Don’t Give the Children’s Bread to Dogs: The Gospels of Matthew and Mark (Matt. 15:21-28; Mark 7:24-30) tell about a woman who came to Jesus seeking help for her afflicted daughter. On the surface it sounds similar to many other Gospel stories, for most of them record the pleas of people who were hurting-the sick, the blind, and the crippled. But there is something especially poignant about this story. You see, this woman was a Syrophoenician She was not born to the chosen people. This is the first recorded instance of a foreigner coming to Jesus for help.
The Key to Self- Esteem
This story is a miniature of the whole gospel. It offers the only real remedy for low self-esteem. The first step in achieving a sense of self-esteem is to recognize, as this woman did, that we are unworthy. We become somebody precisely at the point where we recognize that God makes us somebody.
God does not love us because we are valuable; we are valuable because God loves us. We are valuable because he created us in his own image. We are valuable because he died for us. “While we were yet sinners Christ died for us” (Rom. 5:8).
Near the beginning of Paul’s first letter to the Corinthians he makes this powerful and encouraging observation: “Not many of you were wise according to worldly standards, not many were powerful, not many were of noble birth” (I Cor. 1:26). .
Paul was a good example of this. He was burdened with his past as a persecutor of Christians and he had a debilitating health problem. Tradition tells us his physical appearance was unimpressive. It’s interesting that when God wanted his work done, he did not choose a great Athenian orator or athlete. He chose one who had reason to feel inferior. But God could use Paul’s weakness to his glory. So Paul wrote, “I will all the more gladly boast of my weaknesses, that the power of Christ may rest upon me. . . . for when I am weak, then 1 am strong” (II Cor. 12:9-10)..
Psychologists tell us unfulfilled desires for self-esteem lead to bitterness and frustration. Imagine the problems which are created in the child who constantly sits in front of a television set, absorbing the medium’s standards for being somebody. To the girl it means beauty; to the boy it means being athletically gifted. Accepting these standards leads to frustration, because most people are rather ordinary.
Definitions and Key Thoughts
Self-esteem refers to an inner sense of worthiness that gives a person resilience and resistance to discouragement or criticism. Generally speaking, each person has a concept about his self-worth (which may or may not be accurate), and self-esteem is how he feels about (or evaluates) that concept.
Having good self-esteem does not mean being proud or having an over-blown view of our own importance. Paul encourages us to “think soberly” when it comes to evaluating ourselves (Romans 12:3). This means to assess ourselves with honesty and fairness.
Low self-esteem can manifest itself in many ways:
- feelings of self-hate, believing that we are unworthy or incompetent
- refusal to get close to people, believing we don’t deserve strong or supportive relationships
- refusal to trust others
- inability to accept ourselves as special and unique
- rejection of what God intended the person to be in Him
- a need for large amounts of attention
- a competitive or argumentative spirit
- poor decisions made that are based on fears and not reality
An individual’s self-esteem is in trouble when he allows others to determine his value or significance instead of the One who created him. Poor self-esteem is often the result of prolonged periods of negative feedback in a person’s life, resulting in deep wounds and pain. As a counselor, you need to apply active listening skills in order to determine how far back the negative influence has gone.
Society is constantly assessing our value. At work, we have performance evaluations, we are graded in schools, and we are evaluated for loans. Assessment of our value begins early in life and continues even after we die.
Often, another person’s value judgment of us is a means to an end. An example of this is the young lady who finds herself in the back seat of a car with a boy who says, in effect, “If you want me to value you, you will have sex with me.”
God has determined our value based on His love and purpose for creating us in the first place and on the price He has paid to redeem us for all eternity.
Most who struggle with low self-esteem believe lies about their significance to God. The goals of interacting should be to:
- Correct false or erroneous beliefs about the individual’s worth and significance
- Make an accurate, genuine assessment of that person’s strengths, gifts, significance, and potential
- Bring a healing from deep relationship wounds
- Help the person get over the distortions and be able to honestly admit his strengths as well as his weaknesses
- Help the person on the journey to adopt God’s perspective of his worth.
Helping a person with low self-esteem does not mean telling him untruths. Instead, help the person develop a realistic assessment of his unique set of skills, abilities, and character traits. And, help this individual develop a strong sense of God’s love and forgiveness. Give the person hope. Encourage him to see that he is on a journey. Encourage patience and prayer along the way.
