Christ-Centered Self-Esteem

by James Rudy Gray

Self-esteem is a huge concept in the counseling world and the church. Some Christians decry it as sinful, while others hold it up as the ultimate spiritual standard. How should we judge? Self-esteem has to do with how we value ourselves. Should Christians value themselves? A secular writer, Alice Walker, said: "We all become more beautiful as we are loved, and if you have self-love, then you are always beautiful." Most Christians would reject that statement outright. The Apostle Paul wrote in Romans 12:3: "For through the grace given to me I say to everyone among you not to think more highly of himself than he ought to think but to think so as to have sound judgment, as God as allotted each a measure of faith." The teaching here seems to indicate that an honest, Christ-centered self-esteem is right and healthy. The concept of Christ-esteem has been introduced by several different Christian writers and counselors. For some, anything with the word "self" in it cannot be a good thing for the followers of Jesus since we are to die to self. However, in Galatians 5:23, Paul cites self-control as part of the fruit of the Spirit. We all have certain feelings and thoughts about ourselves. Are they accurate? Are they honest? Are they complementary to or in contradiction to the Word of God? Everyone engages in self-talk. Is it truthful or false? It is negative or positive? Does the truth of God's Word influence it or is our self-talk influenced more by our perceptions, experiences, and opinions of others? I pulled out a folder recently from a workshop on self-esteem I had attended. The first page was a list of things people in my small group observed about me. As I remember it, everything had to be positive and affirming. As I read those words, I found myself feeling better. It is so easy in a negative world to see and feel what is wrong with the world and with us. As Christians, we also need to see what is good and right. If we are justified by faith and saved by grace, then we have a standing before God that is the basis for real and constant, holy, and truthful self-esteem. God has forgiven us totally so we are free to love and serve Him. God loves us perfectly so we can deal with the ups and downs and rejections we will encounter along life's way. God has accepted us forever into His family through the new birth in Jesus Christ. Now we can allow that position to influence our thinking and build confidence in our place in God's family. The new self-psychology and many of the hybrids that have sprung from that line of thinking begin and end with man. Christ-centered self-esteem begins with Christ, and through that relationship touches every area of our lives. There are times and days we will all feel down, blue, hurt, even unworthy. It is at those precise times that we find the source of real self-esteem: our relationship with Christ. Self-esteem is important. How we feel and think about ourselves is critical. If we belong to Christ, we must remember that we are His children and that is extremely significant. When our position in Christ is our anchor and His Word is our source for living, we can experience Christ-centered self-esteem. From that position of healthy self-esteem, we can also more freely love God and others. James Rudy Gray, who pastors Utica Baptist Church in Seneca, S.C., is certified as a professional counselor by the National Board for Certified Counselors, and is a member of the American Association of Christian Counselors.