Scripture tells us that we are to love others as we do ourselves. There’s only one problem with that for a lot of people – they don’t actually love themselves.
The one common factor I see when I talk with people is a significant dose of low self-esteem. In many cases it’s no self-esteem. I want to spend a couple of minutes today talking about how we view ourselves and how God made us so that we can, indeed, love ourselves so that we can love others, too.
Self-esteem issues are not hard to find. Self-esteem issues usually are part of the cause of depression, anxiety, narcissism, histrionics, and other mental health conditions. But self-esteem issues can be subtle as well, undermining what otherwise would be a fairly typical life. In either case, it is vital that we understand who we are in Christ if we hope to serve Him in any true capacity.
Let me drive that last point home just a little more. When we have self-esteem issues it becomes difficult for us to turn the other cheek when offended; love our enemies; pray for those who persecute us; forgive others completely; and all those other things we are commanded to do by Jesus because the transgressions against us crush our self-esteem, leaving us with little love to give back. Without a strong sense of self in Christ we can become lost and too weak to respond to attacks the way God expects us to.
That said I think all of us have some soft spots in our self-esteem. For me I have a weakness when it comes to humiliation. I won’t go into the details but I was humiliated in public several times as a child and if you want to see real adult anger and aggression try to humiliate me today! My self-esteem is broken in this area and I am a work in progress as I try to repair it. My experience is everyone has something like this in their life as well.
The real question is how do we go about loving ourselves so that we can love others as God commands? Well, it starts with God! In our own power we really can’t do very much but be broken. It is only through the supernatural power of God that we can be the people He made us to be. So here is who God tells us we are:
- I am free from condemnation – I am NOT GUILTY because of Christ – Romans 8:1
- God has plans to prosper me and not harm me – plans to give me hope for the future – Jeremiah 29:11
- God chose me before the beginning of the world. Loves me so much he made me an adopted son/daughter through Jesus – Ephesians 1:4-5
- Jesus is not ashamed to call me brother/sister – Hebrews 2:11
- I am a friend of God – John 15:15
- I have been justified – completely forgiven and made righteous through Christ. God sees me as holy and righteous – Romans 5:17
- I am a new creation in Christ and no longer a slave to sin – 2 Corinthians 5:17
- I am an overcomer – Revelation 12:11
- In my own power I can do nothing, but I can do anything through Christ who strengthens me – Philippians 4:13
- I am delivered from the power of darkness. Satan has no hold on me – Colossians 1:13
- In Christ I can rebuke Satan and he will leave. I can stand up to temptation and win – James 4:7
- I am the light of the world and God wants me to shine His light before men – Matthew 5:14
- I can love others because God first loved me – 1 John 4:19
- I am loved by God and nothing can take me from His hand – John 10:28-29; Romans 8:38-39
If you’re like a lot of people who see this list you are saying to yourself, “Yeah, I know this but I just don’t feel it.” There’s an intellectual side of you that knows all this is true but emotionally and spiritually you don’t feel like an overcomer, or not guilty, or even loved. I get that so let’s do a different exercise!
I want you to take out a piece of paper and grab a pen.
No, really – go do it.
Okay, draw a line down the center of it and label the first column Gifts and the second column Skills. Make a list in the first column of all the things you do that come naturally to you. It can be anything. For example, my list might be “Talking, organizing, comprehension, leadership, counseling, sports, etc….” Just things that you do that are easy because they are just naturally a part of you. In the second column write down skills you have because you have learned them. My example might be, “Writing, public speaking, research, law, etc….”
Once you finish your list take a look it. Understand that the first column are gifts God gave you when He made you so that you could do His work. You will notice in your life that when you are using these gifts you are content, competent, and feel very good about what you produce. The reason is simple: this is what God intended you to do with your life. The second column are skills God allowed you to learn again so you could put them to work for him. When you use these skills your sense of self improves because just like the first column God intended you to use these skills – they are the reason you were created!
Now here’s the punch line: In your profession, your family, your hobbies, or your life do you spend the bulk of your time and effort using your gifts and skills? Many people with low self-esteem don’t work toward their strengths, e.g. the gifts and skills God gave them, but instead work toward their weaknesses doing things that don’t involve the tools God has provided.
Here’s the addendum to the punch line: You could be like me and actually use your gifts and skills but not for the reason God intended rather for yourself and still be miserable. See your gifts and skills are not just for you to use for your own advantage; God intends us to use them for His purpose and that is when they will give you joy beyond your comprehension.
As you look at your list I want you to realize a few things:
- God loves you so much that He endowed you with specific gifts and skills!
- God trusts you so much that He has given you a mission on which to use those gifts and skills.
- God believes in you so much that He isn’t micromanaging you, but will direct you to the task if you seek Him and ask Him for directions and clarification.
- God knows you so well that He will only give you work that you can handle and will enable you to handle whatever He gives you.
Self-esteem issues are really hard to overcome and I would say impossible to overcome on your own. There is real pain in your life that causes your self-esteem to plummet, but with God all things are possible. If we are to recover our self-esteem so that we can love ourselves and then others we must start with understanding that God made us for His good purposed to do His will using His gifts and skills. You are loved, trusted, believed in, and known and you actually have work to do. Grab hold of what God has given you and learn how to love yourself, trust yourself, believe in yourself, and know yourself. God already does!