If you’ve been a part of American culture for any length of time, you might’ve heard how self-esteem is healthy. In sociology and psychology, self-esteem reflects a person’s overall subjective emotional evaluation of his or her own worth. It encompasses beliefs about oneself like, “I’m competent,” “I’m worthy.”
It’s my argument that self-esteem is healthy just as long as the source of the esteem is drawn from God, and in return, God is glorified. But when self-esteem comes from the praise and acceptance of others, or anything other than God, self-esteem becomes pride. When people boast, brag, and express arrogance, it’s a sure sign that God is not their source of esteem.
Side note: Boasting and bragging are often used interchangeably, but there’s a difference between the two. Boasting is talking with excessive pride and self-satisfaction about one’s achievements, possessions, or abilities; but bragging goes a step further by lying.
Self-esteem is defined as confidence in one’s own worth or abilities; self-respect. Satan’s sin was not that he acknowledged his greatness and respected himself, but because he decided to honor himself instead of the Creator who gave him those attributes.
Denying God the glory is one thing the sin of pride does. The god complex finds it tough to credit its greatness to the Creator because that would mean there’s someone higher than it.
Because of the pride in the hearts of men, they remain distant from God, and therefore lack self-esteem. To compensate for this void, they seek the validation of men and become “people-pleasers” in exchange for esteem. But mere humanity is a terrible source to draw respect from because they’re ruled by Satan, and people are never satisfied. Paul said:
For do I now persuade men, or God? or do I seek to please men? for if I yet pleased men, I should not be the servant of Christ. (Galatians 1:10)
It’s better to please God because his standard for acceptance never changes; that standard is faith. And of course, God loves and values his creation just as they are; his love isn’t based on performance (Romans 5:8).
But when we try to please men, we end up on a roller coaster, and our self-worth and value is up one minute, and down the next.
When people discuss self-esteem, they’re trying to guard against low self-esteem. Low self-esteem is when a person doesn’t have confidence in their ability to do something, or they don’t value themselves as much as they should. Low self-esteem comes from being disconnected from God or not receiving enough validation from men.
Low self-esteem leads people to tolerate unhealthy situations and people, or consistently accept low quality. Individuals who tolerate most forms of abuse (or misuse), or fail to reach their full potential in life may have low self-esteem.
It’s not God’s will for any of his creation to think less of themselves. What if trees had low self-esteem? They’d never grow and produce fruit. What if birds had low self-esteem? They’d never fly high and sing throughout the day.
Low self-esteem doesn’t glorify God because it hampers a person from reaching the full potential God placed within them.
Low self-esteem also allows the devil to misuse that person. The enemy can have a person sink deep into depression to the point of suicide completely oblivious to, or in denial about, their true value and importance.
On the contrary, God wants us to be fully aware of how gloriously and wonderfully we are. The Psalmists says:
I will praise thee; for I am fearfully and wonderfully made: marvellous are thy works; and that my soul knoweth right well. (Psalms 139:14)
This is just one of many scriptures that emphasize the value of humanity and everything God put into us. Here’s more to study on your own: John 3:16; 15:13; Romans 5:8; 8:35-39; Psalms 103:11; Ephesians 3:19; Isaiah 49:15; Jeremiah 31:3; 1 John 3:1; 4:10.
So if the Lord says such positive things about his creation, he wants them to have a healthy understanding of their value. I’m sure he was okay with Lucifer knowing how great he was, but it’s when he started to glorify himself and reject the person who blessed him with his talents that he became corrupt.
Likewise, with us, it’s not a sin to walk in dignity and satisfaction about who we are—we should be happy—but God must be glorified and accredited. We learn to honor God and draw our esteem from through consistent Bible study. When we believe and meditate on what God word everyday, we have joy, but more importantly, we express humility.
There are many people who publicly thank God for their achievements and talents, but remain haughty. These people are liars, pretending to be humble when in fact, they’re as proud as the devil (Matthew 15:8).
People who truly draw their esteem from God don’t boast or look down on others because they know where it came from; and when they think about the Author, they can’t help but give him praise. The book of Revelation gives us insight into this:
10 The twenty-four elders fall down before him who is seated on the throne and worship him who lives forever and ever. They cast their crowns before the throne, saying, 11 “Worthy are you, our Lord and God, to receive glory and honor and power, for you created all things, and by your will they existed and were created.” (Revelation 4:10-11)
What parents should teach
Every loving parent wants a healthy child, and that involves boosting their self-esteem. But too often, parents end up increasing the pride in their kids leading them further away from God.
