There is a great misconception about a Christian having self esteem. Some Christians tend to see the Christian race as overbearing and very conservative, thereby thinking the Christian should be as lowly as john the Baptist, refusing all other good aspect of Life. In most cases, this results to a low self esteem in relation to the real world and the environment surrounding them. Others on the other hand, tend to focus so much on God's promises thereby over hyping their status as Christians. This may lead them to manifesting pride even without knowing. To comprehensively understand what self esteem is all about, we need to know its relationship and contrast with the following states; confidence, pride, and inferiority.
It is a feeling of confidence, being happy with your own character and abilities. It is also known as self- worth. Self esteem is an indwelling virtue. It is a personal attribute that builds a person's personality. It is more of a static character of a person.
It is the feeling that you can trust, believe in and be sure about the abilities or good qualities of somebody or something. Unlike self esteem, confidence is dynamic. It is the manifestation of the already accumulated in- dwelling self esteem in you. It is like the kinetic energy of the already potential energy (self esteem). For better understanding, when as a senior high school student, your colleagues are seriously studying for an English exams, but you simply relax having the self confidence or belief that no matter your preparation, you cannot earn lesser than an "A" grade. Such an in- dwelling feeling is now dynamically manifested by the confidence you exhibit when writing the English examination.
It is a feeling of pleasure or satisfaction that you get when you or people who are connected with you have done something well or when you own something that other people admire. Example; Brazil takes pride in football; the pride of the university is its very intelligent international students. For the sake of clarity, pride could be in dwelling and as well dynamic. The following examples above are in dwelling pride. If you say, the pride of a person is his kids then you say; what makes that person happy, complete, confident with himself as well a makes him have worth is his Kids. But dynamic pride is exhibited in relation to another person or subject. By the time this same person sees his kids as better than other kids in his neighborhood, then dynamic pride comes into play. Therefore, we can match the indwelling pride to be synonymous to self esteem where as the dynamic pride should be left alone as just pride.
This is the state of not being as good as somebody or something. A simple but practical example is when a boy becomes 18 years of age, he may feel he has now reached a certain level of responsibility and ought to give a more matured impression about himself. Hence he decides within himself to be strictly corporate in his outfits. Such a decision shows the worth he has weighed himself to. This is self esteem! But by the time he does not listen to his Mum anymore just because he is now an Adult makes him proud. And maybe peradventure his younger brother feels intimidated or 'not up to the level' anytime he and his friends, all in majestic charisma, are gathered together, then this is inferiority on his brother's part.
FACTORS OF SELF ESTEEM
The following factors can stimulate a sense of, or feeling of confidence in us. They are:
• Background/fundamental upbringing
• Physical differences such as Age, physical strength and so on.
• Fluency in important languages
• Self righteousness
• Knowledge and understanding/ good skills
• Self righteousness/ morality and many more others
With these factors in mind, there are still some questions we need to clear in order to fully understand the significance of self esteem in a Christian's Life.
• Are these factors absolute sources of self esteem?
• If they are, which one gives the most self esteem?
• Do I need to possess all of these factors to be fully confident in myself?
• If I need not possess all, which ones in particular are most needed to have self esteem?
• If there is a need to possess all or some of them, how do I get or acquire or even earn them? Is it worth it?
To be able to answer all of these questions appropriately, we have to know the Ultimate or absolute source of self esteem.
ABSOLUTE SOURCE OF SELF ESTEEM
When we say absolute, we mean complete, in totality or never ending. If God reveals to you that you will live for 80 years and you should partition this period into a period of hardship and that of total enjoyment, though with a choice; you would not be willing to partition this time, since you have a choice. Simply because you will love to have a full 80 years of enjoyment and not even a micro second of this period should be for hardship. We all want good things or experiences to be absolute in our Lives. So the absolute in every good thing in every way is what we all seek.
This is also applicable to self esteem. Can we get an absolute source of self esteem? If yes, then why not discover that source? The aforementioned factors would be discussed distinctively and evaluated to see if none or all or some of them are the ultimate source(s) of self esteem.
"Charm can be deceiving and beauty fades away, but a woman who honors the Lord deserves to be praised"- Proverbs 31:30. If beauty is a factor of self esteem, as it fades away, your self esteem fades as well.
Isaiah3:16- 4:1. This passage talks about the pride of beauty, the women of Jerusalem exhibited and this angered the Lord, thereby raining curses on them. The magnitude of God's wrath was shown in Chapter 4:1 "when this happens, seven women will grab the same man, and each of them will say, I'll buy my own food and clothes! Just marry me and take away my disgrace". Whew! Is it really worth it to chase after external beauty?
