Who, Self or Christ?

The great challenge facing every Christian is to constantly choose either self or Christ as the master of his or her life when the basic philosophy that governs the world is self-recognition, self-exaltation and self-esteem.

This philosophy is promoted in various ways; for example, Frank Sinatra sang in the year 1969 “… I did it my way.” Elvis Presley sang, “I did it my way” as he borrowed Sinatra’s song in the quest to change the stream of thinking of Americans and the rest of the world! Nat Naiel sang, “Do what you wanna do, Be what you wanna be …”

Lynyrd Skynyrd, an American rock band sang, “Follow your heart and nothing else.” Shirley MacLaine in the film Out on a Limb was encouraged by her Buddist friend to say, “The kingdom of Heaven is within; I love myself; I am god.” She was reluctant to say it so her Buddist friend David said to her, “See how low you think of yourself; you can’t even say the words.” She then said, “I am god.”

Universalist Unitarianism – every man chooses what he wants to believe. Religious authority lies not in a book or creed or religion but in ourselves.

Secular Humanism is man-centered philosophy that excludes God. There is no belief in a Supreme Being and the primary belief is that everything revolves around man rather than God.

It is quite evident that this worldly philosophy (self-esteem) has slowly crept into the Christian church and has become the driving force behind most if not everything that many Christians do. Many of the spiritual maladies that the church has suffered and is now suffering are as a result of this deadly philosophy. The doctrine of “SELF-ESTEEM” is the core principle that propels the world.

Brief History of Self-esteem

  • The psychologist William James (1842–1910) was born in New York City and was the older brother of Henry James, the famous novelist. He was trained at Harvard as a physician (although he never practiced) and later taught physiology and eventually philosophy at Harvard. Dr. James is the one credited for crafting the phrase “self-esteem” and he is responsible for the upstart of the self-esteem movement.
  • Dr James’ original formula of self-esteem is:
  • Pretensions
  • Success
  • “The two elements, feeling good about ourselves (pretensions) and how well we actually do (success), are inextricably linked; we can feel better about ourselves by succeeding in the world but also by varying the levels of our hopes and expectations.” positivepsychology.org.uk
  • “William James (1890) defined self-esteem as the feeling of self-worth that derives from the ratio of our actual successes to our pretensions. By pretensions he meant our estimation of our potential successes and this is informed by our values, goals and aspirations. This definition of self-esteem highlights that it is a construct which addresses the way we evaluate ourselves and measure our own sense of self-worth by comparing how we are and how we aspire to be.” Positive Psychology, Alan Carr, p. 204.

Self-esteem Defined

Todd F. Heatherton and Carrie L. Wyland wrote an article entitled “Assessing Self-Esteem” in which they provided two basic but important definitions of self-esteem.

They state that, “Self-esteem is the evaluative aspect of the self-concept that corresponds to an overall view of the self as worthy or unworthy (Baumeister, 1998). This is embodied in Coopersmith’s (1967) classic definition of self-esteem: the evaluation which the individual makes and customarily maintains with regard to himself: it expresses an attitude of approval and indicates the extent to which an individual believes himself to be capable, significant, successful and worthy. In short, self-esteem is a personal judgment of the worthiness that is expressed in the attitudes the individual holds towards himself. Thus, self-esteem is an attitude about the self and is related to personal beliefs about skills, abilities, social relationships, and future outcomes.”

Note carefully that the emphasis in this self-esteem doctrine is “self.” Its all inclusive nature as well as philosophy centers in “me, myself and I.” Studies have revealed that self-esteem is positively associated with narcissism or self-love.

Dr. Larry Day, in his book By God’s Design and In God’s Image, pages 24, 25, 1994 edition wrote, “People talk about self-esteem in a lot of different ways. Words like ‘self-image,’ ‘self-concept,’ ‘self-identity,’ ‘self-worth,’ ‘self-respect,’ and ‘self-esteem’ have been used inter-changeably, yet each can carry a distinct meaning. When I use the word self-esteem, I think of a core-felt belief that is formed in our hearts about the worth of our personhood.

“To help us appreciate the richness of the word esteem let’s look at a list of synonyms:

To value Self

To prize Self

To hold dear Self

To honor Self

To respect Self

To think highly of Self

To love Self

To appreciate Self

To cherish Self

To treasure Self

To admire Self

To like Self

To be fond of Self

To care for someone or something Self

“The doctrine of ‘self-esteem’ is a teaching that is totally opposite to the teachings of Jesus Christ!”

Two Main Areas of Self-Esteem

High or Positive Self-Esteem – I love myself!

Low or Negative Self-Esteem – I always look down on myself.