Remind the person of the story in John chapter 5 where Jesus healed the crippled man who had lived for 38 years with brokenness and pain. Jesus asked him if he wanted to be healed. Why would Jesus ask? It seems that a person can live for so long with brokenness that he may not want to do the work that it takes to receive healing. Is the person willing to do the work to receive healing?
1. Recognize Your Value
There is a difference between having an inflated ego and simply understanding your significance based on your God-given gifts and value to Him. Make a list of talents, character traits, physical traits, abilities, accomplishments, etc., that set you apart.
2. Stop Harmful Thought Patterns
Consider some of the thought patterns and other factors that are leading you to believe lies about your worth. Think back on things you’ve done-taught a Sunday school class, helped with Boy Scouts, gave a perfect gift to a relative, taught a child to shoot a basketball, took a bag of groceries to a food pantry, invited a new coworker to lunch. List all of those big and little things done for others. Then consider the impact they had on those people.
3. Begin New Thought Patterns
Each negative thought can be countered with God’s assessment of your value. For example: If you feel your self-worth fizzle when a coworker with less experience is promoted over you, stop the negative thoughts before they take hold of you. Ask yourself if there might be any good reason this person received the promotion over you. If not, remind yourself that life isn’t always fair.
4. Be Patient
It has taken years of bad habits to get to shape your self-esteem. Healing will not happen overnight and will require replacing the bad habits with good ones. It may take awhile until your reflex action is quick to respond in a proactive way to negative thinking.
5. Read God’s Word
Study what the Bible says about your worth to God. Explore what God says about His love for you and His purpose for your life. (Give him the verses from Biblical Insights.) Keep a journal to record significant breakthroughs.
But Moses said to God, “Who am 1 that 1 should go to Pharaoh, and that 1 should bring the children of Israel out of Egypt?” -Exodus 3:11 Moses was certain God was making a mistake by choosing him to lead the Israelites. His five excuses indicated a lack of confidence in his ability to get the job done. He had a crisis of identity (“who am” 3:11), a crisis of authority (“what is His name?” 3:13), a crisis of faith (“they will not believe me;’ 4:1), a crisis of ability (“I am not eloquent;’ 4:10), and a crisis of obedience (“send. . .whomever else;’ 4:13). But God was with him, and Moses led the nation to freedom. With God’s help and guidance, great things are possible.
Are not two sparrows sold for a copper coin? And not one of them falls to the ground apart from your Father’s will. But the very hairs of your head are all numbered. -Matthew 10:29-30
Jesus described God’s loving concern for every person, explaining that “the very hairs of your head are all numbered:’ God cares even for small birds- “not one of them falls to the ground apart from your Father’s will” -so imagine how much more He cares for His people. What a boost of encouragement! We are important to God-created in His image and loved. He loves us so much, in fact, that He “gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life” (John 3:16).
Behold what manner of love the Father has bestowed on us, that we should be called children of God! -1 John 3:1
A healthy self-image is seeing yourself as God sees you—no more and no less. — Josh McDowell
He who is able to love himself is able to love others also; he who has learned to overcome self-contempt has overcome his contempt for others. — Paul Johannes Oskar Tillich (1886–1965)
I am as my Creator made me, and since he is satisfied, so am I. — Minnie Smith
Self-acceptance is basically a spiritual issue. What it boils down to is this: are we able to thank the Creator for the way he made us? If not, we are casting doubt on his wisdom. If we can thank him, we display our belief that he knows what is best for us. And that will help us accept ourselves—limitations, failures, and all. — Erwin W. Lutzer (1941– )
A person with good self-esteem has a sense of self-worth, yet recognizes his/her limitations. Such a person is not conceited but rather is glad to be himself. They accept themselves and others but are desirous of correcting their own shortcomings.
They are problem-centered, not self-centered: they appreciate the simple things of life, are ethical, able to discriminate between means and ends; they get along in their culture yet resist enculturation and have a genuine desire to help the human race.
Healthy self-esteem in MEN is thought to be derived to some extent from vocations, intelligence, wealth, achievements, education, positions of power, and competition. FEMALE self-esteem results more from the achievement of goals, self and body image, education, money, everyday concerns, and family relationships. Both sexes are usually affected by their view of how they are evaluated by significant others in their lives.