Self-worth is the measure of how we value ourselves. It is possibly the most basic of our psychological needs. It has many dimensions, but is addressed mostly in the Bible in terms of pride, humility, and meekness. Pride is a defense mechanism against low self-worth or the feeling we get when we are taking credit for who we are or what we have accomplished. Since none of us made ourselves, provided our own talents, or are truly self-sufficient, we should not take credit for who we are. Therefore, pride is a rejection of God’s rightful place in our lives. Consequently, God resists all prideful efforts.
Most often if we feel inadequate in our life we are driven to meet this need by making ourselves feel adequate through accomplishments or approval and oscillate between feeling worthless and prideful depending on the circumstances of our lives. This results in a competitive spirit, comparing ourselves with others, and a critical or judgmental spirit trying to bring others down to our level. Humility is not having a low evaluation of ourselves but an accurate one from God’s point of view. God wants us to value ourselves as He values us. He was willing to send His own son to die for us while we were yet sinners. We are the objects of His love without regard to our works or performance. God has chosen to resist the proud and assist the humble. God also chooses to greatly reward the meek—those humble persons who have totally yielded themselves to God and accepted His will for their lives.
1. Pride is not from God, but is of the world. It is our attempt in our own flesh to feel valuable when, in truth, we are only one of six billion people in a world so small it is hardly noticeable in the universe.
Jo 2:16 For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh, and the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life, is not of the Father, but is of the world.
2. Pride is actually the sin of rebellion against God which was first committed by the devil long ago. It says that we see ourselves as equal to God, that we want to exalt ourselves above Him, that we owe Him nothing, and that we want to become self-sufficient without Him. It is interesting how we as created creatures somehow think we do not need the one who created us. The “theory” of evolution is just that—an attempt to come up with some explanation for our creation that will allow us to deny our creator and any obligation to Him.
Isa 14:12 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! 13 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:
Ps 10:4 The wicked, through the pride of his countenance, will not seek after God: God is not in all his thoughts.
3. God opposes the proud. He does this for our good. If our worth is based on what we have done or what others think of us, we will become slaves to our circumstances or the opinions of others. This results in performance self-worth, the competition of the rat race, and an emotional rollercoaster that can only make our lives miserable. God loves us too much to allow this to happen.
Pr 16:5 Every one that is proud in heart is an abomination to the LORD: though hand join in hand, he shall not be unpunished.
Le 26:19 And I will break the pride of your power; and I will make your heaven as iron, and your earth as brass:
Job 33:17 That he may withdraw man from his purpose, and hide pride from man.
4. Pride gives an opening to Satan, removes us from God’s protection, and results in destruction and shame. If we proudly want to run our own lives, God will let us; but we should not expect His help or protection if we do. He must allow the consequences of life to prove to us that we are not self-sufficient and that we cannot be our own God.
Pr 16:18 Pride goeth before destruction, and an haughty spirit before a fall.
Pr 11:2 When pride cometh, then cometh shame: but with the lowly is wisdom.
5. Pride leads to taking advantage of others, causes conflict, and defiles the heart. If we are competing with others in order to make ourselves worthwhile, we will be tempted to do whatever it takes to win and will live in contention with others. Men attempt to rely on themselves because they do not trust God to meet their needs. Since they must take care of themselves, they are prone to all sorts of evil.
Ps 10:2 The wicked in his pride doth persecute the poor: let them be taken in the devices that they have imagined.
Pr 13:10 Only by pride cometh contention: but with the well advised is wisdom.
Mr 7: 21 For from within, out of the heart of men, proceed evil thoughts, adulteries, fornications, murders, 22 Thefts, covetousness, wickedness, deceit, lasciviousness, an evil eye, blasphemy, pride, foolishness: 23 All these evil things come from within, and defile the man.
6. God requires us to be humble. Humility is just an honest evaluation of our worth from the viewpoint of God. We are His creation. We have nothing that He has not given us. We are no better than others. There is nothing that we can do of true significance without His help. We do not have enough information to direct our own lives. We are all selfish sinners with a tendency to do evil in order to get our needs met at the expense of others. If God had not saved us, we would be doomed to a selfish, wasted, bitter life, ending in the destruction of Hell. We are of true worth only because He loves us.
Mic 6:8 He hath shewed thee, O man, what is good; and what doth the LORD require of thee, but to do justly, and to love mercy, and to walk humbly with thy God?
