Joshua Clayton: Is It Biblical for Christians to Place a Priority on High Self-Esteem?

Joshua Clayton

Specifically among believers, let’s consider for a moment how popular it has become to promote a positive self-image, to affirm personal identity in self and to uplift confidence in one’s own ability.

Whether a mother uplifting her daughter’s self-image or a speaker proclaiming a message to make people “feel better” about themselves, is it biblical to promote high self-esteem for those in the body of Christ?

I’ve wrestled with this question in my early years of the faith. Uplifting and encouraging others always seemed to be a noble task the church should champion. In fact, why would anyone get upset at people promoting self-esteem among other Christians, making them feel good or uplifting them in their abilities?

This, however, is not a matter of what sounds best; rather, we must consider whether promoting high self-esteem lines up with Scripture. As believers, we have the blessed assurance of knowing our faith is firmly grounded in the absolute truths of Scripture (Psalm 1:1-3). In the Word, we find life (Proverbs 4:4), hope (Titus 2:13) and ultimate fulfillment (Psalm 3:2-6) because we find each page saturated with Jesus. Thus, if we are striving to be biblical, let’s hold the phrase “high self-esteem” up to the Bible and ask: Is promoting self-esteem a biblical concept?

Self-esteem can be defined as the subjective self-measure of an individual’s worth and value. According to psychology, when every humanistic need is met, mankind can reach their ultimate fulfillment, or “self-actualization.” Therefore, a self-actualized individual is one who has fulfilled all humanistic needs — one of those being high self-esteem. Psychology teaches that the good in self can help one attain ultimate satisfaction. At its very core, this is not a biblical concept, but a psychological construct.

Why does this concept of esteeming self pose a problem for believers? Let me use a personal example. I may not remember the specific date the Lord saved me, but I will never forget what happened that day. I was lying on my bedroom floor, mourning the sinful life I was choosing to live. Granted, at the time I was about 8 years old, but the impact of God’s Word resonated so deep that it pierced my calloused heart.

God’s Word showed me that I was a foul sinner (Romans 3:23), completely helpless in my current state (Romans 5:6) and fighting to see the destruction of God’s Kingdom (Galatians 5:17). The Spirit brought about my brokenness, and without a miraculous change (2 Corinthians 5:17) from God’s own choosing (John 6:44), my life was destined for destruction and death (2 Thessalonians 1:8). The constant teaching of Scripture depicted me as an individual always in this perpetual state of dependence and brokenness.

One thing is certain: once I understood this, I did not feel very good about myself or my abilities. In fact, none of the believers I know who fully grasp their depravity regard these truths as a boost to their self-esteem.

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SOURCE: Baptist Press
Joshua Clayton