Billboards, television, and radio shout about the latest trend or the newest style we need to buy. There is nothing wrong with wearing the latest fashion, but an obsession with beauty or outward appearance can indicate a lack of respect for God. If our focus turns from the Living God to luxury we worship an Idol. The things of this world will eventually pass away, but God is eternal and unchanging. Instead let's be beautiful in our hearts by being gentle and quiet. This kind of beauty will last, and God considers it very special". Read 1st peter 3:3-4.
But also, for the ladies; do not let any brother use Isaiah 4:1 to intimidate you or cause you to feel inferior. Guys may want to use that as a weapon to make some ladies feel much unsecured about chances of getting married. This curse was just to the daughters of Jerusalem when they turned their backs against God to beauty. In verses 2-6 talks, a re-awakening or re-establishment of God's relationship with the children of Israel was emphasized. So, this is not prophesy for the future to come and hence should not be used as a weapon of Inferiority or fear against the Ladies.
Is beauty really an absolute source of self esteem? Ponder on this question and give the answer yourself.
1st Chronicles 4:9-10. Jabez was born with a curse placed on him by his own Mother due to the pains she experienced in her delivery. He grew up with this curse actively functioning in his Life not until he turned to the Lord and the Lord changed his Life. The whole book of Ruth talks about the familiar story of a widow with whom her background can be classified into two, for the sake of later analysis.
Her immediate background
Ruth was not only married to the son of a widow, but as well became a widow, alongside the wife of her brother- in- law. In some African thoughts or Old tradition, they may consider this a curse or the effect of an evil spell in the family. This accompanied with hunger is a great burden to carry and to really understand what Naomi and possibly Ruth were passing through, we can read Naomi's proclamation in chapter 1: 13b; "........ No, my daughter, Life is harder for me than it is for you, because the Lord has turned against me". Also verses 20 and 21.
Ruth was from the tribe of Moab. In Genesis 19:29-38, Moab was the product of the union between Lot (Abraham's cousin) and his elder daughter.
Even with the situation surrounding Ruth, she held firm to the faith and was a virtuous woman. Ruth answered "please don't tell me to leave you and return home! I will go where you go, I will live where you live; your people will be my people, your God will be my God" (1:16). Remember that, self esteem comes from within, the true virtue and personality of yourself. And also from our previous factors, "a woman who fears the Lord shall be praised".
Boaz answered, "I heard how you helped your mother-in-law ever since your husband died. You even left your own father and mother to come and live in a foreign Land among people you don't know. I pray that the Lord God of Israel will reward you for what you have done. And now, that you have come to Him for protection, I pray that he will bless you". We can see more confirmation of her worth from Ruth 3:11 "And now, my daughter, do not fear, I will do for you all that you request, for all the people of my town know that you are a virtuous woman"
All these are evidence of her in dwelling qualities. What was her reward?
God's specificity was very clear and obvious on his plans for Abraham and his descendants. Which is Isaac, then Israel (in particular, formerly called Jacob) and then to Judah. Despite the fact Abraham had other sons from Haggai and from Keturah his second wife after Sarah's death); God still maintained the specificity of His plans. Ruth 4:21-22 showed the descendants of Ruth. She married Boaz who begot Obed, who begot Jesse and who begot David. David the King was in the lineage of Our Lord and savior Jesus Christ. Ruth coming from the line of Moab who is not a descendant of Abraham in any way and in fact whose tribe sometimes are recorded to be enemies of the Children of Israel (2nd Chronicles 20:1,3-4), was incorporated into God's plans in the royal lineage of Our Lord and savior Jesus Christ. Not only that, an entire book from the scriptures was written about her. Not just some chapters, or a chapter or a verse, but an entire book. Her background was not a factor in making her what she was. The key here was her indwelling virtues as a virtuous woman and her obedient nature.
Matthew 15:22-28 talks about a Canaanite woman who needed an undeserved miracle from Jesus Christ, for her daughter. In verse 26, Jesus told her "it isn't right to take food away from children and feed it to dogs". Jesus does not lie and this statement made it clear on where the woman is coming from. Her background as a Canaanite has automatically disqualified her from receiving the blessing she needed from Jesus, considering the simile of being compared to dogs; she really is far from deserving what she is requesting. In verse 27, "Lord, that's true, the woman said, but even dogs get the crumbs that fall from their owner's table". We can see that she even accepted that fact. But do we take facts of Life or facts created by humans and virtual boundaries to weigh us down or stop us from getting what we need or deserve? In verse 28, Jesus was impressed and she got her healing. Even her abject background could not stop her.
