Where do we find our real significance?
True confession – I have always had difficulty with the term “self-esteem” and for a therapist that is like a pilot having a problem with the laws of aerodynamics. I thought it might have been my Baptist “worm theology” up bringing where we were taught that to feel good about one’s self was a sin. Or maybe I’m just such a non-conformist that when everybody says something is vital, essential and absolute I stand in the corner and snicker.
But tonight I was meeting with a client and we were talking about their self-esteem and it finally came to me just what my real problem is with that phrase. My problem is with the word “self”. I have absolutely no problem with people feeling good about themselves and I love it when those feelings spill out bringing love and joy to others. I truly believe that people who feel good about themselves are the happiest and do the most good in this world. The real issue is I don’t believe that my self-assessment is adequate to produce a true appraisal of myself. I am hopelessly flawed therefore my apprehension of myself will also be flawed and consequently my ability to rightly esteem myself is - impossible. In fact, when I do measure myself I have no true plum line for a proper evaluation and am in great risk of either thinking of myself too highly or too lowly.
Ultimately I am in danger of becoming a fool. That is because a fool looks only to themselves for their valuations.
Let me give you an illustration. Let’s say I want to build my dream home, so I pick out an ideal spot on a beautiful hill overlooking a lush valley. I stake out where I want the house to sit and plot out all the rooms. Then I go to work laying the foundation but I never use a measure, a level or any other objective tool to ensure that my new home will be aligned correctly. No, I just take a good look at it and say, “Yep that looks like it’s straight, or yeah that’s level all right.” How well do you think that home is going to turn out?
That’s just what we do if we rely on self-esteem to measure our value and worth. I can’t esteem myself high enough because I don’t have the ultimate authority. The best I can come up with is some kind of comparison with another’s performance or their flawed human opinions. If that is the measure of who I am then it will shift like the blowing sand with every wind of society’s fancies. Like an A list movie star who made a series of unpopular movies and ends up at conventions signing his head shot for five bucks a pop. He wasn’t that great when he was a star and he’s not that bad now when he’s all but forgotten; because his popularity never truly defined him.
So here’s the bottom line question: Who do you believe you are, and why? If you believe you are created in God’s image and of such infinite value that God himself would suffer and die to redeem you; then what other opinion do you need?
And here’s an even more difficult question: If you believe that then why are you still ruminating on your failures and paralyzed by your regrets? Why are you setting human limitations on your dreams and editing the amazing story God has written for you? You see, it’s not the acknowledging of truth that transforms us it is the integration of truth into every fiber of our being that brings about true metamorphosis.