Friday, June 26, 2009

Daily Digest #303

Humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God, that He may exalt you in due time. —1 Peter 5:6

I have another reading for self-esteem, and it discusses issues on pride as measured by human standards and heaven's standards. Here are some excerpts ("Self-Esteem", pp.7-9,27):

How Should We Feel About Ourselves?

There is an interesting comment about self-esteem in the ancient apocryphal book of Sirach. In the New American Bible we find these words:

My son, with humility have self-esteem; prize yourself as you deserve. Who will acquit him who condemns himself? Who will honor him who discredits himself? (Sirach 10:27-28).

For some people, this statement will resonate with practical wisdom. Many have found that if they don't believe in themselves, other people are not likely to believe in them either. The book of Sirach, however, while included in some versions of the Bible, is not recognized by the whole church as inspired and authoritative.

We therefore need to do with this quote what we do with other thoughts and ideas. We need to see whether the rest of the Bible supports the idea that it is good to have self-esteem with humility.

As we might expect, teachings about humility are not hard to find in Scripture. At first look, the Bible seems to be more concerned about those who have an excessively high opinion of themselves that with those who struggle with a low self-image. For instance, in his letter to the Romans the apostle Paul wrote:

For I say, through the grace given to me, to everyone who is among you, not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think, but to think soberly, as God has dealt to each one a measure of faith (12:3).

But what did Paul mean when he said we are "to think soberly [about ourselves] as God has dealt to each one a measure of faith"? To answer that question, it's important to see the meaning of those words in their original context. When we read on we find, first of all, that Paul wanted his readers to think of themselves as people who were mutually reliant on one another's strengths (12:4-8).

Second, when Paul used the word soberly he was discouraging his readers from believing that they could do anything they wanted to do, or that they could be anything they wanted to be. Instead, Paul encouraged them to have sobriety about themselves that was rooted in realism and self-control.

Third, even though Paul advocated self-control, he asked his readers to think of themselves as people who understood their dependence on one another and God.

In another letter, Paul showed by his own example that, in matters beyond his understanding, he put his confidence in God. With the conviction that God alone understands the purpose and character of our lives, Paul wrote:

We do not dare to classify or compare ourselves with some who commend themselves. When they measure themselves by themselves and compare themselves with themselves, they are not wise... For it is not the one who commends himself who is approved, but the one whom the Lord commends (2Cor.10:12, 18 NIV).

When these words are read in context, they draw a picture of an apostle who wrote with both humility and the dignity of self-respect. While being committed to be gentle and helpful toward others (10:1), he also saw himself as being able to do whatever God wanted him to do (10:2-6). Paul's confidence was in God, not in himself or in the opinion of others.

Can We Be Anything We Want To Be?

It is sometimes said that what the mind can believe, the mind can achieve. Just as often, we hear it said that we can be anything we want to be. We just have to believe in ourselves. We just have to overcome those obstacles to self-esteem that can keep us from realizing our dreams. But allowing for the importance of a positive mental attitude, and allowing for the importance of being able to dream and see "things which do not exist as though they did" (Rom. 4:17), much of this thinking is not realistic.

On the other hand, the person who has a relationship with Christ has an enormous basis for good self-esteem. That person can say, "As I walk with Christ and surrender to Him, I can by His Spirit be anything He wants me to be. I can do anything He wants me to do. I can say anything He wants me to say. As I depend on Him for my life, I can overcome obstacles that He wants me to overcome. I can resist temptation and avoid pitfalls."

What this also recognizes, however, is that it is just as true that we will not be able to do anything the Lord doesn't permit us to do. The sky is not the limit -- the will of God is. We no more have tomorrow in our back pocket than we do the next 20 years.

The need, then, is for self-esteem with humility -- the kind of rightmindedness that, ironically, can give us the confidence that will enable us to do anything God wants us to do!

Let us pray. Lord, may we grow a humble heart. Help us practice humility in our lives. May we learn when and when not to speak, and seek Your wisdom when we doubt our thoughts, before we even put them into words and actions. May we think less of ourselves, and more of others. These, we ask through Jesus Christ, Your Son. Amen.

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  • A very good essay; well written, thoughtful, and comprehensive. Poor self-esteem can indeed cripple one psychologically and be the source of a lifetime of failure. That is one of the salient points of my recently released biographical novel, Broken Saint. It is based on my forty-year friendship with a gay, bipolar man, and chronicles his internal and external struggles as he battles for stability and acceptance (of himself and by others, including fellow Mormons). More information on the book is available at

    Mark Zamen, author

    By Anonymous Mark Zamen, at 1:26 AM, July 02, 2009  

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