Paul's Poor Self Esteem

Discussion in 'General Baptist Discussions' started by John of Japan, Jan 24, 2011.

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Is self esteem Biblical?

Poll closed Feb 23, 2011.
  1. I think the teaching of self esteem is un-Biblical.

    10 vote(s)
    58.8%
  2. I think the teaching of self esteem is Biblical.

    1 vote(s)
    5.9%
  3. I don't know.

    3 vote(s)
    17.6%
  4. Other

    3 vote(s)
    17.6%
  1. John of Japan

    John of Japan
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    I had hoped for more interaction about this on the recent thread on psychology, but not much happened there. So I'll try with this.

    By modern standards, the Apostle Paul had low self esteem. Note the following verses:

    Ro 7:18 For I know that in me (that is, in my flesh,) dwelleth no good thing.
    Eph 3:8 Unto me, who am less than the least of all saints, is this grace given, that I should preach among the Gentiles the unsearchable riches of Christ;
    1Co 15:9 For I am the least of the apostles, that am not meet to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God.
    1Ti 1:15 This is a faithful saying, and worthy of all acceptation, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners; of whom I am chief.

    So, nowadays they'd probably say Paul was mentally ill. But he, on the other hand, would say that advocates of self esteem are promoting a terrible error. He even prophesied about self-lovers in the last days: "This know also, that in the last days perilous times shall come. For men shall be lovers of their own selves..." (2 Tim. 3:1-2).

    The truth is, "self esteem" is a completely secular teaching, with no basis whatsoever in Scripture. It was invented by William James in 1890 and popularized by secular psychologist Abraham Maslov (1908-1970), who defined it according to human needs. So now people are urged, even in Christian circles, to seek their "needs" in order to build their self esteem, to listen to how others talk about them and praise them in order to lift their self esteem.

    This is all un-Biblical. The Bible teaches us to deny self, to love God and our neighbor as we already love ourselves. It teaches, I believe, that success in the Christian life comes not from loving one's self, but from self-sacrifice, from going against one's own best interests, from offering everything we are to God.
     
  2. Iconoclast

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    most people are full of themselves, until the law of God shows them the truth
     
  3. Salty

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    My first thought would be Paul is using a comparison. For example in I Timothy 4:18 Paul tells us "For bodily exercise profiteth little, but godliness is profitable unto all things...

    Now, is Paul telling us not to waste our time exercising :thumbs:, No, of course not, :eek: rather he taking something important (exercise) and showing us how much more important godliness is.

    Likewise, his example of putting himself down, so to speak; he is showing us how humble we should be in relation to God.
     
  4. John of Japan

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    Amen. It takes God to show us our sinful, unworthy selves.
     
  5. John of Japan

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    "In relation to God" is the whole point. As Paul pointed out in Phil. 3, his human accomplishments before he met Christ were nothing. But on other occasions he gloried in how God had used him after he met Christ.

    When we were growing up in the '50s and '60s, no one urged self esteem, but self confidence was a good thing, based on personal effort and accomplishment. For example, you got good at music because you practiced a lot, not because the teacher told you that you were special! I believe we can have that self confidence in regards to human accomplisment, while realizing that such accomplisments are, in the eternal view, useless unless done for God's glory.
     
  6. Iconoclast

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    Psalm 10
    1Why standest thou afar off, O LORD? why hidest thou thyself in times of trouble?

    2The wicked in his pride doth persecute the poor: let them be taken in the devices that they have imagined.

    3For the wicked boasteth of his heart's desire, and blesseth the covetous, whom the LORD abhorreth. 4The wicked, through the pride of his countenance, will not seek after God: God is not in all his thoughts.

    5His ways are always grievous; thy judgments are far above out of his sight: as for all his enemies, he puffeth at them.

    6He hath said in his heart, I shall not be moved: for I shall never be in adversity.

    7His mouth is full of cursing and deceit and fraud: under his tongue is mischief and vanity.

    8He sitteth in the lurking places of the villages: in the secret places doth he murder the innocent: his eyes are privily set against the poor.

    9He lieth in wait secretly as a lion in his den: he lieth in wait to catch the poor: he doth catch the poor, when he draweth him into his net.

    10He croucheth, and humbleth himself, that the poor may fall by his strong ones.