7. Humility is also seeing ourselves and others through the loving eyes of God—of infinite worth and more valuable than the rest of His creation. Because He loves us, He made us in His image and said that we are very good. Through His grace and unmerited favor, we are worth as much to Him as His very own son, Jesus. This truth is more clearly expressed below in the New Living Translation of John 17:23.
Ps 8: 3 When I consider thy heavens, the work of thy fingers, the moon and the stars, which thou hast ordained; 4 What is man, that thou art mindful of him? and the son of man, that thou visitest him? 5 For thou hast made him a little lower than the angels, and hast crowned him with glory and honour. 6 Thou madest him to have dominion over the works of thy hands; thou hast put all things under his feet:
Jo 17:23 I in them and you in me, all being perfected into one. Then the world will know that you sent me and will understand that you love them as much as you love me. (NLT)
8. We can escape judgment by humbling ourselves before God. God does not want to punish us, but He must at least correct us. If we humble ourselves and repent, we are no longer in need of correction.
2 Chr 7:14 If my people, which are called by my name, shall humble themselves, and pray, and seek my face, and turn from their wicked ways; then will I hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin, and will heal their land.
2 Chr 12:7 And when the LORD saw that they humbled themselves, the word of the LORD came to Shemaiah, saying, They have humbled themselves; therefore I will not destroy them, but I will grant them some deliverance; and my wrath shall not be poured out upon Jerusalem by the hand of Shishak.
2 Chr 32:26 Notwithstanding Hezekiah humbled himself for the pride of his heart, both he and the inhabitants of Jerusalem, so that the wrath of the LORD came not upon them in the days of Hezekiah.
9. Humble persons are exalted and are greatest in the kingdom of God. This is because they are open to God’s direction and are therefore more useful and effective in His kingdom. No matter how talented we are, if we refuse to be obedient we are of little use to Him.
Mt 18:4 Whosoever therefore shall humble himself as this little child, the same is greatest in the kingdom of heaven.
Lu 18:14 I tell you, this man went down to his house justified rather than the other: for every one that exalteth himself shall be abased; and he that humbleth himself shall be exalted.
10. God chooses those who are seen as the weak and foolish in this world to do His work so that He will get the glory. Of course, they are also more open to His direction and know clearly how much they need His help.
1 Co 1:27 But God hath chosen the foolish things of the world to confound the wise; and God hath chosen the weak things of the world to confound the things which are mighty; 26 For ye see your calling, brethren, how that not many wise men after the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble, are called: 27 But God hath chosen the foolish things of the world to confound the wise; and God hath chosen the weak things of the world to confound the things which are mighty; 28 And base things of the world, and things which are despised, hath God chosen, yea, and things which are not, to bring to nought things that are: 29 That no flesh should glory in his presence.
11. Because we are all equal, God wants us to value each other as much as He loves and values us, esteeming others as better than ourselves. Humility is a prerequisite for the development of unconditional love.
1 Th 5:13 And to esteem them very highly in love for their work's sake. And be at peace among yourselves.
Php 2:3 Let nothing be done through strife or vainglory; but in lowliness of mind let each esteem other better than themselves.
12. We are to judge ourselves by the amount of faith and trust we have in God and by how Christ-like we are. We are only useful in the Kingdom of God to the degree that we trust and obey the King.
Ro 12:3 For I say, through the grace given unto me, to every man that is among you, not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think; but to think soberly, according as God hath dealt to every man the measure of faith.
Eph 4:13 Till we all come in the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, unto a perfect man, unto the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ:
13. Meekness is totally yielding ourselves to the will of God, relying on Him, and bnot demanding our rights. It has been clearly demonstrated in the lives of Moses and Jesus.
Num 12:3 (Now the man Moses was very meek, above all the men which were upon the face of the earth.)
Mt 11:29 Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls.
Mt 21:5 Tell ye the daughter of Sion, Behold, thy King cometh unto thee, meek, and sitting upon an ass, and a colt the foal of an ass.
14. Because the meek are totally yielded to and trust in God’s plan for them, they have abundant peace. Nothing seems to bother them.
Ps 37:11 But the meek shall inherit the earth; and shall delight themselves in the abundance of peace.
15. We are called to develop a meek and quiet spirit.
Zep 2:3 Seek ye the LORD, all ye meek of the earth, which have wrought his judgment; seek righteousness, seek meekness: it may be ye shall be hid in the day of the LORD'S anger.
1 Pe 3:4 But let it be the hidden man of the heart, in that which is not corruptible, even the ornament of a meek and quiet spirit, which is in the sight of God of great price.
