Humility versus Self-Esteem
Following on from my previous post, where I spoke about humility, I was thinking about this issue further. For me, the desire to have sky-high self-esteem is a very big part of my struggle with humility. Low self-esteem is something that I struggled with for many years when I was younger. And then one day in my final year of my undergraduate degree at university I realised that I was made in the image of God! I, little small Black Tosin, made in the image of God! That was the last time I ever felt small as a person, and since then, my struggles with self-esteem have gone in quite the opposite direction! (Yes, I’m sure we would all agree that ethnicity should not be a feature in self-esteem, and by the grace of God, it is no longer a feature for me!) So this is the issue then with self-esteem – where does self-esteem end, and pride begin? I cannot help evaluating my life, and being happy at everything I am, everything I can do, everything that God has made me. Even in wanting to be humble, and wanting to pursue humility with all my strength, I am hoping that I will not have to give up my joy and my delight in myself. Yes, I delight in myself – that’s bound to be bad, isn’t it?! It gets worse. Sincerely, I think it is fair to say I adore myself – now the truth finally comes out! While I have a whole blog dedicated to the quest of finding an excellent husband, I have often wondered to myself, laughing, whether it might be true that I simply don’t need to love anyone, or to be loved by anyone, because I am simply so content with myself! Although some hugs would be nice!
In the Bible, there is that famous verse where Jesus says that we should “love our neighbour as we love ourselves.” Mark 12v31 However, some right-on Bible commentators have pointed out that this is not a commandment to love ourselves, rather a concession that this is what human beings tend to do – we love ourselves. And then the Bible definitely does not command anywhere that we should delight in ourselves or adore ourselves – it instructs us only to look to God, and to delight in Him. What the Bible does say is that the human heart is desperately wicked, and deceitful above all things. Jeremiah 17v9 This means that we cannot and must not trust our natural inclinations. And yet, I cannot bring myself to see that thinking of myself the way I do is all bad. Perhaps this will come with time, experience and understanding, as God further enlightens my eyes. What makes me excited is not so much me in myself, and the things I do which are wrong or ill-advised; it is more the hope of where I’m going in Christ, the beauty that fills my life due to the God that I serve, the capabilities with which God has blessed me.
All the same though, it is probably best not to cultivate this as a habit. When my eyes are so steadily and adoringly focused inwards, then this means that my eyes are not focused on God, who He is, how magnificent He is, how tremendous, how powerful, how beautiful. Furthermore, as I have taken my eyes off the source of all these gifts, it is almost inevitable that I will forget Him, and instead let myself start taking pride in all these things that fill me with so much joy, thinking that I am these things and have achieved these things because of myself, because I’m just that great. The truth is that everything I am, everything I could ever hope to be, could only be due to God. The Bible teaches not only that God initially created the world in 7 days, but also that He (specifically Jesus) sustains all life, human and non-human by a continuous work of ongoing creation. “In Him we live, and move, and have our being” Acts 17v28 So even the mere fact of being alive is a gift from God. Psalm 100 also contributes to this thinking a bit: (verse 3a) Know that the Lord, He is God, it is He who has made us, and not we ourselves… (some translations say “And we are His”)
On balance, I guess I may have to choose between self-esteem, and God-esteem. I am going with God. Yes, I know it must be acceptable to regard myself highly, to a certain extent. However, there is always the danger that I will veer violently off course, and fall into utter pride. Yet with God esteem, choosing to delight myself only in God, to cultivate adoration exclusively for Him, I can never go wrong! I can never overestimate or exaggerate how great God is, or falsely give Him credit that he does not truly deserve. God deserves all the glory, and all the praise. Ultimately He is going to take it anyway, whether I freely give it or not, so why don’t I just bow to the inevitable and quickly do it right now?! Romans 14v11, also Philippians 2v10. Obviously the point of this post is not that I have been in any way reluctant to give glory to God, rather that I have cultivated a high opinion of myself, and delighted in myself.
Anyway, I think that that settles the matter – whenever I find myself rejoicing in myself, I have to make the effort to deflect my eyes from myself, and up to God.
And it apparently looks as if the quest to find Mr Huggie-Wuggie is also back on – ha ha! 😉
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