    11He hath said in his heart, God hath forgotten: he hideth his face; he will never see it. 12Arise, O LORD; O God, lift up thine hand: forget not the humble.

    13Wherefore doth the wicked contemn God? he hath said in his heart, Thou wilt not require it. 14Thou hast seen it; for thou beholdest mischief and spite, to requite it with thy hand: the poor committeth himself unto thee; thou art the helper of the fatherless.

    15Break thou the arm of the wicked and the evil man: seek out his wickedness till thou find none.

    16The LORD is King for ever and ever: the heathen are perished out of his land.

    17LORD, thou hast heard the desire of the humble: thou wilt prepare their heart, thou wilt cause thine ear to hear:

    18To judge the fatherless and the oppressed, that the man of the earth may no more oppress.

    3For I say, through the grace given unto me, to every man that is among you, not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think; but to think soberly, according as God hath dealt to every man the measure of faith.
     
    #6 Iconoclast, Jan 24, 2011
    Last edited by a moderator: Jan 24, 2011
  7. annsni

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    I think what's important is a balance.

    1. I'm a dirty, sinful human being and am worthy of nothing. It is only by God's grace that I am saved while I deserved hell.

    2. I am a daughter of the most high God. I am His child, chosen before I was ever born. He loves me with an everlasting love and has written my name on His hand.

    It is when we lean more to one side that we are mentally unstable.
     
  8. Mexdeaf

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    Interesting discussion.

    My minor in Bible college was Psychology and I enjoy the study of the subject. As a matter of fact, I was just helping a deaf student today with a textbook concerning the part that our perceptions of self have in our ability to communicate with others, and how those perceptions of self come about. I don't have the textbook here at home with me but tomorrow I'll share some thoughts from it because they are germane to the discussion here.
     
  9. stilllearning

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    Hi John

    Thanks for the documentation about the source of the teaching of our need for self esteem.

    But.....the Lord does seem to tell us to be concerned about the low self esteem, of ourselves and others.......
    Romans 14:19
    Let us therefore follow after the things which make for peace, and things wherewith one may edify another.

    1 Corinthians 10:23
    All things are lawful for me, but all things are not expedient: all things are lawful for me, but all things edify not.

    1 Thessalonians 5:11
    Wherefore comfort yourselves together, and edify one another, even as also ye do.

    William James, may have been talking about, building ourselves up, in the Lord.
    --------------------------------------------------
    By the way in Paul’s time, he was accused of being mentally ill.......
    Acts 26:24
    “And as he thus spake for himself, Festus said with a loud voice, Paul, thou art beside thyself; much learning doth make thee mad.”
     
  10. Salty

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    and likewise a teacher was not afraid to tell you if you not talented at something. Back then, they would actually keep you back a grade, if you did not meet the standards.
    One of my pet peeves is when we are told that we can be anything we want to be. Hogwash - John, I would advise you never ask me to repair the engine on your car! Suppose someone told Danny Devito he could become a star in the NBA. Highly doubtful.

    Now in relation to Scripture. God has a purpose for each one of us. We may not realize it at the time, or how God is working in our life. A great example is from a program I heard today on "Stories of Great Christians" (Moody). Nate Saint, wanted to serve the Lord full time, but did not feel called to be a pastor. He was a pilot and aircraft mechanic. The subject came up of missionary aviation. Long story short - he became a missionary pilot!

    Salty

    Note: I usually don't get to hear this program!
     
    #10 Salty, Jan 24, 2011
    Last edited by a moderator: Jan 24, 2011
  11. Tom Butler

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    Here's Romans 12:3
    The key here is "sober judgment."

    And Luke 10:27
    Love your neighbor just as you love yourself. Luke assumes that we all love ourselves. Low self-esteem is not a problem for most people.

    As for scumbags, they ought to have low self-esteem, and nobody ought to tell them any differently.
     
  12. Salty

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    Why? I am sure some "choose" to be a scumbag. But there are some who are there not by their choosing. As a Christian, we should be willing to help those in (true) need. And sometimes a kind word is the key.
     
  13. Thousand Hills

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    I voted unbiblical, but should probably elaborate. Like Salty said earlier there is too much Politically Correct nonsense in our schools and other places regarding self esteem. Like not keeping score in soccer, things like that which I disagree with. None of us can ever know the true feeling of an accomplishment without experiencing a humbling defeat every now and then.

