The notion of self-worth or self-esteem is a part of the human experience that everyone will grapple with at some point in life. We may struggle with understanding our value as a person when we are enduring an emotionally difficult time. The circumstances may be the loss of a job, or it may be rejection by a close friend, a parent, or even a spouse. For some, the struggle for understanding one’s worth can be an almost daily battle. Going from one emotional disappointment to another, from one relational trainwreck to another, whether real or perceived, can be very damaging to one’s sense of self-worth.
If you are struggling with the matter of self-worth, the first thing that you need to look at is the very name of the concept. “Self-worth” is by definition, a self-evaluation of your own value. Therein lies the problem. Perhaps an illustration from the world of real estate will be helpful to understand the nature of this problem. Ask any realtor about this, and they will have lots of stories of people who want to sell their house but have no idea of it’s actual market value. Sellers will approach a realtor with sometimes wildly unrealistic ideas of what their house is worth. Sometimes their notion of worth is too low, but usually it is too high. The realtor’s job is to do research and to properly estimate the worth of their property so that it can be sold in a reasonably short amount of time for a reasonably good price. It takes skill on the part of the realtor to break the news to someone that their house is worth only a fraction of what they thought it was worth; not a job I would enjoy! In the end, even what the realtor estimates may not be the correct number. It is the free market which determines the ultimate value of my house. It is worth whatever someone is willing to pay.
This illustration shows that we are not good at determining what our house is worth, and we are no better at determining what we are worth. Determining our own self-worth is a futile exercise of circular reasoning. It goes like this. I am worth what I think I am worth, but my thoughts about my worth are only worth as much as I am worth. Did you get that? Ok, when I think highly of myself, then I also think highly of my thought process which determined my self-worth at that moment. That’s when everything is great, the sun is shining, and everybody loves me. But, when I my self-worth is running low, my thoughts are also running low, nobody loves me, my world is coming to an end. The very meter which I use to measure my self-worth is calibrated according to those things which I am measuring to determine the value which I have placed on myself. This is circular reasoning.
In an attempt to escape this circular reasoning, we may go to outside sources to get an estimate of our self-worth. This is like going to a realtor to get an estimate of the value of my house. We may get our notion of self-worth from what others think of us and that, once again, is great when everybody loves us. On the other hand, there can be times in life when the closest of friends reject us in the most shockingly hurtful ways. When that happens with friends to whom we gave the keys to our self-worth, we can be thrown into the abyss of self-pity and self-loathing. Thus the opinions of friends (who are as fickle about estimating worth as we are) do not provide for us a useful, or even stable notion of what we are worth.
This is why we must go to the ultimate source for determining what we are worth. In the real estate illustration, that ultimate source was the free market. In our lives as human beings created in the image of God, the ultimate source is Jesus Christ. Only He should have the keys to determining your self-worth. Only He has the necessary understanding of who you are. Only He has the correct motives for determining the course of your life and your eternity.
Does your personal estimate of self-worth really matter all that much? Is the estimate of your worth in the eyes of others really that important?
This is what Jesus Christ says about the value of His followers.
28 And do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. But rather fear Him who is able to destroy both soul and body in hell. 29 Are not two sparrows sold for a copper coin? And not one of them falls to the ground apart from your Father’s will. 30 But the very hairs of your head are all numbered. 31 Do not fear therefore; you are of more value than many sparrows.
This is what the Apostle Paul says about the love of Christ for you.
14 For this reason I bow my knees to the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, 15 from whom the whole family in heaven and earth is named, 16 that He would grant you, according to the riches of His glory, to be strengthened with might through His Spirit in the inner man, 17 that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith; that you, being rooted and grounded in love, 18 may be able to comprehend with all the saints what is the width and length and depth and height— 19 to know the love of Christ which passes knowledge; that you may be filled with all the fullness of God.
As in the real estate example, your house is worth only as much as someone is willing to pay. You are worth what Jesus Christ was willing to pay.
8 But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.
Brian Fournier November 29th, 2016
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