“Giving Honor” and Self-Esteem

One of the trademarks of our “politically correct” culture has been an emphasis on self-esteem.  This concept is defined as “confidence and satisfaction in oneself” [Merriam-Webster Online Dictionary].  And allegedly one of the key components required to cultivate a “healthy” self-esteem is affirmation or praise.  A quick Google search will take you directly to a self-esteem website that is all too eager to agree with (affirm?) what I’m saying.  From what I can see, people believe that self-esteem is an essential component of being a psychologically balanced and productive person.

I am of the opinion that since God is the “Author of Life,” he is our most reliable source of information regarding what contributes to a psychologically balanced and productive person.  Does the Bible speak to the issue of “self-esteem” and more specifically, to the role of affirmation in its development?  And maybe the more penetrating questions is: do my ideas on this subject reflect the Bible or the “PC” culture in which I live?  I’m guessing that there’s a difference between the two…

What sparked my interest here was a comment made by a mature, sincere Christian: “People need to be affirmed!”  And the immediate Scripture reference given was Romans 13.7, Pay to all what is owed to them: taxes to whom taxes are owed, revenue to whom revenue is owed, respect to whom respect is owed, honor to whom honor is owed.” Of course, the whole verse wasn’t quoted, and that may signal that start of some trouble.  This last phrase referencing “honor” is on the tail-end of a verse that is talking about paying taxes, and that verse is at the end of an entire thought about how Christians should interact with political leaders.  I’m sorry, but this passage does NOT refer to paying compliments to, or publically acknowledging others.

So how do we feel about self-esteem?  Is there a difference between the need to affirm and the need to BE affirmed?  In other words, do we need to be affirming others in order to follow Christ rightly?  And on the other hand, do we really need to be affirmed ourselves in order to live-out the abundant life?  Are we prepared to base our answers to these questions on the Scriptures (or our gut feelings, experiences, Oprah, etc.)?  Ultimately, I cannot affirm enough the fact that God’s ways really aren’t like ours, and the Gospel is utter foolishness to those who don’t know Christ.  Let’s begin…

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One thought on ““Giving Honor” and Self-Esteem

  1. Frank says:

    I really liked the challenge this topic left me. Hopefully as I (we) go from year to year in our walk with Christ there is a pattern of progression, like His Word, that stems from being challenged. In some areas there is that progression and in other areas its more like a ferris wheel or maybe a roller coaster. You either keep going around in circles, or you live in/up and out/down of seasons (reason/s) while still going around in a deformed circle. The latter gives impressions and maybe moments of felt maturity, only to resort back to our way of thinking and ending up starting all over again.

    Anyway, as years have past in my walk I see topics like these (self-esteem, affirmation) as a challenge to see&hear what God’s word says, as opposed to an opportunity to share/comment with an opinion based on the current general tone of the given topic or as it pertains to our society today.

    Self-esteem is a very interesting one and most likely not seen in the light of God’s Word. I once asked how you “love yourself”. The question was from the verse that says “love your neighbor as yourself” which is found in Matthew 19:18,19. The answer was profound and lined up with God’s word once I re-read it. The response was, “to see yourself as God sees you”. When I read this portion of scripture again it showed a pattern supporting this answer. A pattern of self-denial (verse 18) that begins with a personal loving relationship with Christ that starts by honoring your mother and father followed by loving your neighbor then/as yourself. Loving your neighbor is seeing them as God sees them, which is how you should love yourself, and one can not happen with out the others first: God, neighbor, yourself.

    I really like the question, “is there a difference between the need to affirm and the need to BE affirmed?”. I often wonder that if either is a personal need, are we dealing with a form of selfishness and pride? If that is the case, then no, there is no difference. Sometimes even the need TO affirm is a un/conscious effort to feel better about ourselves. Obviously this is not always the case, but without some level of understanding to what God’s word says we may miss what is most “rightly” and a part of an abundant life.

    Do we need to do both to be a follower and live-out and abundant life? Another great question. I would express yes, but only if done a large majority of the time in the order in which it is shown in His Word. I also feel timing and circumstance are critical to be sensitive towards, as we have the tendancy to “over-do” and “under-do” things. If we take the time to look at the word regarding affirmation both given and received we should recognize a pattern and an ultimate purpose associated with both.

    When I first thought of these questions, I thought of many things, but the first was the difference between flatery and being complimentary. The difference I learned is referencing something someone has total control over versus acknowledging something they have no control over that only God would have created or accomplished regarding that person. It appears relatively clear that the key is giving the glory to God.

    I decided to read Paul’s introductions to each of the books to the different churches in the New Testament and noticed this pattern. When Paul affirms those he is writting to, he acknowledges their work based on what God and their love/relationship with Christ enabled them to produce or accomplish, and Paul states it exactly that way. In Gal 6:6 it encourages us who have been taught God’s word to acknowledge those who taught us by sharing “all good things”. It appears this keeps with the pattern that we should affirm what God has done thru someone to someone, again with the glory being given to God. I believe timely general and kind affirmation is good, but affirming what God has done thru someone, to someone, is more inline with what God’s word is saying. If this is done also done towards us, in this manner, God is glorified and acknowledged, minimizing the danger of getting us getting “puffed up”. When God is the focus of giving or receiving affirmation I feel we are establishing encouragement on the correct foundation.

    The foundation is building up Christ in us and not us alone.

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