16. Because the meek totally trust in Him and do not demand their own rights, they are greatly rewarded by God. A father wants to bless the child that demands nothing, but trusts him to meet all of his needs. Because the child believes the father loves him and has his best interest in mind, he wants to do whatever the father desires for him to do. This type of child will truly inherit everything that his father can possibly give him.
Ps 22:26 The meek shall eat and be satisfied: they shall praise the LORD that seek him: your heart shall live for ever.
Ps 147:6 The LORD lifteth up the meek: he casteth the wicked down to the ground.
Ps 149:4 For the LORD taketh pleasure in his people: he will beautify the meek with salvation.
Isa 29:19 The meek also shall increase their joy in the LORD, and the poor among men shall rejoice in the Holy One of Israel.
Mt 5:5 Blessed are the meek: for they shall inherit the earth.
Counseling Methods and Techniques
1. Pride can be overcome by facing our insecurity and glorifying God. When we understand that pride is either a self-defense mechanism used when we feel unworthy or insecure, or an attempt to take credit for something we have done ourselves, we can deal with the underlying causes. When we feel pride rising up, we need to identify what has happened. Either, we are feeling insecure or things are going so well we are tempted to think that our prosperity is our own doing, instead of a blessing from God. We must immediately stop the thought of pride by dealing with our insecurity or declaring that everything that we have is from God. If we allow pride into our lives thinking that we can run our own lives, God will resist us. We should give the glory to God for whatever we have been tempted to be prideful about. Overcoming pride can be a constant battle, but it must be won. At one point in my life, God revealed to me that every major failure that I had experienced was due to allowing pride in my life. Today, I avoid it like the plague that it actually is!
2. We can humble ourselves by seeing things from God’s perspective. We need to recognize that we have nothing that God did not give us, that without His help we can do nothing of lasting value, and that we are truly nothing compared to God and His creation. Humility is simply taking an honest evaluation of ourselves from God’s perspective. According to the Bible, this evaluation should be based on how much faith or trust we have in God, not in our own efforts or success.
3. We become meek by giving up all our rights up to God. We are to present ourselves a living sacrifice for use in the Kingdom of God. (Heb 12:1) Truly meek persons are so interested in doing good for the kingdom of God, that they cannot be offended by how they are treated or by what others do to them, if what happens turns out to be a benefit to God.
4. We should not confuse self-worth or value with significance. Self-worth has to do with our inherent value and is based solely on the love of God and the price God was willing to pay to redeem us through the sacrifice of His Son on the cross. No amount of money, performance, approval, accomplishments, or morals can make us any more worthwhile. God loves all of His kids equally! Significance has to do with our function or performance and will be addressed in the next section.
5. Align our perceptions with the Biblical truth. I usually begin by asking clients to tell me what, in their mind, makes a person more or less worthwhile. I then show them that what they said fits the world formula of self-worth = performance + approval + morals. I then debunk the world’s system using the arguments discussed and models for dealing with self-worth in my books Faith Therapy and Transformation!
6. Do not interpret offenses as affecting our worth as a person. The greatest damage from an offense occurs when we accept that what has been done to us says something important about our worth as a person. In fact, very few of the offenses in our lives were done intentionally to send us a specific message concerning our worth. Most offences are the results of miscommunication, other’s selfish attempts to defend themselves, escalation during conflicts, and problems in the other person’s life. Our most usual response to someone hurting us should be, “They have a problem, I’ll pray for them.”
When, as young children we cannot gain the approval of our fathers, we seldom can see that it is our father who is at fault. Instead, we take what is done personally and perceive that it must mean that we are in some way inadequate.
This leads to a low self-evaluation of ourselves which eventually results in low self-worth. However, when we are grown, we understand that most problems are not our fault and have nothing to do with our value as a person. A secular method, sometimes used to change the person’s thinking, is to suggest that the grown up person (who understands that it was not their fault) have a conversation with the “inner child” who was hurt, to help them understand what has really happened.
7. Change how we perceive our hurts. Because emotions are basically thermometers of our perceptions, the most effective way to deal with emotions is to identify why we are feeling the way we are and deal with the misperceptions. We must first realize that offenses will happen to everyone. Even though Jesus was perfect, others still did offensive things to Him. Consequently, the fact that others offend us does not necessarily mean that there is something wrong with us. Jesus suggested that we should be of good cheer in the middle of our tribulation, because we know that we will overcome in the end and that God will work everything for our good.
Matthew 18:7 Woe unto the world because of offences! for it must needs be that offences come; but woe to that man by whom the offence cometh!
