Life-Altering Fallacies and How You Can Avoid Them: Self-Esteem (Part 2)

Taking A Different Approach

Non-believers often express dissatisfaction with Christianity because they see it as a system of oppressive rules and a crutch to use when facing life’s difficulties. In my estimation, they routinely fail to see how the Christian faith leads to mental and spiritual healing and health. Although my discussion is brief, I hope to provide a glimpse of the good news the Gospel has for us in the area of self-esteem.

  1. We are made in God’s image and likeness.

This is a central truth in Catholic teaching. Because God made us in his own

image, we have a value and dignity that surpasses any human-defined value.

It also cannot be removed or diminished by the opinions or actions of others,

and we can’t earn it.

 

            “Then God said, “Let us make human beings in our image, after our

likeness.”                                                                                           Gen. 1:26

 

“What is man that you are mindful of him, and a son of man that you

care for him? You have made him little less than a god, crowned him

with glory and honor.”                                                                  Ps. 8:5-6

 

“You formed my inmost being; you knit me in my mother’s womb. I

praise you because I am wonderfully made; wonderful are your works!”

Ps. 139:13-14

 

  1. No one is perfect.

Everyone has been wounded by sin. The world we live in has been wounded

by sin. People get cancer, have cosmetic defects, disabilities, depressed,

have abusive parents, etc. We have no illusion about creating a “perfect”

person if we can just apply ideal behavioral techniques and give people the

best opportunities. The theory that our hang-ups are just learned responses

doesn’t match reality. This knowledge doesn’t mean we become fatalistic

but rather alerts us to the fact that everyone needs help, not just the people

that were born with less opportunity than others.

 

            “We had all gone astray like sheep, all following our own way…”

Is. 53:6

 

“… for creation was made subject to futility, not of its own accord,

but because of the one who subjected it, in hope that creation itself

would be set free from slavery to corruption and share in the glorious

freedom of the children of God.”                                             Rom. 8:20-21

 

  1. God loves us, and nothing can separate us from that love.

Is there something better than self-esteem? Yes! To be loved! But while

people, material goods, and circumstances can fail us in this life, God’s love is

always present.

 

            “The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases, his mercies never come

to an end; they are new every morning; great is thy faithfulness.”

Lam. 3:22-23 RSV

 

“For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor principalities,

nor present things, nor future things, nor powers, nor height, nor

depth, nor any other creature will be able to separate us from the

love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.”                          Rom. 8:38-39

 

  1. It’s about love, not self-esteem.

What children need is not self-esteem, but to be loved. It starts with the

attachment infants have with their parents and continues as those caring for

them continue to meet their needs. As they get older, more processing occurs

at the cognitive level, but the sense of value comes best through a loving

relationship.

 

Love also has a tough side that can seem to act in opposition to self-esteem.

Parents help children learn to self-regulate their actions by setting limits and

reinforcing right behaviors. Sometimes they allow natural consequences to

take hold so children can learn cause and effect. Sometimes they introduce

logical consequences. Your child at times may not like what’s happening.

As it turns out, however, children feel more secure and cared for when

parents maintain consistent limits in a loving way.

 

  1. The correction for excess self-esteem is humility.

We often misunderstand humility as focusing on one’s weaknesses or enduring

humiliation. The more miserable you look and feel, the better. This is, in fact,

false. True humility is the ability to see and acknowledge oneself exactly

the way God sees us — as we really are. Strengths and weaknesses are

both recognized. Unlike some approaches to enhance self-esteem where one

tries to overlook the truth, humility welcomes it. In a world that distorts reality

and claims favorites based on appearance, possessions, or abilities, God

shows no partiality.

 

  1. Humility and love are key ingredients for healthy relationships with others.

 

            “Do nothing out of selfishness of vainglory; rather, humbly regard others as

more important than yourselves, each looking out not for his own interests,

but [also] everyone for those of others.”                                            Phil. 2:3-4

 

Christ asks us to do the unexpected. Our natural tendency is to protect

ourselves, to guard our interests, and to protect our self-esteem by expecting

others to treat us a certain way. On the surface, these all seem to make sense.

But love trumps self-interest. No one has lesser or greater value, but out of love

we intentionally treat others as though they were better than ourselves. When

experiencing abuse, we don’t just passively put up with it, but decisively

decline retaliation and seek healing.

 

            “But I say to you, offer no resistance to one who is evil. When someone

strikes you on [your] right cheek, turn the other one to him as well.”

Matt. 5:39

 

This flies in the face of conventional self-esteem wisdom. But a curious thing

happens when we take this approach. Instead of feeling worse or inferior, we

find freedom. Instead of trying to negotiate a favorable position in the world

of social transactions, we willingly give it all up for a new way of living.

 

  1. Christians embrace their weaknesses instead of trying to deny them.

Jesus Christ, as the Son of God, had every right to expect esteem from others.

Here is what Isaiah had to say about him:

 

            “He was spurned and avoided by men, a man of suffering, knowing

pain. Like one from whom you turn your face, spurned, and we held

him in no esteem.”                                                                         Is. 53:3

 

In II Corinthians chapters 11 and 12, Paul, one of the greatest apostles of the

early Church, talks about the difference between how others had treated him

and what he, by right, deserved. Yet, not only does he readily give up all

honor for the cause of Christ, he gladly accepts even his weaknesses so that

God can manifest his power through Paul. Instead of fighting against his

weaknesses, he embraces them. It seems counter-intuitive, and for those in

pursuit of self-esteem, might seem like ego suicide. There is a kind of death

involved, but it is one that leads to freedom and life, not enslavement.

 

            “But he [Jesus] said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for power is

made perfect in weakness.’ I will rather boast most gladly of my

weaknesses, in order that the power of Christ may dwell with me.”

II Cor 12: 9

 

What Should You Do?

If you’re a parent, it’s time to step back and ask yourself what you’ve been doing. Are you giving your child the kind of love they need rather than what others say they’re supposed to have for success? Are you teaching your children to discipline their behavior, or are you holding back because you fear it will do them harm? Perhaps you’re just too busy? If you don’t teach them discipline, no one else will. Only don’t do it in a way that is harsh or punitive, but be gentle, firm, and respectful of your child as one of God’s own.

If you personally struggle with self-esteem issues, you can be free. But if you try to do it on your own and without the help of the Holy Spirit, you’ll just be substituting one kind of mind game for another. It takes a relationship with Jesus Christ. Seek the help of others. That’s one reason why Christ gave us the Church. And if you don’t have relationship with Jesus, it’s time you did.

 

All scriptures are taken from the New American Bible Revised Edition, unless noted otherwise.

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