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On self-esteem

Many of us consider a strong sense of self esteem to be one of the hallmarks of good mental health. In this short essay, Amelia looks at the concepts of taking pride in our accomplishments, feeling confident in our abilities, and the satisfaction of our desires in the context of Holy Scripture.
Is self-esteem necessary for good mental health? Most professionals seem to think so. They say it's important to feel good about ourselves—not just to feel good, but to feel good about ourselves. Most of us, too, want to feel proud of our accomplishments, confident in our abilities, and satisfied in our desires. But what does the Bible have to say about these endless quests for self-esteem?

Taking pride in our accomplishments.

The Bible doesn't say anywhere that we should feel proud of our accomplishments. Instead, it says that people who live in holy fear of the Lord hate pride (Proverbs 8:13). Pride brings shame and contention, while the truly wise are those who are humble and well-advised in the truth (Proverbs 11:12, 13:10); foolish people are the ones who are proud (Proverbs 14:3). Pride precedes destruction and causes us to fall (Proverbs 16:18). True honor, on the other hand, goes to those who are humble (Proverbs 29:23). Simply put: The pride of life is not of the Father, but is of this world (1 John 2:16). When we're proud, we don't recognize that we have any need for God.

Feeling confident in our abilities.

And what does God have to say about feeling confident in our abilities? He says that branches don't bear fruit unless they're connected to a vine. The Lord Jesus told His disciples: I am the vine, you are the branches. He who abides in Me, and I in him, bears much fruit; for without Me you can do nothing (John 15:4-5). Our own efforts have a role, of course, but it's God’s grace that fuels them. If there were the slightest interruption in God’s life-giving grace, not only would we be unable to achieve anything noteworthy; we wouldn't even be able to live. We have to do our part, but our part is nothing in comparison to or without His.

Satisfying our desires.

As for satisfying our desires, Saint Paul told the Galatians that longsuffering is one of the gifts of the Holy Spirit (Galatians 5:22). We're supposed to be content and patient with whatever God gives us or chooses not to give us; in fact, we should be joyful (Colossians 1:11), even if we don't "get what we want." We're called to deny things that are ungodly, including our desires for things of the world (Titus 2:12), and to dedicate all our yearnings and cravings toward the Lord. Christ God said: Whosoever will come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross (Mark 8:34). It's not holy to indulge ourselves in too much of what makes us feel good, even if we thank God for the good feelings. Holiness is about seeking to please God, not ourselves, because if we're holy, we love Him more.

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In conclusion, self-esteem is precisely what it sounds like: Giving esteem to the self. But this glorifying of the self isn't a goal of Christian living, because Christians know that glory belongs to God alone. When we learn to recognize that we're completely dependent on Him, when learn to ask Him for His help, and when we learn to thank Him for everything He gives us, undeserving as we are, this is when we'll truly know what it means to “feel good.” Reliance on our own abilities and efforts can never take us as far as we'd like; at some point we'll come face to face with our limitations. Reliance on God, on the other hand, can take us as far as the Good Lord wills.