Why We Must Affirm Our Self-worth: Part Two

In last week’s post, I said that if we do not recognize our awesomeness (our value and giftedness), we won’t share what we’ve been given with others. We will be too insecure and afraid to open our mouths. In order for us to serve others in true humility (out of fullness instead of emptiness), we must have a high sense of self-worth.

We must, also, affirm our self-worth in order to love others—and that might mean denying ourselves even small pleasures which are harmful for either our bodies or souls.  For example, knowing that if I climbed the 182 steps in the Fire Island Lighthouse this week it would aggravate the arthritis in my knee, I chose to remain on the ground, while my grandchildren climbed the steps. I gave them my camera and they took some beautiful shots of the view from the top of the stairs.view 1 from lighthouse

I made this choice because I not only value myself, I also value my grandchildren. Therefore, I want to remain as healthy as possible for as long as possible, so that I can communicate with them, encourage them, and enjoy them for many more years. The extent to which I value myself is the extent that which I value others. This is what Jesus meant when he told us to love our neighbor as ourselves. It’s an outcome of, first and foremost, loving God. (Luke 10:27 NKJV)

We may not think that anyone is noticing us, but all of us have a degree of influence. Children tend to make the choices that their parents did, even if they claim that they will not. For example, my daughters may not have appreciated my emphasis on good nutrition when they were growing up, yet both of them pay attention to the nutritional needs of their children. Although I got teased about drinking tiger’s milk during pregnancy, changing my diet made a huge difference in the way I felt.

By our small, daily choices we build life-long habits; these habits either protect and nurture our life or destroy it. We build thought habits, as well as behavior habits. In fact our thinking determines our behavior, so we must pay attention to what we are thinking. In his book, The Principle of the Path, Andy Stanley emphasizes the importance of attention. “Whatever gets our attention,” he says, “determines our direction, and ultimately, our destination.” [i]
If we care about ourselves, we will pay attention to (think about) the choices we make, because we, also, care about our influence on others. This is the challenge David gives us in Psalm 34.

Does anyone want to live a life
that is long and prosperous?
13 Then keep your tongue from speaking evil
and your lips from telling lies!
14 Turn away from evil and do good. Psalm 34:12-14 NLT

[i] Andy Stanley, The Principle of the Path: How to Get from Where You Are to Where You Want to Be (Nashville: Nelson 2008), 136

Why We Must Affirm Our Self-worth: Part One

“Do you know that I am awesome? That I am amazing?”

These were the words Andrea began with, as she addressed the children who’d gathered at the front of the church to hear their sermon at New Hope Community Church, a few weeks ago.

“Do you know why I am awesome?” she continued . . . “Because God says I am.”

As a Christian, is it permissible for me to declare “I am awesome”?  Earlier in my life, I did not think so; I believed that doing so would be arrogant. As a Christian, I was supposed to be humble and a humble person should declare “I am nothing.”  Isn’t that what Jesus did? No, not exactly. My beliefs were based on misinterpretations of Scripture, such as the following instruction that Paul gave to an early church. He tells these Christians to have the same attitude that Christ had about himself, and he says that—“he [Jesus] made himself nothing” (Philippians 2:7 NIV) in order to serve others.

There’s a difference between having “nothing” as an identity and taking “nothing” as a position in order to serve others. Jesus knew that he was awesome—that he was God—and was not afraid to say so; he did not call himself “nothing.” Because he was so confident of his worth, he was able to serve others in love, without fearing judgment and disapproval. Neither betrayal nor hatred caused him to abandon his mission in life. Even when facing the cruel death of the cross, he did not retreat. That’s an awesome example of what it means to know that we are really something and make ourselves “nothing.”

The point of Andrea’s sermon was that because of the way God made us, we are all awesome.  And if we do not recognize our awesomeness (our value and giftedness), we won’t share what we’ve been given with others. We will be too insecure and afraid to open our mouths. In order for us to serve others in true humility (out of fullness instead of emptiness), we must have a high sense of self-worth.

