by James Rudy Gray
A big issue that seems to bother many people is a lack of healthy self-esteem. From that deficit of a sense of personal worth, many things can develop: insecurity, nervousness, anxiety, paranoia, fear, etc. A low self-esteem generally means a state of unhappiness and that condition can manifest many and varied symptoms and disorders. So what is the cure for low self-esteem?
Self-esteem is basically how we think about ourselves. It is our own personal estimation of our value or worth. Generally, people get their self-esteem from very broad categories: 1) what kind of job I do, or 2) what other people think of me. Men tend to base their personal worth on the kind of job they do and women have a tendency to see their worth through the opinion of someone they are close to. The trouble with both of those sources of self-esteem is that they can easily change or even be destroyed. When that happens, self-esteem is at least in a crisis.
There is a third option: The Bible teaches us that when a person is justified by God and before God, he or she is placed in a "perfect" position. He or she is in Christ. Therefore, he or she is loved, accepted, and forgiven, perfectly and eternally, by God the Father.
Our position does not change, but we live in a world that still experiences the curse of sin. There are no perfect churches, relationships, or people. It is common for good things to happen to bad people and for bad things to happen to good people. That is why it is critical that a Christian counselor be able to share with a client who is struggling with low self-esteem the truth about our identity in Christ (justification) and our living in this world (sanctification).
My position in Christ means I have worth or value. However, I am not perfect and I live in a world that is not perfect. This process of living is a journey of changing, developing, and growing. When a person can learn to base his worth as a person on his position in Christ and then relate that sense of value to his journey in life, he can experience good self-esteem. For example, rejection is a powerful and destructive emotional experience. It can all but destroy a person's sense of worth, unless he is able to relate his worth to who he is in Christ.
What does that mean in practical terms? It means I may fail at something but I myself am not a failure, because I am in Christ. It means I serve Christ not because I am working to win something or gain an advantage but because I am already loved, accepted, and forgiven-three of the most basic heart needs we have. It means I can adjust to painful and even unjust events in my life because I know I am God's child, that He is sovereign over everything, and that He loves me unconditionally.
There is freedom in learning to live life this way. Most of our clients, however, must usually re-learn the idea of freedom. Jesus said if He sets us free, we shall be free indeed. He also prayed that the Father would sanctify us in truth and declared that His word is truth. Freedom is not simply the ability or even the right to do as we please. It is, on the other hand, the power or ability to do what is right.
Too many Christians are trapped in the bondage of a prison of low self-esteem. They work to change it or give up and assume they will always feel this sense of unworthiness. The result is the same: a gnawing sense of uneasiness, unhappiness, and low worth. When we can teach people to change the way they think, sooner or later their feelings will follow. By knowing Christ as Savior and growing in His Word, we can develop a more solid sense of who we are and a more vital understanding of the process of spiritual and personal growth.
Pride is a poor substitute for faith in God and His Word. Pride often leads a person to think more highly of himself than he should. Why? Often it is because he or she is overcompensating for a sense of unworthiness deep inside.
Helping people move from low to good self-esteem is a journey-a journey in learning to trust God and believe what He teaches us in His Word. Good self-esteem is not based on what we do, what we do not do, or what somebody thinks about us. It is based on who we are in Christ. Because of that, we can enjoy the freedom of healthy self worth.