Luke 17:1 Then said he unto the disciples, It is impossible but that offences will come: but woe unto him, through whom they come!
John 16:33 These things I have spoken unto you, that in me ye might have peace. In the world ye shall have tribulation: but be of good cheer; I have overcome the world.
8. Change how we handle offenses. If we mishandle the emotions created by the events of our lives, they are transformed from hurts into wounds. What we do with them determines their effect on us. If we choose not to forgive, hold onto our hurts, obsess about them, and retain our right to get vengeance on those who hurt us, we will become bitter and our hurts will become long-term wounds that will result in further damage to our emotions. Jesus made it clear that it is the one who will not forgive that is “turned over to the tormentors” (Matt 18:34) and that we must forgive others if we want to be forgiven (Luke 6:37). We must give up control of our lives and trust God for justice, especially in situations over which we have no control. (See the principles of justice and forgiveness later in this book.)
9. Correctly deal with shame and failures. Another factor in developing low self-worth is that we incorrectly deal with the shame of our failures. When we chose to hide and deny our failures, they are changed from “I did a bad thing” to “I am a bad person.” This affects how we feel about ourselves. Of course, we understand that neither of these factors are valid indicators of our worth since our worth does not depend on our performance, how others view us, or even how well we have obeyed the commands of God. Our worth must be based solely on the fact that God, who cannot lie, made us in His image, said we are very good, and loves, likes, favors and values us just the way we are.
10. Build our faith that God loves and values us without works. It is not good enough to read what the Bible has to say, but we must make it a part of us through study and meditation. We must study the Biblical principles presented in this chapter and meditate on them until they become part of our spirit. When they do, we will be able to accept ourselves as we are simply because we “know” that God loves and values us without any performance or works on our part.
An invalid evaluation of our self-worth is the root problem, or at least a major contributing factor, in almost all psychological disorders. Low self-worth results in the development of facades, hypocrisy, bragging, timidity, shyness, criticalness, large emotional swings or explosive anger. It is the underlying cause in most conflict, bitterness, lack of forgiveness, striving for supremacy, as well as some of the most devastating emotional pain. At the other extreme, thinking too highly of ourselves (which is usually an attempt to cope with low self-worth), results in pride, arrogance, feelings of entitlement and a lack of empathy toward others. The issues of self-worth are so serious that Jesus, in the Sermon on the Mount, compared verbally degrading another's worth to murder.
Mt 5:21 Ye have heard that it was said by them of old time, Thou shalt not kill; and whosoever shall kill shall be in danger of the judgment: 22 But I say unto you, That whosoever is angry with his brother without a cause shall be in danger of the judgment: and whosoever shall say to his brother, Raca, shall be in danger of the council: but whosoever shall say, Thou fool, shall be in danger of hell fire.
Unfortunately, the concepts of self-worth, self-esteem, significance and self-image have become very confused. Worth means “the quality that renders a thing desirable or of value.” Self-worth is our evaluation of our inherent value. As an example, a diamond ring has a certain inherent value even if it is broken or does not fit. A synonym might be "potential value." This should not be confused with the term self-esteem which means a good opinion or an overestimate of oneself, and significance which means having or expressing a meaning or fulfilling the intent or purpose of something. Finally, self-image is how we perceive ourselves, which may include our self-worth, significance and even how we think others evaluate us. (The Standard College Dictionary, Funk & Wagnalls, 1963)
Low self-worth affects what we will do, limits what we will try to do, and takes away the strength to do most things. I remember a story related to me by a professor at a major university. Just before graduation, a Ph.D. candidate came to the faculty and stated that she could not accept the Doctoral Degree that she had earned because she knew that she must have cheated in some way. No, she had not plagiarized her dissertation or cheated on any of the tests, but she knew that somehow she must have cheated because "she knew that she was not capable of achieving a Doctoral Degree." She was too worthless to accomplish what she had done. Although she did not say it, somehow she had to fail since that was the only way she could fulfill her inner evaluation of herself. She had made the mistake of succeeding! In a similar situation, a woman I have counseled refused to take the final course required for her Master’s Degree and, therefore, was able to fail in accordance with her low self-image.
One of the most heart-wrenching instances of low self-worth that I have encountered was the wife of a verbally abusive client whose mother had been very over-protective. This client constantly looked down to avoid eye contact. She saw herself as so incompetent that she still had to have her mother come over to do her housework for her. She was still bathing her eight-year-old daughter who was now having problems in school. Without her mother’s advice, she would not make any decisions. She refused to drive a car even though she had a driver’s license. Although this client was clearly codependent on her mother from whom she had never separated, her feelings of inadequacy were even more predominating. Although there were no physical or mental abnormalities; because of low self-worth, her ability to cope with life was extremely impaired.