Some of us have different negative backgrounds which will make us feel so inferior amongst our peers. A boy never talks about his mum, even when his peers come together to discuss home issues. It was later discovered that his Mum is a prostitute and this weighs him down a lot. You may be from a minority group, hence making you to feel inferior when you sit or talk with those from the so-called "majority"? You cannot influence your history or background but you sure can influence the present and of course your future. Look up to God just as Jabez and the Canaanite woman did and be obedient and virtuous in character just like Ruth; then your self esteem is not only sure but your future will be beyond expectation. On the other hand for the fact your parents are both successful do not warrant an automatic success to you. They may be tools to propel success but they cannot make you instantly successful. For the fact your parents are professors, does not make you a professor as well. You have to pass through what they passed through to reach that height. Everything is about self and irrespective of our background; self esteem can be earned in full.
Proverbs 30:8-9. "Make me absolutely honest and don't let me be too poor or too rich. Give me just what I need. If I have too much to eat, I might forget about you; if I don't have enough, I might steal and disgrace your name".
The psalmist has made these verses very explicit in relation to the context of the subject matter. If he becomes rich, he becomes proud and forgets God. If he becomes poor, he may become too inferior to think that if he doesn't steal, he will not survive. Just what he needs is what he wants from God so that he will always remember and serve him and as well maintain his self- esteem by avoiding stealing.
Proverbs 23:5, "Your money flies away before you know it, just like an eagle suddenly taking off". Wow! If money or wealth is the source of self- esteem, then a lasting one is beyond achievement. Practically speaking, those who put their self esteem in wealth immediately vanish as soon as their wealth vanishes. Remember the parable of the rich Man, who had a bountiful harvest and planned on storing them up in large bans, then he said "eat, drink and make merry". What was God's response? You fool! This night, your soul shall be required of you". (Luke 12:16-21). If you think wealth is the absolute source of self esteem, I urge you to reconsider. Of course it is a factor, but a source? Hmm......
Physical differences such as Age, height, skin color and sometimes body built or shape, stimulate either inferiority in us or sometimes body built or shape stimulate either inferiority in us or self esteem. Paul encouraged Timothy not to allow anyone despite him in his youthful age but rather through his actions, he can set an example for others to follow (1st Tim 4:12). On the other hand Ecclesiastics 11:9-10; 12:1-8 warns us of youthful exuberance. No matter what we do as youths (great strength, fresh heads and zeal to do exploits) remember thy creator. The chances to fall into sin is high and exhibition of such extreme enthusiasm will lead us no where, neither would it add self esteem to us. Those who compose themselves would surely be praised. Jesus at 12, was already teaching the Temple Elders (Luke 2:42; 46-47). Though we may say, it is because He is "Jesus" but he said we would do even greater things than He did. This is a great challenge to parents to put their children in the way of the Lord from the earliest stage in Life (proverbs 22:6).
Sometimes you feel so proud been the first child of the home. You feel you are the first blessing of the home or the likelihood to continue the family responsibilities and maybe heritage is sure for you. But 1st Samuel 16:6-7; 10-12 explains why age or your position of birth in the home is not necessary for your self esteem. As we defined it earlier, it is an in- built phenomenon, something which is void of such a factor. Verse 7 of chapter 16 quotes "But the lord said to Samuel, "Do not look at his physical stature, because I have refused him. The Lord does not see as man sees, for man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart". The heart is the focal point of what makes you highly esteemed and not your outward appearance. Another good example of this truth is in 1st Samuel 17, which is the story of David's victory over Goliath. By appearance and human facts, Goliath would have crushed David with his bones, refined into powder. But fact and Truth are two different phenomena. Truth had to go beyond all natural proofs and Human understanding to manifest itself. In summary, the heart is the focal point of self esteem. But can physical difference be a source?
Fluency in Important Language
Moses was a stammerer and when God called him to go and save His people in the land of Egypt, Moses complained of His situation (Exodus 4:10-16). God persisted but Moses insisted as well. He felt he could not do it and he could not look unto God who can do it for him (which is inferiority). Sometimes we feel so inferior because of the bad way we speak important Languages. It may not necessarily be stammering but maybe grammatical errors. You spend 5 minutes to quietly rehearse what you want to say for 5 seconds. Or it could also be that you are in a foreign land, trying to learn the Language of the Natives but they cannot just avoid laughing at you, anytime you speak. These situations should not be taken as factors to bring your morale down, but rather are challenges you should face with confidence and with the belief that you will soon overcome. This approach can boost a reviving spirit in you and hence give you that energetic self-esteem you need.
