I had always felt that it was a mark of good character, to feel shame at my shortcomings and ignore my strengths. With years of practice, I had uncomfortable explanations ready for any situation. A pretty outfit? Got it on sale, not thank you. I have naturally curly hair that sometimes gets noticed. I say, it’s just the weather today…you should have seen it yesterday, not thank you. Generally, I did fairly well in school. If I received compliments from teachers or fellow students on a paper or a test that I had worked hard on, I would say, just lucky I guess, not thank you. If I received a compliment on my cooking…the recipe is so easy, not thank you.
Is it just me? Think of this: are there times when, rather than spending time with the Lord in prayer and in devotion to the Word, you have spent time dwelling on yourself…your flaws…your inadequacies? In our culture, we have a way of twisting things to the point of distortion. Humility is a good thing. But humiliation is not. Humble yourselves in the sight of the Lord, and He will lift you up (James 4:10, NKJV). Our culture is so rich in self-promoting Pride that we don’t know what it means to be humble. Sometimes it seems that low self-esteem is perceived as as humility, that it is the opposite of Pride. We tend to feel sorry for those with low self-esteem and despise the haughty person. Yet they are two sides of the same sin, Pride.
When our minds are consumed by thoughts of Self, we are elevating ourselves above God – this is a luxury we cannot afford. She who is self-indulgent is dead even while she lives (1 Tim 5:6). Think about it. The Bible does not tell us to dwell on ourselves, rather set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth. For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God (Col 3:2-3). In fact we are told, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things (Phil 4:8). We are told to occupy our minds with God, to pray without ceasing (1 Thess 5:17).
A mind filled up with God has no room for self-centered thinking.
To some of us, it just feels like our “normal”, to live with low self-esteem. But God wants much more for us. David is a great example of choosing a better thought-life: Why are you cast down, O my soul, and why are you in turmoil within me? Hope in God; for I shall again praise Him, my salvation and my God (Psalm 43:5). Turning our thoughts to God, from ourselves, brings us to a new place of peace and rest, because we are doing what we were made to do. Peter says: you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for His own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of Him who called you out of darkness into His marvelous light. Once you were not a people, but now you are God’s people; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy (1 Peter 2:9-10).
Paul says: Remember, you are not your own; you were bought at a price (1 Cor 6:19-20). Jesus, who paid that price, said, “The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life and have it abundantly” (John 10:10). We are not to live downtrodden lives, consumed by guilt and fear and hopelessness – lives consumed by Self. We are to live in such a way that honors God – a life focused on Him and on pleasing Him will yield fruit and the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control (Gal 5:22-23). Pride in any form is unhealthy for us. The antidote for what ails us is found in turning our hearts and minds toward God.
How about you? How do you fight them when negative thoughts about yourself enter your mind?