    As a Christian though, we should obviously be humble before the Lord, and be willing to set aside our own desires to serve others as Christ gave us an example. Our true self worth comes from our relationship with Christ, and how we live that out.

    Personally, I've always suffered from low self esteem. I've done better as I've matured in the faith, but it is still an issue from time to time. I'm sure there have been alot of occassions over the past, where the devil has played on this to keep me from building relationships so that I might be a witness in someway to somebody, or miss out on a blessing myself.

    I heard a pastor say one time that we are all terribly insecure, we just express it in different ways. Some are loud, stand offish, and talkitive, but they are still masking their insecurity and do not want to be found out. Others, like myself, are more quiet and shy, kind of go along like nothing bothers us, but all the while still masking our insecurities.
     
  14. John of Japan

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    I'll be interested to hear what you come up with.

    I think the Biblical concept is that we are made in the image of God (an extremely important concept in a Biblical view of psychology), and can therefore rest in his love.
     
  15. John of Japan

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    Good post! :thumbs:
     
  16. John of Japan

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    Sorry, I don't understand how these verses have anything to do with self esteem. These three verses all either have the noun (oikodome) or verb (oikodomeo) form of a word meaning "of the process of spiritual growth and development of the spiritual community and each member within it edify, make more able, strengthen" (Friberg's Analytical Lexicon). So the meaning is not to say, "Hey, you're a great guy," building up their self esteem. It is to help them grow as a Christian, to build up their life in the Lord.

    Good point about Paul, though. :thumbs:
     
    #16 John of Japan, Jan 24, 2011
    Last edited by a moderator: Jan 25, 2011
  17. John of Japan

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    Excellent points, Salty. This all revolves around the will of God for each of us. He gives us gifts, both practical and spiritual, to be used in His service, His will.

    I never knew I had any ability in language until I came to Japan as a missionary. If I had not followed God's will, I would have never discovered what I could do. As I went to Japanese language school I found out that I enjoyed languages thoroughly! But then I still had to study for 2 years full time--and thousands of hours since then--to develop that talent. And that developed self confidence.

    Self esteem doesn't do that. It says to a person who has done nothing, has not developed gifts, "You're a great guy."
     
  18. Tom Butler

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    I'm not quite sure I understand. Are you saying that some scumbags are scumbags against their will?

    Then again, maybe we're not defining scumbag in the same way. A scumbag is a bad person. His true need is a change of heart, which only Jesus can give. The kind word for him is that the Lord Jesus can change his heart and his scumbagginess.
     
  19. John of Japan

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    Great points from these two verses.
    The thing is, scumbags are those with the highest self esteem, by the standards of secular psychology. I read about a survey of levels of self esteem among various populations. The highest level of self esteem was among the prison population. I can't find the source for this right now, but note this quote: "Recent scholarship in social psychology suggests that individuals with an elevated sense of self-esteem may respond aggressively or violently when this heightened egoism is threatened. The present study explores differences in self-esteem, aggression, and violent behavior among a sample of 644 male state prison inmates." From http://www.springerlink.com/content/xq80515gpj155866/

    Another quote: "Amid the complexity of perspectives on the human psyche, a slow but relentless change is occurring in how psychologists view self-esteem, said Kernis. It was once thought that more self-esteem necessarily is better self-esteem. In recent years, however, high self-esteem per se has come under attack on several fronts, especially in areas such as aggressive behavior. Also, individuals with high self-esteem sometimes become very unlikable when others or events threaten their egos." From: http://www.physorg.com/news128604813.html
     
  20. John of Japan

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    I like the way you put this. To put it a little differently, since we were made to serve Christ, we lose all self worth when we don not do so.

    My question would be, did you really suffer from low self esteem, or from self-centeredness when you didn't build a relationship with a lost person? I know that with me, it's when I start thinking about myself too much that I don't build those relationships I ought to.

    However, well known Christian counselors Paul Meier, Frank Minirth and Frank Wichern say in Introduction to Psychology an Counseling, "Although it is unhealthy to depend entirely on others for our self image, it is healthy to evaluate how we are doing by noting the feedback we get from others. Love from at least one other individual is of utmost importance to our self-image" (p. 281). This is just plain wrong. They are actually advising self-centeredness under the guise of "self-image." If some one is following the advice given here, they are not living for the Lord.
     

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