Is Self-Esteem Biblical?
The Bible often warns against pride and its consequences: “Pride goes before destruction, a haughty spirit before a fall.” (Proverbs 16:18, NIV)
But what about those who struggle with low self-esteem? Isn’t the opposite of low self-esteem actually high self-esteem? Isn’t that pride?
Pride vs. Self-Esteem
Pride is putting oneself on a pedestal, lording over others and acting grandiose. Many people who act this way actually have a low self-esteem. They act arrogantly in order to compensate. They are desperately trying to cover up their flaws. This is even the heart of some clinical disorders such as Narcissistic Personality Disorder.
But what about the Christian who struggles with low self-esteem? Is it sinful to try to build your self-esteem? No.
Recognize Your Value
Low-self esteem can be a form of pride and selfishness because the whole focus is on self. True humility is focused outward. The humble person seeks the good of others and has a healthy self-esteem. They see themselves through God’s eyes, not their own.
The person with low self-esteem needs to let go of being preoccupied with their flaws and imperfections.This means fully accepting the grace of God and accepting yourself the way you are right now.
But Isn't Humanity Basically Evil?
Humanity is basically bad and good. Because of original sin (and our own sin), we are bad. Yet we are good because we are made in the image of God. Jesus took care of the bad when he died on the cross. If you have put your trust in Him, God accepts you fully as His child.
There is no need for low self-esteem, pride or arrogance. All those focus on self. Put your trust in God and see yourself through His eyes. Accept yourself and live out God’s calling on your life.
See Others as Valuable Too
No one likes to be judged, but we do it to others all the time. Many who are judgmental actually suffer with low self-esteem. They mock others out of their own insecurity.
If you struggle with self-image, try this experiment: every time you feel the urge to be critical or judgmental toward another person, give them a break. Recognize their limitations. Remember how Jesus sees them.
When you start doing this, watch your own self-image improve. When you stop judging others, you stop judging yourself. When you hold someone against your own standard, you internally set yourself higher. As a result, you set yourself up for a fall. Setting yourself on a pedestal will only lead to you beating yourself up every time you slip off that pedestal.
Take out the log in your eye so you can see just how small that speck is in your neighbor’s eye—if it was ever there to begin with. When you choose to love others unconditionally, it makes it easier to accept yourself and feel the grace of God.
See our other article on Viewing Yourself Through God's Eyes.