses and shortcomings.
The Bible does not give a prescription for raising one’s self-esteem. Rather, it proclaims unapologetically that “inner healing” (or “salvation”) comes from outside ourselves, from the One who knows us and yet loves us unconditionally (Acts 17:24-31; Jn. 3:16; Rom. 8).
Encountering the transcendent God is the first step in discovering what you are really worth.
Even more dramatic is this counterintuitive instruction from Jesus. “Want to save your life? Well, first you have to lose it. Yes, to save your soul you must deny yourself, take up your cross, and follow Me” (Lk. 9:23-24; Jn. 12:23-25).
That is hardly the advice you will hear in your self-esteem seminar. Apparently, however, Jesus knew something the self-esteem guru does not: that only by giving up on the futile effort to save yourself can you begin the journey to genuine fulfillment and purpose.
He will make you truly alive and lift you higher than you can imagine (Eph. 2:4-7)!