Self-Esteem: Question & Answer
Dear Mr. Alcorn,
I am a third year undergraduate at Staffordshire University, England, completing a dissertation on the relationship between religious orientation and self-esteem.
I have found a positive relationship between intrinsic religiosity and self-esteem, which I feel might be similar to having a biblical self-esteem. However, now I have hit a problem. Despite reading several articles including yours (especially Two Sources of Self-Esteem: Secular and Christian), I still feel no clearer about defining just what a biblical self-esteem is, finding it probably easier to say what it is not, in the context of secular self-esteem.
Could you possibly help me in providing a concise description/definition of what biblical self-esteem is, so that I can attempt to relate it to the relationship that I have found?
Intrinsic relationship and self-esteem certainly appear to go beyond a secular self-esteem, but I can’t find the right way to relate it to a biblical self-esteem.
I am becoming ever more confused in my writing and would very much appreciate your help.
I think the proper self-esteem is stated in Romans 12:3: “Do not think of yourself more highly than you ought, but rather think of yourself with sober judgment.” Sober judgment means accurate judgment. Correct self-image is seeing ourselves as God sees us. He created us, so we have purpose. He loves us, so we have value. But we are sinners, depraved and bent on evil (Romans 3). Our nature as sinners separates us from God. If we embrace the atoning sacrifice of Jesus on our behalf, we become new creatures in Christ and are covered with his righteousness (2 Corinthians 5:17,21). As such, a correct self-esteem for the Christian means seeing ourselves as we are, forgiven and made holy by the merit of Christ.
This is in stark contrast to much of the self-esteem movement which emphasizes our own supposed merit and worth apart from God. What makes God’s grace amazing is our unworthiness, and if we underestimate that unworthiness, we undermine the grace of God on our behalf. It’s not about us, it’s about Christ. Everything that exalts men tends to bring down Christ. Our worth is not only as a result of His work of creation, but in particular, redemption.
Hope that helps a little. Best wishes.