We live in the day of loser-less T-ball games. Yep. Somewhere, somebody decided that it is detrimental to a child’s psyche to “lose” a baseball game and the solution was to stop keeping score. Well, as utterly asinine as this premise is, I think it’s reflective of a common perspective on self-esteem. The first four articles in this series were focused on “giving honor,” specifically as it relates affirmation and biblical encouragement. In this last article, I want to set time aside for us to consider what a biblical understanding of self-esteem should look like (assuming there is such a thing).
I am suggesting that there is one biblical reality that should shape how we appraise our own worth or value (i.e. self-esteem): God, our father. If we truly grasp the significance of this, with all of the intricacy and nuance it implies, many of the self-esteem issues will find themselves resolved succinctly. The trouble is, many of our culture’s attempts to establish a healthy self-esteem are rooted in hype – a saccharine flattery that is at best, a stretch of reality. And the need for these attempts is rooted in a false value system: aesthetic beauty, keen intellect, physical prowess, et al, held up as cultural ideals. Most of us can’t live up to that hype and therefore resort to hype, hoping that the resulting emotional high will make everything better. It doesn’t. It produces delusional, lazy and egotistical hellions.
This is why it is essential that we embrace and live by the truth Jesus revealed when he taught us to pray by addressing “Our father in heaven.” In the interest of time and space, I’ll only address two of the implications this reality has on “self-esteem.” The first implication is in the realm of origin. God is my father. I come from good stock. I am, as the Apostle Paul says in Ephesians 2.10, God’s “workmanship.” In the original Greek this is the word for poetry or art. We are God’s artwork (and he does all things well!). I am, in essence (passively), excellent and of value because of my origin, to the praise of God! I am, as the Psalmist said, “fearfully and wonderfully made”! I may not walk worthy of my divine ancestry, but that’s an issue of character not value. I may not meet up to the standards of the culture, but since when is culture’s opinion timeless and absolute? I have value that can be embraced with confidence and humility at the same time because the value isn’t rooted in me, but my Father. Carnal self-esteem is hype that looks to the self for value, and ends up squinting (lying) in an effort to delude itself. Biblical self-esteem looks away from the self to find its value in its source: our heavenly Father.
The second implication of this Father-reality is context. The truth is, most of us fail to walk worthy of our calling. We easily indulge our carnal character, or should I say we “willfully” do so? The results can be catastrophic. We fail. Epic fail! And yet, we don’t have to deny reality – the reality of who we are and what we’ve done. We can be honest about our failures and our sin without losing our value because we have a Father who loves us unconditionally. I live my life – the successes and the failures – in the context of my heavenly Father’s unconditional love. If he loves me and is committed to me through my sin and my stupidity, why would I need to drum-up something above and beyond that? If cannot find assurance and confidence in my Father’s love for me, I am truly a hopeless case and self-esteem is the least of my worries! But again, my confidence is found as I lift up my eyes and look beyond myself. The love of the heavenly Father is the antidote for both the haughty and the dejected. The “greatest love of all” is not right inside of me, but it is my heavenly Father in whom my life is hidden with Christ!