Low self-esteem may not be the presenting issue in my Practice but it often surfaces in the course of the work. Reasons and triggers for low self-esteem are varied and deep.
Christians sometimes confuse humility with low self-esteem. Whilst Biblically the two are very different. The Bible encourages us to have healthy self-esteem rooted in our identity in Christ.
“This is love, not that we loved God, but that God loved us and sent his son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins.” 1 John 4.10.
In other words God loves us so much that he died for us, enabling us to know his love and forgiveness not only now but into eternity with him. And God planned us individually:
“For he chose us in him before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in his sight.” Ephesians 1.4.
But this beggars the question how can we be holy and blameless? And this can affect issues of self-esteem. But the truth is that we are all flawed but deeply loved and forgiven. Only by believing in Jesus do we have his holiness by his Spirit within us. Paradoxically we are both sinner and saint at the same time.
“So I say walk by the Spirit and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh. For the flesh desires what is contrary to the Spirit and the Spirit what is contrary to the flesh. They are in conflict with each other.” Galatians 5.16-17a.
The “flesh” in these verses refers to our natural flawed nature. So we live in a battle every day, but as we recognise our flaws and lack of putting God first we can repent and be forgiven. Our self-esteem lies in this identity: fallen people who have Christ’s identity within them. And Christ’s humility is the key:
“For the Son of Man came not to be served, but to serve, and give his life as a ransom for many.” Mark 10.45
Here we are talking about humility which is very different from low self-esteem. Humility involves emptying one’s self of pride and arrogance and being judgemental of others. We see this in Jesus’s attitude.
“Who being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage.” Philippians 2.6
We are all of equal value in God’s sight. The ground is level at the foot of the cross.
“For God shows no favouritism.” Romans 2.11.
And the call is:
“To love your neighbour as yourself.” Galatians 5.14b.
If we reflect on this verse we can see that God expects us to love ourselves (as well as our neighbours) when often with issues of low self- esteem we hate ourselves. But our priority is putting other first.
“Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of others.” Philippians 2.3.
Healthy self-esteem means viewing and valuing ourselves appropriately:
“If anyone thinks they are something when they are not, they deceive themselves. Each one should test their own actions. Then they can take pride in themselves alone without comparing themselves to anyone else.” Galatians 6.3-4.
And we can take pride in what God has done for us but it’s all down to his initiative and we cannot contribute to our salvation.
“For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith - and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God- not by works, so that no one can boast.” Ephesians 2.8-9.
The good news is that issues of low self-esteem can be addressed in counselling with Psychodynamic understanding and application explaining much of our psychological development and experience. And for Christians with Biblical insight, this then enables the development of healthy humility.
Finally, may we be encouraged as we remember God’s loving character:
“Come to me all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. My yoke is easy and my burden is light.” Matthew 11.28-29.
All Bible quotations are from the NIV.
Copyright © 2019 Susie Scott Kydd.