How We Develop Worldly Self-worth
Our concept of our own worth begins at a very early age. It starts with our initial contact with our mothers and is significantly impacted by how we are treated, what other’s say about us and how we view our performance as we compare it with others. If are told by others how wonderful we are and we feel loved and secure, we will perceive ourselves as persons of value. If we are ignored and told that we are “idiots,” we will accept that evaluation as fact. As a child, we have no other frame of reference. To us, our parents are as god and their evaluations are, without doubt, true. This is especially the case during the concrete period of development (ages 7-11) when we egocentrically believe that we control the events of our lives. If we are mistreated, we believe that we must have done something wrong. In our minds, we do not even consider the possibility that we may have an abusive or prejudiced parent, or that the problem resides in the other person.
Of course, children do not hesitate to demean their playmates in the most degrading ways and certain children inevitably become the targets of bullies, especially if they have some defect or handicap. Each class has its popular clique and its outcasts. If we are the last to be picked on a team or do not seem to have many friends, evidence mounts that we are in some way inferior to others in the class. As a general rule, the more we feel inferior, the more withdrawn we will become and the fewer friends we will have. It is a well-known fact that the more anxious we are about failing, the poorer we will perform. All this becomes a self-fulfilling cycle where those who feel valued grow in confidence and capability, and those who see themselves as worthless become more and more inadequate to face the challenges of life. Some of the worst emotional pain that we can experience comes from seeing ourselves as worthless and inferior to others.
These feelings of worthlessness automatically lead to the development of a myriad of defenses and attempts to over-compensate through perfectionism, performance and people pleasing, in order to become worthwhile in the eyes of others. These are the beginning of the patterns of dysfunction, codependency or neurosis that can even lead to mental illness. The need for worth is at the core of our being and without it, we will do whatever it takes to avoid the excruciating pain of feeling worthless.
The World’s System
Unfortunately, most people struggle with self-worth problems to some degree. Many times, low self-worth underlies an excessive drive to succeed, exaggerated attempts to please people, and the overwhelming stress of life. Most secular answers provide little relief. Playing audio tapes over and over affirming that the client is a person of worth provides little help. Trying to learn to love ourselves can just lead to more self-centeredness. Helping the client understand that, just because someone treats them badly does not make them worthless, can help only to a limited degree. Support groups that provide us with reality checks and affirmation can be of some help. Developing capability and performance in a specific area can also be useful, but only to the degree that we are continually successful.
Jay Adams points out many of the pitfalls of these secular methods in his book The Biblical View of Self-esteem, Self-love, Self image (1986). He particularly challenges the secular idea that we must first love ourselves before we can learn to love others (as suggested by Adler and Maslow). Adams is concerned that we might go so far as to excuse ourselves from loving God and our neighbor simply because we have not been loved or have not learned to love ourselves. He quotes Matthew 6:33 to show that we are to seek first the Kingdom of God and that then all our needs will be met. He points out that seeking to love the self leads to more selfishness and more problems. The biblical implication about loving others as we love ourselves is that everyone actually does love himself already. Although a person might say that he hates himself, in fact, he is really just attempting to deflect shame.
All of us, to some degree, believe in the world’s system of worth and have variations of how we evaluate the worth of others and ourselves. Some of us value position, possessions or money as trophies of our accomplishments. Other people value power, strength or beauty, and still others value moral character. All of these relate to our performance or what we believe will result in the approval of others. The Bible warns us that we will be judged by the same measure that we judge others. (Matthew 7:2) It is interesting to note how true this seems to be. Those that feel bad about themselves, usually value what they do not have and criticize others for the very faults that they have. As long as we believe the world’s system, we will be driven to build our self-worth through performance, seeking the approval of others, or trying to be good. This will place us at the mercy of how we perform, how others view us and the circumstances of our lives. In fact, the world’s system of worth and the things we value in others can be summed up in some fashion into a single formula: Self-worth = performance + approval + morals.
The Consequences of the World’s System—All Feel of Little Worth Sometime
The Bible makes it clear that the world’s system is fundamentally flawed, is a lie, and does not even make logical sense. The fact that most of us have unwittingly bought into this system and live our lives by it, does not make it true. Let us examine the logical consequences of this system if we believe and try to live by it.
