Tag Archives: Esteem

Part 4: The Desire To Be Preferred, Consulted and Approved

Pick me!  Pick me!  Don’t pick them!  Don’t pick them!  The desire of being preferred means that others must be passed over to make room for me, and I’m happy about it.  It is the competitive streak of the sore loser.  It manifests itself in poor sportsmanship and arrogance.  It is quite possible, however, for an accomplished athlete to be competitively successful while simultaneously exhibiting humility.  Pride and arrogance must not be confused with confidence.

There have been times in my life when being picked last to be on a team was disappointing and humiliating.  But it was the wrong kind of humility I was experiencing.  I was experiencing a self-defilement of sorts, feeling sorry for myself and placing my worth in the hands of other people rather than in God’s hands.  In other words, being picked last hurt my pride, and I thought I needed that pride to be worth something.  Additionally, focusing on my wounded pride caused my performance in the game to suffer.  It was a kind of self fulfilling prophecy.  But even if I wasn’t at all skilled in that game it had nothing to do with my worth in God’s eyes.

The desire to be consulted is another challenge.  I’m a therapist.  I’m supposed to want people to come to me for consultation.  I’m supposed to be good at what I do and take pride in my work.  So, why get rid of my desire to be consulted?  I think it has more to do with wanting to be a know-it-all.  No one knows everything.  Even consultants need to consult with others for information and continuing education.  I may have lots of answers, but only God has all the answers.  An unhealthy desire to be consulted makes it hard to say, “I don’t know.”  The person who knows it all has nothing to learn, and that can be very dangerous.

The desire to be approved is another attempt at stroking the ego.  Like the other pitfalls in the prayer, approval can be just another way of focusing on self at the expense of others.  There have been occasions when people approved of me just to be manipulative.  “Buttering people up” is a great way to influence them.  Be wary of people’s approval.  Sometimes they just want something from you.  The desire for approval can backfire very quickly.  It can also become addictive.  Know that you are loved by God regardless of other people’s approval.  There will always be people that disapprove of you.  God may disapprove of some of our actions, but God never disapproves of us.  God is our biggest cheerleader.

From the desire to be preferred, consulted or approved, deliver me, Jesus!

Part 3: The Desire To Be Extolled, Honored or Praised

In other words, deliver me from the desire for lots of attention, even posthumously.  In the movie Troy, Achilles (Brad Pitt) wants nothing more than for his name to be remembered for eternity.  He is the ultimate fighter.  He fears no one and nothing…except being forgotten.  Prior to facing an opponent twice his size, Achilles is told by a young boy, “I wouldn’t want to fight him!”  Achilles says to the boy, “That is why no one will remember your name.”  Theologians call it the fear of non-being.

We desire recognition because it validates our very existence.  What good are we unless someone else believes we are good for something?  We often feel we need an audience to offer some applause for who we are.  Such validation can become addictive.  It can also replace an awareness that our true goodness resides in having been created by God, not in our accomplishments.

Accomplishments are good, of course.  They are only possible because of the gifts and talents God provides.  Humility is not about pretending we have no gifts.  We’re allowed to recognize and appreciate the talents and gifts God gives us.  We can use them in constructive, loving ways.  That’s gratitude.  However, if the praise we receive becomes the primary motivation for using our gifts and talents, we are off track.  We have constructed a golden calf with which to replace God as our soul reason for being.  Rather than trusting in God, we have given in to the fear of non-being.  This robs us of true joy and replaces it with fleeting emotions.

From the desire of being extolled, honored or praised, deliver me, Jesus.

Part 1: The Desire Of Being Esteemed

From the desire of being esteemed, deliver me, Jesus.

There is nothing wrong with being esteemed by others.  We all enjoy that feeling and validation.  The prayer is for deliverance of the desire to seek out such esteem as a validation of one’s worth and identity.  Even the desire for self esteem can become a pursuit that distracts one from trusting in God.  We live in a society that clamors for esteem, particularly self esteem.  We risk making idols of ourselves.

In one episode of “The Simpsons” Bart says grace before the family meal.  His prayer is, “Thanks for nothing God, because we earned it all ourselves.”  The allure of celebrity is another example of esteem gone haywire.  People practically worship celebrities, and the desire to be a celebrity is a common one.  The show “American Idol” is popular.  A show called, “American Humility” would likely not do so well.

It is not the esteem of others or self that gives us our worth and value.  It is God.  Every success, every breath and every heartbeat is possible only because of God.  If others esteem us, we can hope it is because we have exhibited qualities that in some way point to the beauty of God, and in that we can rejoice.  But we must not desire esteem for its own sake.  We must do our best with our gifts and talents so that others can see God, not so that we can be esteemed by others or even by ourselves.  Humility is not easy, but it is a source of true joy.  We need God’s grace.  We can’t do it under our own power.

What Do You See In The Mirror?

“Humility is not thinking less of yourself, but thinking of yourself less.”  I can’t remember where that quote came from, but I like it.  It dovetails nicely with “Love your neighbor as yourself.”  When Jesus was asked to identify the greatest commandment, he said, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart, mind, soul and strength, and love your neighbor as yourself.”

There is a kind of “worm theology” that emphasizes human depravity to the extreme.  Such theology paints an image of humanity being no better than worms in God’s eyes until we are saved by Christ.  Once saved, we become “covered” in the righteousness of Jesus, and God then sees Jesus when he looks at us instead of seeing lowly worms.

Society and the media pressure us with “you’re-not-good-enough” messages.  Or, the message is, “You have to be better than others, so look out for number one.”  Arrogance and self-abasement seem to be popular choices.

Since we are sinful creatures, God certainly does not like to look upon our fallen natures.  However, with grace being greater than all our sin, I’m inclined to believe that God views us as creatures worth redeeming.  His desire is to actually make us clean, not just cover up the muck.  I don’t think he sees worms.  I think he sees his beloved, wounded creatures in need of healing.  Evil has done a number on us, because we allowed it to.

If we are honest, we will see flaws when we look in the mirror.  We will see our sins and our wounds.  We also need to see people worth redeeming when we look in the mirror.  When we shed the self-centered “chains” of being a “complete worm” we are able to focus our attention away from self and onto others.  Then, we see our neighbors and ourselves the way God sees us.  Then we can love our neighbors as ourselves, the way God does.  We are all wounded.  We all need healing.  We can’t save ourselves.  We can, however, point each other to the Great Physician who loves us and wants to heal us.  His grace and love can flow through us, but the “on switch” is our own humility.

No one gets to Heaven by earning it.  We can’t earn it.  But we are supposed to be there.  God wants us there with him.  That’s why we were created.  Realizing and accepting that fact is a humbling experience.  We are not worthy of being there, but we are worth being there.  God wants to remove the muck so we can enter the purity of Heaven, but he won’t force cleanliness upon us and violate our free will.  We tend to prefer playing in the muck, even though it doesn’t provide us with the real satisfaction we yearn for.  So we are offered chance upon chance to respond to God’s grace.

Self-centeredness can work in different ways.  Arrogance is placing self above others.  Abasement or degradation makes everyone else more valuable than self.  Either way, time is spent primarily thinking of self.  “Love your neighbor as yourself” is a balance that gives everyone “God-esteem.”  If you don’t love yourself the way God does, you’ll be hard-pressed to love others the way God does (especially your enemies).  Humility is the way in and the way out of your true self.  Humility is the first step towards God and true contentment.