(Part 2 of a Series)
If I don't want to be a slave to inappropriate shame, should self-esteem be my focus?
Should self anything be my focus? Not if I want to avoid pride. You see, "low self-esteem" is really just pride expressing itself differently. Pride says, "I'm fantastic." Low self-esteem says, "I'm not fantastic, and I resent that fact more than anything in the world, because I OUGHT TO BE!" Both points of view put Self on center stage as the rightful heir of honor and esteem. One view is pride gratified by homage, and the other is pride disappointed by lack of homage. But both are pride.
So what am I left with?
First, instead of seeking to gain self-esteem, I should be seeking to lose the fear of man (specifically, the fear of what humans think of me). The Bible has a lot to say about that.
The fear of man brings a snare, But whoever trusts in the LORD shall be safe. (Pro 29:25)
The LORD is on my side; I will not fear. What can man do to me? (Psa 118:6)
But I will show you whom you should fear: Fear Him who, after He has killed, has power to cast into hell; yes, I say to you, fear Him! (Jesus, in Luke 12:5)
And perhaps one of the most remarkable examples is Isa. 51:12
"I, even I, am He who comforts you. Who are you that you should be afraid Of a man who will die, And of the son of a man who will be made like grass? (Isa 51:12)
"Who do you think you are to be afraid?" God says. If God Himself has told us to trust Him, has told us not to fear anyone or anything but Himself, then to refuse to trust is rebellion against God. And rebellion is nothing but pride with a clenched fist.
(It's important to point out that there is a normal physiological fear reaction that is instantaneous, tied in with our basic God-given survival instinct. It's what we feel when a snarling dog leaps at us. That's not what's at issue here. The kind of fear we're dealing with here is crippling fear, fear that makes up its mind not to step out in obedient faith because it refuses to trust God. Such fear looks at its circumstances, then at God, and says, "No, God, you don't have a grasp of this situation. You don't have the power to get me through it. Your ways aren't right, so I'm choosing mine." It's not hard to see the pride in that, is it?)
How do we lose the fear of man?
Please understand that I'm counseling myself here. Fear of man is a huge problem in my life. Always has been. But by the grace of God, I trust that it will not always be.
First, we need to recognize that the fear of man is insulting to God and idolatrous. It is putting humanity on one side of a scale, and putting God on the other side, and imagining that humanity's combined mass makes a lightweight out of the Almighty. "God, I know You have power over my life, but just look at them! They've got more power over me than You do. Their opinion of me matters more than Yours." We bow before the ones we fear most, turning our backs on the only One we really should fear. It's idolatry. Let's call it what it is, so we can start to hate it as we should.
Some of us don't take distrust of God seriously, because it seems like a minor failing, something that affects our own emotional state, but has no relevance to God himself. What an absurd idea that is! How do we feel when people refuse to trust us? How would we feel if we were perfect, and people still refused to trust us? No one ever deserved trust more than God, and distrusting him is a crime of treasonous proportions.
Let's not kid ourselves. Failure to trust may feel passive, a simple "sin of omission." But whenever we "passively" ignore or refuse God, we are actively choosing something or someone else instead of Him. There is no middle ground. "He who is not with me is against me," Jesus said (Matt. 12:30). When we choose not to trust God, we insult His omnipotence (almighty power), His omniscience (perfect knowledge and understanding), and His perfect goodness. We dethrone Him in our hearts, and we put mere humanity in His place. No wonder He says, "Who are you that you should be afraid of a man who will die?" He's the Eternal God, the Creator of the Ends of the Earth!
Join me in bowing before this Holy God, repenting of our self-absorption and idolatry. Let's ask His help to dethrone all flesh in our hearts, so that neither we ourselves nor any other human can reign there.
In Part 3 we'll conclude.
(Photo from Stock.xchng by iofoto.)