I’ve never been a big fan of developing “self esteem” in myself or in my children. It’s such a flimsy concept. It seems to mean, depending on who is defining it, “Feeling good about yourself.” But the Bible tells us that we are not to be guided or ruled by our “feelings”. Instead we are to be ruled by the Truth.
This is why we say things like, “Love is a commitment,” and “Joy is the ability to be happy despite your circumstances.” Joy isn’t just “being happy”, it’s a gift from the Lord, a fruit of the Spirit, the ability to trust God so completely that your feelings aren’t tossed to and fro by your situation.
If self esteem is feeling good about ourselves, what are we to base it on?
Weight? Income? Job? Looks? These are the things people obsess over and pour their entire selves into in a desire to achieve better self esteem. But God says these things are idols. And these are things we have no control over.
Weight changes every time we have a baby, and even as we get older. How many women despair over the fact that being a stay at home mom has a much lower paycheck than whatever they did before? Some will even flip burgers just to have that external validation of a paycheck. Then there is the job. Some women sacrifice everything for a better job–their children, husbands, sleep, sanity and peace of mind. Looks…don’t even get me started. How much is spent each year in plastic surgeries, not to mention makeup, clothing, etc.
These things aren’t evil in and of themselves. Please don’t get me wrong. But when they become our idols, when we believe we must have them in order to have “self esteem”, then we are not pursuing something good and right.
Instead, I want my children to develop self respect. This is real and tangible.
It’s not based on feelings, but on the knowledge that you have done what is right.
How do we know what is right? God has given us His Word to help in that department. Many people believe we no longer need to read or study the Torah. This is the part of the Bible we refer to as the Law. But “Torah” is better understood as “teaching” or “way of life”. It’s discipline for God’s people. In it, God laid out very clearly what pleases Him, and what doesn’t please Him. True, not all of it applies directly to us today. I doubt many of us need to worry about beating our slaves. And our countries have laws that deal with evildoers so that we don’t have to be a part of the justice system except when we’re called to jury duty. But even where the direct instruction isn’t applicable, the principle is. Paul said to His New Testament audience that all Scripture is good for teaching and instruction. We know that this applies to the entire Bible, but when He wrote it He was referring specifically to the Torah—what his audience would have had to study and learn, and what we have still in our Bible today.
And Jesus explained that the most important commandment is to love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, mind and strength; and the second is like it, to love your neighbor as yourself. He explained that in these two commandments ALL the Torah and Prophets would be fulfilled. Do these two things and you’ll please God. Do these two things and you will have done all that is right. Do these two things and you will be able to respect yourself.
Which brings us to love not being a feeling—but a commitment and an action verb. It’s patient, kind, does not rejoice in evil but rejoices in the truth, keeps no record of wrongs. You can look it up yourself (1 Corinth 13 for anyone who hasn’t been to a wedding where it’s read ) Develop these character qualities and you will be doing what is pleasing to the Lord. You will be looking more like Him. After all, God is Love.
How do you develop these things? Get tapped into God! Love is a Fruit of the Spirit. The tree can’t work really hard and push to make the fruit grow. It just happens. As the tree is rooted in the soil (the Word) and watered from the spring (the Holy Spirit), each branch (Believer) that is connected to the vine
(Jesus) will produce fruit!
And when we are producing the Fruit of the Spirit we will be doing what is good and right and pleasing to the Lord. We will Love God. We will be patient, kind and expecting right behavior from ourselves, and others. We will be fulfilling the two most important commandments in which all the Torah and
Prophets are fulfilled!
Remember, though, it’s a process. All of life is. And the first quality mentioned under the description of Love is “patience”. I believe this is for a reason! We can’t rush our growth. We must embrace it. As with birth and all other natural processes, when we interfere we risk messing things up. But while you’re being patient, strive to be kind. Keep no record of wrongs. Delight only in the truth.
Study and put into practice the Torah. Jesus discipline develops self respect.
Our culture has repeatedly proven that people with high self esteem can be moral-less. But in order to have high self respect, we must have Love. Develop this and you will be leading a life pleasing to the Lord and beneficial to everyone around you, including yourself!