Over the years, I’ve listened to many women whose self-worth is very low. (And I was there at one time) Though they might not say it, they think of themselves and, sometimes, call themselves “nothing.” After having been told many times in life that they are worthless, they believe it. It’s this feeling of worthlessness that (in part) keeps them trapped in abusive relationships. They lack the power they need in order to confront those who are abusing them. They don’t have the courage they need to set up healthy boundaries or even ask for help.

If you know of someone who feels like a nothing person, I hope that you will share this post and the next one with her (or him); affirm your awesomeness through service–give yourself away. Consider the example and the following words of Jesus: “Whoever seeks to preserve his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life will keep it” (Luke 17:33 ESV).

Recommended Reading

  • Boundaries by Cloud and Townsend
  • In The Name of Submission by Kay Marshall Strom
  • The Emotionally Destructive Relationship by Leslie Vernick
  • Rebuilding the Real You by Jack Hayford
  • The Best Yes by Lisa Terkeurst

How Can We Not Be Afraid?

During breakfast this morning, John shared with me the insights that he gained in his middle-of-the-night meditation on Scripture, and we reflected on them.  Our discussion centered on the words of Jesus from the Gospel of John—“Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid” (John 14:27 NIV). (A better interpretation of the word troubled is “anxious.”)

Evening news reports let us know that there’s plenty that could make us fearful and anxious—spread of the Zika virus, a 6.4 earthquake in Japan, Russian jets flying close to US warships, political protests in NY City—on and on it goes.  In days like these, how can we not be afraid? My post, today, is an expansion of our discussion and a challenge to not let fear and anxiety overpower us.

1) This is the way that fear overpowers us: fear comes from outside threats—from power-hungry people and dangerous events in the world around us; that fear attaches to the fear that’s already inside of us—the fear/anxiety generated by our heart beliefs. In this increasingly unsafe world, there will always be things that cause us to fear. But Jesus tells us we must not allow this fear to take root and grow in our hearts (our inner core). Fear overpowers us when we continually focus our minds on the danger(s) around us.

2) In order for our hearts to be at peace, so that we can face outer threats without being overcome by fear and anxiety, we must take action. The action that we must take is to pay attention to our thinking and focus on truth. If we believe that we are powerless and think we will be injured in a situation, then we will be afraid. But if we, as Christians, believe the truth that God’s Spirit is within us and that by his power we can handle anything, then we will have, as he promised, power, love, and self-control “(2 Timothy 1:7 ESV). Focusing on this truth may not be our tendency, and it’s not necessarily an easy choice. But if we practice making this choice, our hearts will eventually feel secure.

3) Some of us, because of our temperaments, struggle more with anxiety than others do. Why is this so? Theologian D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones believes it has to do with temperament and that becoming a Christian does not result in a temperament change. In his book, Spiritual Depression: Causes and Cure, he says, “The fact that you have become a Christian does not mean that you cease to have to live with yourself. You will have to live with yourself as long as you are alive, and your self is not somebody else’s self  . . . there are some people who by temperament are nervous apprehensive, frightened.”[i]

When speaking in front of a crowd of people, even if I know them, my tendency is to feel anxious. Why? It’s not a physically threatening situation but an emotionally threatening one. I face a possibility of rejection, criticism or disapproval. When I tell myself that I can’t tolerate the pain of being rejected, criticized or disapproved of and think about how painful it will be, my anxiety level increases and interferes with my ability to prepare for the upcoming presentation. But, when in my heart, I believe  that God has given me good things to say and that I already have his acceptance and approval, then I have peace, can think clearly, and can focus on what will benefit others.

4) It’s important for us to overcome anxiety not only for our own comfort but also for the effect that it has on our relationships. When we’re anxiously concerned about our personal safety or reputation or acceptance, it’s impossible to think about what that other person needs and how we can act in a way that will be loving and helpful; instead, we focus on self-protection. I love the Psalmist declaration, “In God I have put my trust; I will not fear. What can flesh do to me?” (Psalm 56:34 NKJV) That is one of the verses that I am focusing my thoughts on today.

[i] P. 95 and 96