The Myth of Self-Esteem

A common theme in our world is the chanting of the modern self-esteem movement that blames every sinful and hideous deed on the supposed fact that the offender did not have enough self-esteem, so that is why he/she committed this action. This is an excuse and is not factual.

While there are certainly cases where a person has been so emotionally battered since childhood and has been given a constant message that they are "no good" or worthless that is rarely the case. These are the people who never heard a good word said about them their entire lives. They have truly come to believe that they are of no value to mankind and this is tragic and heartbreaking. I am not referring to those poor souls.

What I am referencing are those whose sinful actions and attitudes are blamed on a perception that they don't think well of themselves. The "troubled teen" or the eating disordered young woman, the adulteress or the promiscuous. The thinking seems to be that if he or she thought more about themselves they would not do the things they are doing! They would not be hurtful or hateful, they would not be a bully, or they would not sleep around.

With no thanks to the modern psychological movements, this sort of hogwash has been mainstreamed into the daily news and also into the school systems.  Sadly, even many churches are buying into the whole self-esteem movement by offering self-help groups during the week where all those "suffering from low self-esteem" can come and be soothed. Such rotten theology- coming from churches?! Yes indeed.

I realize this may be challenging your thinking, and perhaps I have even angered some of my readers with these truths. Hold on, it is about to get even better! Do you know that the Bible does not use terminology such as "self-esteem?" Do you know that nowhere in God's Word is it assumed that we need more of it? Do you know that in fact, the Bible tells us entirely the opposite of what the world tells us about ourselves and "self-esteem?"

The Bible does have a word to reference those with an abundance of self-esteem- it is the word prideful. Pride and self-love go hand in hand and are the antithesis of who we are to be in Christ. Jesus knows that our hearts are already exceedingly proud and haughty. We are so prideful and so in love with ourselves that we are told in the Scriptures that we must learn to love one another more than we already love ourselves! No less than 12 times are we told to love one another by the Apostle John in his Gospel and his Epistles. Paul also tells us to love one another both directly (Romans 13:8; 1 Thess 4:9) and indirectly, as does Peter (1 Pet. 1:22).

Owe nothing to anyone except to love one another; for he who loves his neighbor has fulfilled the law. Romans 13:8 (NASB)

When a person has too much self-love (self-esteem) they will reveal that the only person they truly care about is themselves. All of life revolves around self and there is no room and there is no time to be focused on anyone but self. You will recognize this by the overabundance of "I" statements they make. It is invariably about how they feel, what they think, what they want, how _____affects them and their plans or their time.

They may typically display selfish behaviors such as drunkenness (which is often excused since they are "sick"), eating disorder (because they have "low self-esteem"), disruptive or violent behavior (which is not their fault it is someone else's/society's fault) and so the people in their lives make it their goal to help that person get more self-esteem, "heal", or "get better." This involves months and sometimes years of weekly therapy where the person sits around and talks guessed it! They talk about themselves only adding to the problem.

A person who struggles with this kind of sin needs to be reminded of exactly who they are without the blood of Christ. While they have worth and value simply because God created them, their worth or value does not need to be and should not be propped up, and their sinful heart does not need to be massaged. They need some serious, realistic re-evaluation about who they are both in Christ and not in Christ. This re-evaluation of self must be undertaken from that perspective and accompany deep studies from the Word of God regarding our High and Holy God versus our low and lowly selves. 

Teaching about humility and considering other people better than self needs to take place, and it is not wrong to reveal how all their selfish acts have affected other family members. The hope is that these things will bring about conviction at the heart level and help the person to understand that life does not revolve around them. Emphasize a life of service to others, especially those they might consider "beneath them" or not worthy of their time or efforts.

Because what is truly being dealt with is a gigantic head of pride, the Word of God must be brought to bear on the heart. It is only through the application of the Word to the heart that changes will be made in the life.