When Self-Esteem Isn't The Answer - Guidelines Devotional
November 8, 2021

When Self-Esteem Isn’t The Answer

Before I formed you in the womb, I knew you; before you were born, I set you apart.  Jeremiah 1:5

In recent years, self-esteem has been touted as the answer to many of the problems confronting people. “There is this idea,” says psychology professor Roy Baumeister, “that raising self-esteem will help prevent crime, drug abuse and teen pregnancy.  But the links are weak, tenuous and inconsistent.”

Professor Baumeister, along with two other authorities, published data from various studies on aggression, crime and violence which span a period of over 70 years.  Their research is some of the most definitive ever done on the subject of self-esteem, and their conclusion is that self-esteem isn’t the answer.  To the contrary, they prove quite conclusively that “people with violent impulses suffer from excessive self-esteem” whether it is the schoolyard bully, the husband who abuses his wife, or the driver who makes obscene gestures at you and tries to run you off the road.

If low self-esteem were an underlying cause of violence, contends Baumeister, then shy, self-deprecating, insecure and depressed individuals would be the ones causing trouble in society today.  They are convinced that individuals who have an inflated opinion of themselves are the ones who feel challenged by the driver who taps the horn when their car is drifting into the lane of the next driver, or become angry when a wife points out the flaw in their logic or otherwise challenges them.

I am convinced that knowing who you are in the sight of God and understanding His viewpoint is the key to this whole issue.  What Baumeister is saying is that what some people think of as self-esteem is unvarnished ego and pride, and this spells trouble when it comes to relating to other people.  On the other extreme is the person whose opinion of himself is so flawed that he grovels in the depression of self-pity, sweaty hands, and feelings of worthlessness.

The cross of Jesus Christ stands midway between both extremes.  It tells me that the God who first created Adam in His image considered us to be worth the price of His dear son.  That fact can’t be taken lightly.  The record is clear:  “God made him [that is, Christ] who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God” (2 Corinthians 5:21).  God not only condemns arrogant pride but also the self-depreciating mentality of those who fail to recognize that the presence of Christ indwelling an individual changes Him from a pauper to a prince, and from a clay vessel to one indwelt by the Spirit of God.

The psychologist considered to be the father of the self-esteem movement, the late Dr. Nathaniel Branden, admitted that “inaccurate, overly-broad definitions of esteem are being used in research, skewing conclusions.”  He said, “The absence of a scientific definition of self-esteem has dogged the movement since it began 30 years ago.”

The problem, simply put, is that when we leave God out of the equation of life, we are bound to come up with skewed, off-balance images of ourselves.  To understand the product, you’ve got to study the architect, get his viewpoint, and see things from the image of the blueprint.  That’s where the Bible comes into the picture, and an understanding of human nature will never be balanced until we view life from His perspective.

Yes, an inflated opinion of yourself is just as deadly as not knowing who you are. God not only condemns strong pride, but the self-depreciating mentality of those who fail to recognize the spirit of God indwell in you makes you a person who can accomplish what God wants you to in a manner that is pleasing to our Father.

Resource reading: Jeremiah 1:1-10

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