The same Aaron God gave to Moses as a communication aid made a Golden Image for the Israelites and worst of all proclaimed saying "This is your god, O Israel, which brought you out of the land of Egypt" Can you imagine what a high priest would say? A Levite, who suppose to give such a proclamation in honor of God Himself? Well, it did not just end there. In Numbers 12:1-15, Aaron and Miriam rebelled against Moses stressing out that He is not the only prophet and he is not the only one God speaks to. Remember that their role was just to help or aid Moses, but they got jealous and rebelled. If Moses had listened to God and subdued his inferiority, these events would not have happened. In some cases, we feel so inferior that we do not even see how great the power of the most high is. Not able to be fluent in a language should not be a yardstick of inferiority, nor should it be a thing of pride. Who said you cannot work in the media, because of your fluency? You could as well write articles, good poems, and hormone stimulating stories or even draw comic books if you are good in it. Even in the media, you could be in charge of documentation. With your trust in the Lord as your source of self esteem, you can come out to be even greater than some professional Journalists or writers themselves. You can as well trust God fully for something special. He can do it for you as He intended doing for Moses. Stick to His plan and listen to His voice, He will surely direct your path.
Do you think you live a blameless Life and then comfortably sit back with your arms above your shoulders? Do you do your best possible to be principled and high in moral standards and hence see yourself as reputable in your environment? People around you may respect you, Love you, and regard you with high esteem, but is it an absolute source of self esteem? Mark 10:17-22 speaks of a rich Man who came to Jesus and claims he has kept every Law required of him and wanted to know what else to do. Verse 21 quotes "Then Jesus, looking at him, loved him, and said to him, "One thing you lack; Go your way, sell whatever you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasures in Heaven; and come, take up the cross and follow me". Wow! Morality by human standards must always have a 'one thing lacking'. You may be highly respected by people, but definitely not all. Humans are relative and some may see or even experience the bad side of you. If such people are able to influence others, your reputation then becomes relative to some certain Individuals. And by the time you get a hiss from an individual you so much expected a respectful compliment from, it will hurt and if care is not taken, that could begin a sequence of events which would lead to the destruction of the esteem you once had. After Jesus Christ mentioned what the man would do, what was his reaction? He was sad and turned his back and left. So bad! This was someone who came in confidence and with a certain level of pride because of his good works but went back in sadness and head- dropped down.
Self- righteousness by human standards is hypocrisy because you will only get to see the good attributes of the person involved; while the bad attributes stay hidden. But by the time the bad attribute would be blown up, everything spoils. (Matthew7:6-7; Matthew 23:1-28). Verse 28 makes it very clear. "Even so you also outwardly appear righteous to men, but inside you are full of hypocrisy and lawlessness. Isaiah 64:6 is very explicit in this issue, "But we are all like an unclean thing and all our righteousness are like filthy rags; we all fade as a leaf, and our iniquities like the wind, have taken us away". Our righteousness is like filthy rags so why the brag? Zech3:1-4 makes it obvious on where our righteousness should come from. And no matter what we do and how we try, righteousness can never be by our might or power. Even as Christians, we could be tempted to show some self righteousness as well. Gal 5:22-25 talks about the fruits of the spirits we ought to exhibit even as we live a Christ- like Life. But verse 26 of the same chapter warns us to be careful not to conceit too much on these attributes in other not to create envy or jealousy within ourselves.
There are much more factors in which if we go on and on, the whole internet will not be sufficient to carefully analyze them. The already explained factors may for a time make you highly esteemed, but are never true sources of self- esteem. Sometimes as a student, you do not perform well in school and you feel inferior to your colleagues? Or you are a bookworm and make use of almost all your time for reading and your personal activities, but your colleagues who are the 'outdoor types' mock you on regular basis. It could also be that you are a dedicated Christian in a non Christian or 'not seriously Christian' environment and the peer pressure seem to weigh you down. There are million and one instances in which we cannot mention all. But the bottom line is, cheer up, take the challenging situations as stepping stones of making your Life better in Christ. Ultimately, the true and only source of self- esteem is God, through our Lord and savior Jesus Christ and our Hearts been the medium or determinant factor or focal point in earning absolute self esteem.
On the final note, God is the ultimate source of absolute self- esteem. Self esteem outside God yields no results and cannot be permanent; which means it can either go down to pride which leads to destruction or depreciates to inferiority. After all, every factor of self esteem is considered vanity (Ecclesiastics 1:2) from King Solomon who was blessed by God with virtually everything you could think of. Outside God, we have nothing to boast about because there is nothing new on this Earth which has not been or been done (Ecclesiastics 1:9-10). That is to say, whatever you have, own, possess or merit; someone already had it before and someone elsewhere has it at the same time as you do and someone will definitely have even more (Ecclesiastics 1:4). In view of this, it is totally destructive to cast our minds on earthly factors for self- worth. But having the self-Esteem defined by God yields earthly blessings and above all, Eternal Life (Joshua 1:8, Matthew 6:33).
May God almighty open our eyes to know our worth and serve him in its capacity and magnitude in Jesus name. AMEN!
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