I recently wrote an article about “The Problem With The Self-Love Movement” and now I want to talk about the difference between self-love and self-esteem. I believe these two get mixed up very easily so I want to clarify the difference between them, and talk about the Biblical perspective.
According to the Merriam-Webster dictionary self-love can be defined as “love of self”. In my last article I explained why this goes against what the Bible teaches (John 3:30), especially the very first commandment to love God with all our heart, all our soul and all our mind (Matthew 22:37). Self-esteem, according to the Marriam-Webster means a confidence and satisfaction in oneself, or self-respect. We can say that high self-esteem is when a person feels worthy of esteem, or worthy of respect. They have high confidence and high satisfaction in themselves. On the other hand, low self-esteem is when someone feels unworthy or invaluable. People with low self-esteem don’t feel confident or capable of great accomplishments. So, what does the Bible say about that?
First of all, Proverbs 16:5 says that “The Lord detests all the proud of heart.” Proverbs 26:12 says that “there is more hope for a fool than for a wise person in their own eyes.” The list of verses about pride are so many that I couldn’t list all in here (Pv. 8:13, Pv. 11:2, Pv. 13:10, Pv. 16:19, Pv. 18:12, Pv. 21:4), but the point is that a prideful person is nothing more than someone who thinks very highly of themselves, or in other words, someone with very high self-esteem. The Bible says that we should not think we are something when we are not (Galatians 6:3). We shouldn’t think we are that great because we are only deceiving ourselves. In Romans 12 Paul instructs the church to not think of themselves more highly than they actually are.
For by the grace given to me I say to everyone among you not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think, but to think with sober judgment, each according to the measure of faith that God has assigned.Romans 12:3
In Romans 3:23 Paul reminds us that we are all sinners and unworthy of anything, we all ” fall short of the glory of God.” Not only does God hate the proud, but the Bible also gives us many warnings about pride. Pride does not bring any benefits to a person, on the contrary, pride only brings destruction (Pv. 16:18). So how should we deal with our good accomplishments? Is it wrong to feel proud of something good we did? Proverbs 27:2 says “Let another praise you, and not your own mouth; a stranger, and not your own lips.”
What about low self-esteem?
Statistics show that 85% of the world’s population is affected by low self esteem. Many people think poorly of themselves due to comparison, abusive relationships, or just a lack of a good and healthy support around them. If you feel this way, you have to purposefully fight these wrong thoughts about yourself. These are lies that you can not let yourself believe. The Bible says you are God’s creation, created in His own image (Gen. 1:27). Even the hairs of your head are all numbered (Luke 12:7), and all the days of your life were written before you even existed (Psalm 139:13-16). In Paul’s letter to the Ephesians he says that “we are his workmanship, created in Christ.” The NLT version says “we are God’s masterpiece.” I love this verse because it reminds me that we are valuable not because of our own accomplishments, but because of our Creator. We are His masterpiece. The focus is on Him.
That brings us to a third option and the correct view of self-esteem: a Christ-Centered Esteem. It is true that none of us are righteous, none of us can seek God by our own understanding and none of us can do any good (Romans 3:10-12), but we can boast in the Lord our Creator and our Savior. He is the one worthy of all glory in Heaven and on Earth.
Let the one who boasts, boast in the Lord.” For it is not the one who commends himself who is approved, but the one whom the Lord commends.2 Corinthians 10:17-18
Jesus uses the parable of the true vine to teach us that without Him we can do nothing. He says that we are like the branches of the vine that can’t bear any fruit by itself (John 15:1-11). In 1 Corinthians 15:10 Paul says that “by the grace of God I am what I am.” That is the right attitude we should have towards ourselves. It’s wrong to think too highly of ourselves but it’s also wrong to think too low when we are God’s own creation (Ephesians 2:10). The Biblical way to think about ourselves is perhaps not to think of ourselves at all. It is to acknowledge that everything we are is by the grace of God and our righteousness doesn’t come from our own, but comes through faith in Christ (Phil 3:9). We need to take our minds off of our self consuming thoughts and put it on Jesus. We are not that important without Christ. Our days “are like the flower of the field when the wind passes over it and it is gone. But the steadfast love of the Lord is from everlasting to everlasting on those who fear him, and his righteousness to children’s children, to those who keep his covenant and remember to do his commandments” (Psalms 103:15-18). If we are to think about anything, let’s think about the Lord.
References: P. Hulsey 2014, Self-Esteem, Biblical Counseling Data Base, accessed 28 April 2021, <https://www.biblicalcounselingdatabase.net/self-esteem/> ; Susan Blake 2018, Heads, Tails, and Self-Esteem, Faith Biblical Counseling Ministries, accessed 28 April 2021, < https://blogs.faithlafayette.org/counseling/2018/12/heads-tails-and-self-esteem/>; Merrian-Webster Dictionary, accessed 28 April 2021, < https://www.merriam-webster.com/>; Dr. Joe Rubino, The self steem book
Ana Luiza Lupinetti is passionate about helping and serving people. As a pastor’s daughter and a pastor’s wife, she loves using her gifts and talents to help ministries succeed.