Basic Characteristics of High Self-Esteem Individuals:

  1. People are considered to be psychologically happy and healthy.
  2. They feel good about themselves, they are able to cope effectively with challenges and negative feedback.
  3. They live in a social world in which they believe that people value and respect them.
  4. They dismiss negative feedback as unreliable or biased.
  5. They trivialize failures or attribute them to external causes.
  6. They take less personal responsibility for harmful actions and develop an inaccurate self-concept, hindering growth and change.
  7. They become angry and aggressive toward those who threaten their ego.
  8. They engage in downward social comparisons, a process that underlies prejudice and discrimination.
  9. The motivation to protect feelings of self-worth can also lead to a rigid, closed mind-set that cannot tolerate alternative viewpoints known as ‘‘need for cognitive closure.”
  10. They sometimes engage in dysfunctional behaviors.
  11. Their inflated ego is easily pricked and insatiable need for social approval often leads to relationship problems. (Source: kristin.neff@mail.utexas.edu)

Basic Characteristic of Low Self- Esteem Individuals

  1. Individuals believed to be psychologically distressed and perhaps even depressed.
  2. They see the world through a more negative viewpoint.
  3. Their general dislike for themselves colors their perceptions of everything around them.

Low Self-Esteem is as Diabolical as High Self-Esteem!

“In one sense, low self-esteem is the opposite of pride. In another sense, low-self-esteem is a form of pride. Some people have low self-esteem because they want people to feel sorry for them, to pay attention to them, to comfort them. Low self-esteem can be a declaration of “look at me” just as much as pride. It simply takes a different route to get to the same destination; that is, self-absorption, self-obsession, and selfishness.” (Source: www.gotquestions.org/self-esteem.html)

Self-Esteem and Self-Respect Contrasted

Self-Esteem has to do with the promoting of the “self” or the “person.” Its main focus is uplifting one’s self over and above everyone else. Self is the idol, self is always number one!

Webster defines self-esteem as the holding of a good opinion of one’s self; self-respect; also self-conceit.

Self-conceit according to Webster is an overwhelming opinion of one’s own powers, endowments, merits, or the likes; vanity.

Self-Respect – Proper respect for oneself or one’s own character. (The Chambers Dictionary, 11th ed.)

Self-Esteem – A good opinion of oneself; an overestimation of oneself. It is giving the “I” undue prominence in speech and action. (Synonyms: egoism, pride, self-conceit, self-confidence, self-assertion, self-exaltation.) Funk & Wagnalls Standard Dictionary, International Edition.

Laurence Sterne (1713–1768) penned the following: “To have a respect for ourselves guides our morals; and to have a deference (respect) for others governs our manners.”

Ellen White says of self-respect: “The word of God forbids our attaching undue importance to our works, but it nowhere forbids self-respect. There is a conscious dignity of character which is not pride or self-esteem, but is the safeguard of youth. He is impressed that he has a reputation to sustain, a character to lose or to keep. In God’s inspired book you will have a faultless instructor, an unerring counsellor, an unfailing guide.” Manuscript Releases, vol. 18, 259.

Maltbie D. Babcock (1858–1901) wrote the following: “Our business in life is not to get ahead of other people, but to get ahead of ourselves.”

The Holy Scriptures teach us: “Let nothing be done through strife or vainglory; but in lowliness of mind let each esteem other better than themselves.” Philippians 2:3.

“The self-esteem movement has its most recent roots in clinical psychology, namely in the personality theories of such men as William James, Alfred Adler, Erich Fromm, Abraham Maslow, and Carl Rogers. It became further popularized by their many followers. Nevertheless, the roots of the self-esteem movement reach further back into … history.” (Source: www.psychoheresy-aware.org/selfestm.html)

The True Origin of Self-Esteem

Isaiah 14:12–14: “How art thou fallen from heaven, O Lucifer, son of the morning! how art thou cut down to the ground, which didst weaken the nations! For thou hast said in thine heart, I will ascend into heaven, I will exalt my throne above the stars of God: I will sit also upon the mount of the congregation, in the sides of the north: I will ascend above the heights of the clouds; I will be like the most High.”

Ezekiel 28:14–15, 17: “Thou art the anointed cherub that covereth; and I have set thee so: thou wast upon the holy mountain of God; thou hast walked up and down in the midst of the stones of fire. Thou wast perfect in thy ways from the day that thou wast created, till iniquity was found in thee. … Thine heart was lifted up because of thy beauty, thou hast corrupted thy wisdom by reason of thy brightness: I will cast thee to the ground, I will lay thee before kings, that they may behold thee.”

