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Sunday message: Where is self-esteem to be found?

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Second Sunday after Pentecost – June 23, 2019

Scriptures:

Psalm 22:19–28

Luke 8:26–39

Galatians 3:26-4:7

W. Paul Jones tells the story of a woman who suffered from polio during her childhood. Some of us have never seen a young person crippled by polio — confined to a wheelchair, or crutches — or even worse, an iron lung. Thank God and Jonas Salk that we haven’t. It’s a terrible thing to happen to a young person.

But the effect on the self-image of the woman that Paul Jones tells about was worse than her physical pain. Here is how she viewed herself. She said that when, as a child, her mother would leave her in Sunday school, she would always ask her mother if she could wear her mother’s locket. Her mother assumed she had a special attachment to the locket. That wasn’t it at all. Here is how she explained her relationship to the locket. She says, “I knew I wasn’t worth coming back for, but I knew my mother would come back for her locket.” 1) How incredibly sad to feel that way about yourself. 

Self-image or self-esteem has been a hot topic in psychology for decades, going about as far back as psychology itself. Even Sigmund Freud, who many consider the founding father of psychology, had theories about self-esteem at the heart of his work. What self-esteem is, how it develops (or fails to develop) and what influences it has kept psychologists busy for a long time, and there’s no sign that we’ll have it all figured out anytime soon! 2)

In my humble opinion I don’t think any person can say they have this “thing” called “self-esteem” completely down pat. 

Each person on this planet has their own battles to fight. There is no way someone could empathetically say “smarten up” and then all will be fine and dandy. What we think of ourselves and how we interact with others is a lifelong journey for every individual.

But think of this: It has been said 3) that the majority of mass-shootings have been performed by people with an extremely low self-esteem. The remainder of mass-shooters seem to be narcissists. This turns out to be another manifestation of a weak self-image. Narcissists are usually people who manage their self-image with a facade of grandiosity, but deep down things aren’t all that okay. 

There are many who believe it all starts with the style of parenting that people receive during their childhood.

So many people today, if their dads or moms are still around, have no real relationship with them. And many others have a relationship that could be described as destructive. Quite often insecure parents raise their children to be just as or even more insecure. It’s not for any of us to judge as this is part of what we call the human condition.

Sometimes we’re too hard on ourselves. We don’t accept that what we do is good enough. If we think, “It’s not really any good,” “It’s not perfect,” or “I can’t do it well enough,” we miss the chance to build self-esteem. 4)

For sure there are often good people who have bad times. One reason many good people have bad times is that they continue to carry around baggage from past experiences or relationships that have crushed their self esteem in various ways. Maybe that is true of so many of us. 

The apostle Paul’s words in this morning’s reading, which are found in his letter to the Galatians are refreshing balm to all who have been damaged by their past for whatever reason, “… in Christ Jesus you are all children of God through faith” and then it continues, “As many of you as were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. There is no longer Jew or Greek, there is no longer slave or free, there is no longer male and female; for all of you are one in Christ Jesus.” 5)

Is it really only insecure parenting that brings about a low self-esteem? Although it’s not all that simple, it helps turning our eyes towards scriptures, indeed we can look at the apostle Paul’s letter to the Galatians. 

The thing is that there is good news, described in our reading from Galatians and quite a few other places. The good news is that it matters not what kind of relationship you have or had with your earthly parents, you have a heavenly parent who is everything that you hoped a mom or dad would be. Our heavenly Parent is forgiving, accepting, a Parent who believes in you, who created you in God’s image. You are the apple of God’s eye.

Max Lucado’s famous words are appropriate, “If God had a refrigerator, your picture would be on it. If God had a wallet, your photo would be in it. God sends you flowers every spring and a sunrise every morning. Face it, friend. God is crazy about you!” 6)

Here is what we need to see: God has one passion and that is people. Every person on this earth. God loves you not because you are white, not because you are male or female, not because you are American, African or European, not because you are physically attractive, not because you come from the right socio-economic class. God loves you because you are you. 

This is what each of us needs to accept and allow to become a reality. We all need to let God love us. 

There is also one more important truth to remember. The more we fight and act and try to be okay in the eyes of others, the harder it is to feel good about ourselves. This is a humanistic route towards a healthy self-esteem. It is human-driven. It all falls on us.

The Christian and spiritual way is to accept that God has already made us good enough, to realise that we only need to let God love us. We need to walk forward towards God’s wonderful and warm love for the person who I am. 

Amen

 

1) “People who are hard on themselves” by King Duncan, on a subscription-paid website, sermons.com 

2) “What is Self-Esteem? A Psychologist Explains”, by Courtney Ackerman at https://positivepsychology.com/self-esteem/ 

3) From an internet article by the title, “Low Self-Esteem: Universal Cause of All Suffering and Mass Shootings”, February 16, 2018, by Kimesha Coleman https://www.coachingbykimesha.com/single-post/Low-Self-Esteem-Universal-Cause-of-All-Suffering-and-Mass-Shootings

4) “How Can I Improve My Self-Esteem?” reviewed by D’Arcy Lyness, PhD, at https://kidshealth.org/en/teens/self-esteem.html 

5) “People who are hard on themselves” by King Duncan, on a subscription-paid website, sermons.com 

6) “People who are hard on themselves” by King Duncan, on a subscription-paid website, sermons.com 

 

Copyright 2019 – Heinrich Grosskopf, Minister of Dayspring Presbyterian Church

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