The problem is not that we have low self-esteem, but that we have high self-esteem. We have pride. Consider, for all the problems that God addresses in the scriptures, where does God tell us to feel good about ourselves because the problem in life is that our self-esteem is too low? Where does God command us to think more about ourselves? Where does God command us to think highly of ourselves? Where does God tell us to have a healthy self-image? Contrary to Oprah, where does God say not to suppress a part of ourselves? God teaches us the opposite. The problem is that we are not suppressing enough of ourselves and changing who we are. The problem is that we think to high of ourselves, not too low. Arrogance, pride, ego, self-esteem, and the like are the repeated condemned problems of humanity.
God reveals to us that we are liars, thieves, and full of wickedness. God reveals that there is no one righteous. God reveals to us that we are deserving God’s wrath, not love and goodness.
The problem is not low self-esteem but high self-esteem. You may wonder how I figure this to be the case. We say we have low self-esteem. But it seems that there are two causes to this: (1) We say we low self-esteem because we want people to pay attention to us and stroke our ego. Some people do not have low self-esteem but say they do so that people will pay more attention to them. If I say I have low self-esteem, the natural reaction of people is to try to boost the ego. This is sinful. This is pride. This is selfishness. (2) In most cases, the reason we have low self-esteem is because we have high expectations of others. We think people ought to be doing things for us that they are not doing. People should pay attention to me. People should love me. People should treat me better. People should…. It is all “me, me, me.” We have low self-esteem because we have pride. Our expectations are so high and people are not meeting our life expectations so we feel bad about ourselves. I am not denying that people feel bad about themselves. But pride, not low self-esteem, is the reason we feel bad about ourselves. We think we are so important that people ought to be treating us better.
Consider even situations where something tragic or wicked has happened to us. Perhaps you were abused as a child. Perhaps your parents divorced. Maybe you have horrible, wicked parents who mistreated you. These kinds of life altering events will certainly cause many difficulties for us in life. But we have a choice to make. Pride says that people need to take care of me, coddle me, and support me because I had such bad life experiences. We may think it is “low self-esteem” but it really is pride. It really is our desire for others to do things for us. The proper choice to make is to accept that these bad things did happen to us (I am not denying the evil and wicked things that have occurred against us). I am not denying the tragic nature of what we experience. But the proper decision is to accept that bad things happened and find your value, exalting, and healing in Jesus. Rather than seeking for others to repair your life through flattery, seek to repair your life through Jesus.
Bad things happened to Jesus also. What happened to Jesus was unfair and unjust. Jesus was mistreated. Jesus was physically abused and beaten. Jesus’ life is full of tragedies. Have you ever wondered why we don’t read about Joseph in the scriptures after the birth? I think it is reasonable to assume that Joseph died at some point during Jesus’ life. But despite all these things, Jesus humbled himself. He made a choice to practice humility. God is commanding us to make the same choice. Both Peter and James command us to humble ourselves (James 4:10; 1 Peter 5:6). There is no command in scripture that says we need to exalt ourselves and raise our level of self-esteem. The consistent, repeated command is to humble ourselves.