Mable walked into the woods one day, doused herself with gasoline, and set herself on fire. The newspapers said she suffered from low self-esteem. They were wrong.
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They were misguided and confused. Mable had an extremely high view of herself, but in her twisted and tormented mind, she could not become that person she esteemed the most.
Her thoughts were all-consuming. She valued a version of herself, the culture’s version of what great is rather than God’s version–a person made in the image of God (Genesis 1:27).
Mable did not know God, so the only person she could compare herself to was the one defined by her culture. Mable saw no escape from her miserable life. She esteemed herself highly but could not attain those heights. Physically destroying the person she learned to despise was her only option. Mable’s story is true.
The End Of the Road
Mable’s problem is like yours and mine. She is a snapshot of every person. Since the fall of Adam, people are overly-consumed with themselves.
Individualism, over-evaluation, and preoccupation are the “Adamic trifecta” that sends the mind to dark places. Personal loyalty when thinking about yourself is reasonable and expected. The problem is the downside.
Sin is always crouching at the door of your heart, ready to push you further than you want to go. Mable’s affection for herself had no holy parameters.
Sin took her further than she intended to go and required more than she wanted to pay. She did not know any other way (Philippians 2:3-4; John 14:6). The end of the road for the person consumed with self-thoughts is suicide.
How could it be otherwise? The more she reflected on herself, the more dissatisfied she became with what she saw. Her hopelessness grew with each despairing look, to finally the only solution was to remove the problem. She set herself on fire.
From Adam, We Came
To esteem yourself–good or bad–is to think about yourself. The biblical appeal is to assume your value while spending your time thinking about God and others. Every Christian knows their worth so to spend time focusing on yourself is redundant, inward, and misguided.
If you are a person who struggles with worth, the answer is not thinking about yourself but thinking about Christ in you and the Father who created you (Genesis 1:27: Psalm 139:14). They are your hope. If Adam had thought more about God than himself, he would have been in a better place.
Satan was so determined to turn Adam into himself that suggesting God was a liar became part of his sales pitch. You can read the entire sordid story of how Adam went from God-centered to self-centered in Genesis 3:6-12.
Adam believed a lie instead of the truth, which created separation from the Lord so he could worship himself more (Romans 1:25).
He doubled down on his separation by covering his shame, running from the garden, lying about what was going on, and throwing Eve under the bus. The person who believes he must esteem himself has these characteristics:
- Will struggle with shame.
- Will struggle with fear.
- Will not accept who you are.
- Will not want God poking around in your life.
- Will practice deceit to hide the truth about yourself.
- Will blame your problems on others.
The culture will tell a person like this they need to esteem themselves more. If they esteem themselves more, they may do what Mable did.
Turning yourself onto yourself to think better about yourself has never been the answer. Self-centeredness binds the soul until the weight of your thoughts buries you in a hole of hopelessness.
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The Cure For Self-Esteem
The cure for self-esteem is to think of yourself less while considering God and others more. If you continue to give your mind over to thoughts about yourself, you will end up like Adam with complicated and distorted relationships.
The message of the gospel is always counter to man’s wisdom. What looks like wisdom and strength from the culture’s perspective is not, and what seems like foolishness and weakness of God is not. Paul said it this way:
For the foolishness of God is wiser than men, and the weakness of God is stronger than men. – 1 Corinthians 1:25
Adam should have let go of what was best for him, according to Satan, and grab hold to what was best for God. If Jesus said all the 600 (plus) laws in the Old Testament are summed up in four words–love God, love others–that is the best advice you’ll ever receive if you want to be whole (Matthew 22:36-40).
The fullest and happiest people you’ll ever meet are those who find no greater joy than to give their lives for others. The most miserable and angry people you’ll ever meet cannot stop thinking about themselves.
Mable had a “representative” in the world she esteemed more than anything else. That “representative” was a vision of what she wanted to be. The representative was Mable.
She appreciated that version of herself. She compared the person she was with the person she wanted to be–as sculpted in her mind but determined by the world–and came up short. Paul talked about the foolishness of comparing yourself to others.
Not that we dare to classify or compare ourselves with some of those who are commending themselves. But when they measure themselves by one another and compare themselves with one another, they are without understanding. – 2 Corinthians 10:12
Mable was without understanding. She had low self-esteem: she hated the person she was. She had high self-esteem: she loved her representative, the person she wanted to be as interpreted by the world.
Her estimation of herself was on steroids, which could only end with the annihilation of the individual. She hoped to restore herself (Romans 3:10-12), a job only God could do (John 3:7). She was hopelessly stuck on herself.
As You Proceed
Wholeness comes through Christ (Colossians 1:28). Complete people pursue God and others more than themselves. Loving God and others will not deplete you.
It will fill you with more of God’s character and attributes (James 4:6). Being made in the image of God is entirely expressed by loving God and others more than anything else.
Satan did not tell Adam or Mable that if you try to become like a god, it will not end well for you (Proverbs 14:12).
- Have you been shaped to think poorly of yourself?
- How do you know thinking of yourself less is the path to freedom?
- Will you get with someone to help reshape your thoughts about yourself so you can be released to love God and others with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength?
Also published on Medium.