Self esteem is, and has been, a popular topic in our culture over the last few decades.
In Tim Keller’s book, The Freedom of Self-Forgetfulness, Keller points out that traditionally, our culture used to believe that people who caused problems in our society – people who hurt others or took advantage of others – had a problem with high self-esteem. We believed people took advantage of others because they thought too highly of themselves.
Today however, there has been a perspective shift. Today, we believe people who cause problems in our society do so because they have a problem with low self-esteem.
While there could probably be evidence given for both sides of this debate, Keller, and the Bible propose a different solution to our self-esteem problem.
A few years ago, I was sitting in a circle with people I had not known very long, but who very quickly became like family to me.
We were on a rooftop in Haiti debriefing about our week.
During the debrief, one of our leaders suggested that we go around the circle and affirm each individual who had been a part of our team that week.
Being that I didn’t know anyone super well (and because I like to prepare myself for the worst case scenario always) I wasn’t expecting much feedback.
That night I was encouraged in a lot of ways, but there was one comment that stood out to me, that I honestly haven’t fully grasped until recently.
My friend across the circle looked at me and said, “Anna, you don’t give yourself enough credit.”
Her words felt so good. But they felt good to me for all of the wrong reasons.
I loved hearing her words because I thought she was validating me and affirming me.
And I was still desperately seeking the approval of people in this circle who I saw as “mature believers.”
But that wasn’t really what we were doing at all.
We weren’t sitting in a circle after a week of being amazed by God to take a moment to look back at ourselves.
That would be foolish!
We were sitting in the circle looking at one another, to remind one another of how we had seen Christ display Himself through each of us that week.
What my friend was actually doing was not validating me, but instead, affirming Christ in me.
You see, the reason we struggle so much with self-esteem is because we are giving ourselves too much credit.
We give ourselves too much credit for our successes.
We give ourselves too much credit for our mistakes.
We give ourselves too much credit for letting someone else hurt us.
And when we try and take the credit, it doesn’t look like anything we want it to look like.
When we take the credit, it looks like pride. It looks like shame. It looks like bitterness and unforgiveness.
It’s heavy. It’s ugly. And it’s not the burden we were created to carry.
But I have good news friends.
We are free from this credit taking and credit shaming game.
Because the only name that deserves any kind of credit at all, is Jesus.
He has taken all the credit and shame for our sins on the cross.
And His work in us is the only reason we could ever accomplish anything or become anyone worth boasting about.
Paul himself, who said he had more than anyone to boast about, counted himself as nothing compared to knowing Jesus and allowing Him to work within him (Philippians 3:8).
It’s not about us, friends.
It never has been.
So we have got to stop trying to seek and avoid credit.
It is disabling us and keeping us from living the bold, simple, faithful, and abundant life we have been called to.
Our lives will either be ones of strife for approval or of self-forgetfulness and loving sacrifice.
One leads to control and anxiety, the other to abundance and freedom.
Which will we choose, friends?
Let’s choose wisely, daily.