My Self-Esteem Problem
2 Corinthians 5:20,21 We implore you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God. For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.
My self-esteem, like most people’s, is a bit of a paradox. I am, at once, self-loathing and arrogant. I can wallow in the shame of the past, while simultaneously looking down on those who still struggle. Many of you have read my blog and have told me that I am a little hard on myself. If you came to know the arrogant me though, your sympathy would evaporate. Some of you know me only as arrogant and have a hard time believing that I am capable of thinking myself to be lowly.
This is true for most of us. We either have an unhealthy, inflated self-image, thinking ourselves to be better than others, or we have a destructive, poor self-image, considering ourselves beneath others. Some of us are quite capable of erring in both directions. I may embrace self-deprecation, only to bristle in pride if you have the audacity to point out my flaws. In humility, I may admit that I am an addict, but I am offended if you say it.
Both extremes are defective as they distract from where we find our authentic, eternal value. Paul, in today’s passage, described the only place from where that comes. He implored us to accept Christ’s gift of reconciliation to God so that we may inherit the righteousness of God. Paul insisted that all of our purpose and meaning in life is met, not in our high or low opinion of self, but in the creator’s opinion of us. When we accept Christ’s sacrificial death on the cross, the God of the universe sees us as having the perfection of Jesus Christ himself.
Both arrogance and self-loathing are destructive as they are unhealthy (but natural) preoccupations with self. It is only in turning my gaze from me to God that I am able to identify with my greatest reality. The only solution to my problem of me is to find my value outside of me. There will always be those the world sees as better than me, just as there will always those the world sees as beneath me. This worldly scale cannot measure my everlasting value though. My true value, purpose and meaning may only be found outside of me, in God. It is only in knowing him that I know his perfection in me.
What does this look like? Like any other struggle, as often as I am tempted, I must do whatever it takes to turn from me to God. When I am tempted by arrogance or self-deprecation, I must turn to my worth to God. In turning to God, I find that I do not require approval from the world or self to know contentment. It is only in training my eyes on Christ that I find it impossible to be self-absorbed.
This is not denial of reality. I do not pretend that the good or bad that I have done no longer exists. I just find my worth in God instead of my failures or accomplishments.