Parents who seek to affirm their children will say things like, “You’re smart. You’re a genius. I’m proud of you.” This praise and affirmation apart from God will cause three problems:
- The child will learn to perform in exchange for praise and esteem from people; the child will become a people pleaser.
- The child will learn to draw their esteem from themselves based on their abilities, or they may believe they’re value is based on performance.
- This child remains clueless to the God who gave them the power to succeed, they steal the glory of God, and walk further away from him.
Let’s deal with each point.
First, the children must be taught that good behavior glorifies God and sinful behavior dishonors him. Children must be aware of the direct correlation between God and their parents. When children obey their parents, they honor God and glorify him (Ephesians 6:1-3).
As they grow and learn God’s ways, their source of esteem will come from him, and they’ll seek to please him instead of their parents (or anyone else for that matter).
Second, children must be taught that they’re worthy, acceptable, and valuable even when they fail. We all must learn that God doesn’t accept us based on our performance, but rather our faith in his ability to perform in us (Ephesians 2:8-10; Philippians 1:6).
While the world will demean its own for failure, a child of God’s self-esteem remains intact because they know that God’s grace (Titus 1:11-12 NIV) is there to keep them from falling next time—their only work (or performance) is to believe.
Third, children must be taught that every good thing they have comes from God (James 1:17). Even bad things “work for the good of those who love God and are called according to his purpose” (Romans 8:38).
Children must understand that God is responsible for their good looks, talents, achievements, abilities, etc. When they acknowledge this, this leads to the honor of God and eliminates boasting and arrogance. The word speaks on this:
23 Thus saith the Lord, Let not the wise man glory in his wisdom, neither let the mighty man glory in his might, let not the rich man glory in his riches:
24 But let him that glorieth glory in this, that he understandeth and knoweth me, that I am the Lord which exercise lovingkindness, judgment, and righteousness, in the earth: for in these things I delight, saith the Lord. (Jeremiah 9:23-24)
So it’s important for parents to praise their children but let the child know that God is the one responsible for their greatness, and they must thank him.
On the other hand, when parents say “I’m proud of you,” while this means they feel happiness and satisfaction for the successes of their children, that parent can’t let that go to their head.
We’ve all heard of parents who live through their children’s accomplishments. We’ve seen the aggressive little league sports moms and dads who glory in the wins of their children; this is the sin of pride. Even though parents are responsible for training and encouraging their children, God still deserves the glory because, without him, that parent wouldn’t have been capable (John 15:5).
Does God really deserve the glory?
But still, pride will have us attribute the source of our accomplishments and abilities to ourselves rather than God. Athletes, scholars, singers, artists, leaders, and the wealthy all claim that it’s because of their long study hours, their practice, their training, and their efforts that they deserve the glory.
Why should God be accredited when it was the student who paid attention, studied, and passed all those tests? Because the word says:
The Lord giveth wisdom: out of his mouth cometh knowledge and understanding. (Proverbs 2:6)
People fail to understand that knowledge and wisdom come from God. God is responsible for their brain and ability to process data, remember, and regurgitate it.
God gives students self-control to sit still and listen, and he gives them the energy to study for long hours. God even blesses students with teachers that adapt to their unique learning style helping them to learn. Therefore, God deserves the glory for any academic achievement.
In regards to those in leadership positions, they have nothing to boast about either because God allowed them to be there. King Nebuchadnezzar learned this the hard way, and after being humbled to the level of a beast, he said:
He [God] changeth the times and the seasons: he removeth kings, and setteth up kings: he giveth wisdom unto the wise, and knowledge to them that know understanding (Daniel 2:21).
Here’s more scripture on why the Author deserves all the glory:
Naked came I out of my mother’s womb, and naked shall I return thither: the Lord gave, and the Lord hath taken away; blessed be the name of the Lord. (Job 1:21)
The Spirit of God hath made me, and the breath of the Almighty hath given me life. (Job 33:4)
7 The LORD maketh poor, and maketh rich: he bringeth low, and lifteth up. 8 He raiseth up the poor out of the dust, and lifteth up the beggar from the dunghill, to set them among princes, and to make them inherit the throne of glory: for the pillars of the earth are the LORD’S, and he hath set the world upon them. (1 Samuel 2:7-8)
Thou art worthy, O Lord, to receive glory and honour and power: for thou hast created all things, and for thy pleasure they are and were created. (Revelation 4:11)
So again, self-esteem is healthy just as long as the source of the esteem is drawn from God, and in return, God is glorified. The saints of God must remember to understand the origin of their talents and gifts and teach their children likewise. All glory belongs to God.