Since you are precious and honored in my sight, and because I love you…
Despite incredible achievements, deep inside, many suffer from chronic low self-esteem and a strong sense of worthlessness. The driving force behind most of our words, actions, and emotions is our attempt to feel important, worthy, and significant. We spare no effort to fulfill our need for self-worth through personal achievements and in positively influencing others’ opinions of us. These tactics are beneficial to some degree, but they do not provide lasting fulfillment.
On May 1, 2015, the New York Times published an article entitled “The Enduring Hunt for Personal Value.” The author, Tony Schwartz, asserts, “We each want desperately to matter, to feel a sense of worthiness.”
Schwartz reminds us of sportsmen willingly enduring “brutal training regimens” in order to win medals, businessmen relentlessly working to stack up more millions over their insane wealth, and politicians putting in 18-hour workdays in pursuit of high office they have no chance of winning.
Many adults like to brandish their designer clothes, watches, fancy cars and other status symbols, and social media provides a platform for them to do so. On Instagram, attractive people like to show off their looks, while others exaggeratingly brag about their accomplishments. Mark Zuckerberg laughs all the way to the bank by capitalizing on our need to be noticed. Facebook has created a platform where anyone can voice their opinion. It has produced countless “models,” “political analysists,” “medical experts,” “psychologists” and “preachers.” Social media thrives on our misguided aspirations to become online stars.
How about Christians?
We expect Christians to act differently. Yet, experience suggests otherwise. We have all met preachers, church elders, Sunday school teachers, and organists who revel in their positions of power within the church. Pastors bask in their congregation sizes; Evangelists in the number of their converts. Some church leaders also succumb to the temptation to pursue full and permanent control of their churches through political maneuvering.
American pastor and theologian, Tim Keller, tells us of a serial womanizer whose personal value lay in his ability to entice women. Soon after conquering a woman’s heart and body, he would abandon her in pursuit of his next prey in a repeated pattern of conquests and abandonments. After becoming a Christian, the man dropped all womanizing and adopted an active church life. The pastor found this to be extraordinary, until he noticed that the man was eager to dominate Bible studies and impose his views in church committees. He had replaced the conquest of women with the conquest of spiritual conversations and decisions. Jesus wants to profoundly transform us. But many self-proclaimed Christians settle for superficial change.
Do these efforts pay off?
Our yearning to feel good about ourselves and our thirst for praise, recognition, and appreciation is God-given and is designed to build self-confidence, motivate us to work, and create and enjoy the fruits of our labor.
Yet, our hunt for personal self-worth in human sources often leaves us disappointed, desolate, and thirstier than ever. Our looks fade as we age; our achievements will eventually be surpassed by those of others. Many who have found personal value in their wealth have had to apply for bankruptcy. People whose applause we seek can fake their praise and pursue hidden agendas. The crowd that welcomed “king” Jesus into Jerusalem with chants of “Hosanna…” soon switched sides and chanted “Crucify Him…”
Where can I find a reliable source of self-worth?
The answer is found in the Christian faith. God invites us to anchor our worthiness on two distinct, yet closely coupled divine sources.
God created humans in his image. He endowed us with unique qualities such as consciousness, creativity, language and freedom. As bearers of God’s image, we are of infinite worth and are loved by him. We are precious and worthy for God regardless of our attractiveness, skills, or accomplishments. This source of personal value is solid and lasting.
It is normal to enjoy human applause, praise, and appreciation. There is no harm in feeling good about our accomplishments. These will reinforce our much needed confidence and self-esteem. Yet, tying our self-worth to and being addicted to human sources of value is bound to eventually disappoint us. It can be detrimental to our faith, and is a dismally poor substitute for divine sources of self-worth.
Having experienced the indescribably profound love of Christ, the Apostle Paul crucified his ego and instead of taking pride in his achievements he boasted in the Cross of Christ (Gal 6:14). Replacing the human sources of our personal self-worth with those of the divine is a sign that we have experienced the profound Christian transformation God intends for us.
At the end of our lives, when our beauty has faded, our wealth can no longer serve us, and our accomplishments have been outdone and long forgotten, believers in Christ can count on the unfadable glory that God will bestow on them throughout eternity. Now that’s genuine personal value.
This article was published in the Jan-March 2022 issue of AMAA News, page 26.