Ellen White tells us how this evil was developed: “Little by little Lucifer came to indulge the desire for self-exaltation. The Scripture says, ‘Thine heart was lifted up because of thy beauty, thou hast corrupted thy wisdom by reason of thy brightness’ (Ezekiel 28:17). ‘Thou hast said in thine heart … I will exalt my throne above the stars of God. … I will be like the Most High’ (Isaiah 14:13, 14). Though all his glory was from God, this mighty angel came to regard it as pertaining to himself. Not content with his position, though honored above the heavenly host, he ventured to covet homage due alone to the Creator. Instead of seeking to make God supreme in the affections and allegiance of all created beings, it was his endeavor to secure their service and loyalty to himself. And coveting the glory with which the infinite Father had invested His Son, this prince of angels aspired to power that was the prerogative of Christ alone.” Patriarchs and Prophets, 35.

Lucifer’s Real Problem That Caused the Rebellion in Heaven

“He left the immediate presence of the Father, dissatisfied, and filled with envy against Jesus Christ. Concealing his real purposes, he assembled the angelic host. He introduced his subject, which was himself. As one aggrieved, he related the preference God had given Jesus to the neglect of himself. He told them that henceforth all the sweet liberty the angels had enjoyed was at an end. For had not a ruler been appointed over them, to whom they from henceforth must yield servile honor? He stated to them that he had called them together to assure them that he no longer would submit to this invasion of his rights and theirs; that never would he again bow down to Christ; that he would take the honor upon himself which should have been conferred upon him, and would be the commander of all who would submit to follow him and obey his voice.” The Spirit of Prophecy, vol. 1, 18, 19.

Sincere and Loving Appeals Were Made to Lucifer!

“Angels that were loyal and true sought to reconcile this mighty, rebellious angel to the will of his Creator. … They anxiously sought to move Satan to renounce his wicked design and yield submission to their Creator; for all had heretofore been peace and harmony, and what could occasion this dissenting, rebellious voice?

“Satan refused to listen. And then he turned from the loyal and true angels, denouncing them as slaves. … Again the loyal angels warned Satan, and assured him what must be the consequence if he persisted; that He who could create the angels, could by his power overturn all their authority, and in some signal manner punish their audacity and terrible rebellion. …

“The mighty revolter then declared that he was acquainted with God’s law, and if he should submit to servile obedience, his honor would be taken from him.” Ibid., 19–21.

“All Heaven had rejoiced to reflect the Creator’s glory and to show forth His praise. And while God was thus honored, all had been peace and gladness. But a note of discord now marred the celestial harmonies. The service and exaltation of self, contrary to the Creator’s plan, awakened forebodings of evil in minds to whom God’s glory was supreme. The heavenly councils pleaded with Lucifer. The Son of God presented before him the greatness, the goodness, and the justice of the Creator, and the sacred, unchanging nature of His law. God Himself had established the order of Heaven; and in departing from it, Lucifer would dishonor his Maker, and bring ruin upon himself. But the warning, given in infinite love and mercy, only aroused a spirit of resistance. Lucifer allowed jealousy of Christ to prevail, and he became the more determined.

“Pride in his own glory nourished the desire for supremacy. The high honors conferred upon Lucifer were not appreciated as the gift of God, and called forth no gratitude to the Creator. He gloried in his brightness and exaltation, and aspired to be equal with God. He was beloved and reverenced by the heavenly host. Angels delighted to execute his commands, and he was clothed with wisdom and glory above them all. …

“He sought to create sympathy for himself, by representing that God had dealt unjustly with him in bestowing supreme honor upon Christ. He claimed that in aspiring to greater power and honor he was not aiming at self-exaltation, but was seeking to secure liberty for all the inhabitants of Heaven, that by this means they might attain to a higher state of existence.

“God, in his great mercy, bore long with Lucifer. He was not immediately degraded from his exalted station when he first indulged the spirit of discontent, nor even when he began to present his false claims before the loyal angels. Long was he retained in Heaven. Again and again he was offered pardon, on condition of repentance and submission. … But pride forbade him to submit. He persistently defended his own course, maintained that he had no need of repentance, and fully committed himself, in the great controversy, against his Maker.” The Great Controversy, (1888) 494–496.

The Seer of Patmos records the awful consequence of Lucifer’s self-esteem attitude. He wrote, “And there was war in heaven: Michael and his angels fought against the dragon; and the dragon fought and his angels, and prevailed not; neither was their place found any more in heaven. And the great dragon was cast out, that old serpent, called the Devil, and Satan, which deceiveth the whole world: he was cast out into the earth, and his angels were cast out with him.” Revelation 12: 7–9.

Self-esteem causes human beings to set their will against the will of God, which ultimately allows us to be at war with our Maker.

Are you at war with your Maker Who also is your Saviour?

Pastor Ivan Plummer ministers through the Emmanuel Seventh Day Church Ministries in Bronx, New York. He may be contacted by telephone at: 718-882-3900.