1. The perception of our worth or value will be extremely unstable and volatile. In order to see that this is true, consider the example of President George Bush Sr. immediately after the first Gulf War. He had just defeated the fourth largest army in the world with the loss of only about 250 soldiers, he had an unheard of worldwide approval rating of 90% and he had acted so morally that he had even invited Evangelist Billy Graham to pray with him at the White House during the war. According to the world’s formula for worth, he would have been considered at the least one of the most worthwhile persons on earth at that moment. However, when he lost the next election, according to this formula he would have plummeted to near the bottom of the world’s self-worth ladder since he had failed to perform and had lost the approval of a majority of the American voters. Either there is something wrong with this system or we must accept the fact that our value is an extremely insecure proposition.
2. All of us will feel worthless and of little value at times in our lives. This is clear from the fact that none of us is perfect and lives our lives without experiencing some failure. In fact, it is our failures that teach us how to succeed better the next time. According to this formula, if we fail to perform or receive the approval of others, we are of little worth. Even Jesus, who was perfect, was rejected by most of the people of His time. The Bible says that we have all sinned, are unable to keep the law perfectly and have failed morally in some way. Therefore, according to the world’s system, all of us are worthless at least during some periods of our lives. The result of these failures is guilt and for many, bouts with depression.
3. All of us will eventually become worthless in the eyes of the world. If our worth is dependent primarily on our performance, then it must also be true that as we age, become sick, retire or spend the remainder of our days in a nursing home, we are of little value. According to this formula, even the beloved President Ronald Regan became worthless when he developed Alzheimer’s disease. He did not even remember that he had been president and his wife, Nancy, had to break the bottle of champagne for him to launch the ship named after him. In fact, if this world system is true, then euthanasia of elderly persons, the holocaust, abortion, the killing of unwanted babies, and the elimination of homeless persons makes sense because those that we evaluate as worthless are simply a burden to society. We usually discard things that we think are worthless. Finally, when we die, according to this system, we have definitely become worthless because we can do nothing, cannot take our possessions with us, and even our relative’s memory of us begins to fade.
4. We will never be able to escape the emotional turmoil and stress in our lives. If we believe the lie that when we accomplish something or bask in the approval of others, we are more worthwhile, then we must also believe that when we fail or others reject us, we are of little worth. We will then naturally attempt to rebuild our worth through performance, people pleasing and ego defenses (to deny our moral failures). By doing so, we place our worth at the mercy of our own capabilities, the opinions of others, and the circumstances of our life. This leads to fear of rejection, fear of failure, fear of punishment and fear of shame. (Search for Significance, 1990). These fears result in extreme emotional swings, defenses to moderate these swings and psychological problems. This, unfortunately, is the situation with every human being who accepts the world's system for evaluating worth.
5. We will have to live with contradictions and internal inconsistency in how we relate to others. One of the measures of the validity of a system is internal consistency. If something is true, than it should be applicable to all aspects of the lives of those who believe it. In order to see how ridiculous the lie is that we have believed for so long, simply ask any mother—even those who believe in the world’s system of worth—“Which of your children are worth the most?” With only the possible exception of those who are mentally ill or extremely dysfunctional, every one will state that all of their children are of equal value! They love and value each equally even if one is a straight “A” student and the other is mentally challenged. However, if we ask an employer which of his employees are worth the most to him, we will almost always get a ranking based on their performance. Clearly, there must be something wrong with a system that is not even consistent within itself.
God’s System of Self-worth
In order to understand the foundational issue involved in evaluating our worth, we must return to the Garden of Eden before the fall of man. If we accept the worldly point of view that our self-worth is a combination of approval, performance and morals, then we need to ask ourselves these questions: What was it that Adam did that made him so worthwhile? Who were the people who provided approval for Adam in the garden? What were the moral values of good and evil to which he adhered? Of course, there were none; he had nothing to do but to name the animals, no people to give approval, and no moral excellence or even rules until the single command was given not to eat of the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil. If this is true, then where did Adam get this all-important feeling of worth? He received it from God! God had made him in His image and God had said that he and all the creation were very good! His worth was based on God's unconditional love and acceptance. If this is true, then it is also true that there is nothing that we can do to make ourselves more or less worthwhile. This fact is extremely important.
The fall of Adam and Eve in the garden has added a lot of confusion and has obscured this fact that we are all of equal value. How was our worth affected by the fall? Malcom Smith gives us part of the answer in his tape series on codependency and self-worth (not dated). He points out that it was the fall that changed our way of looking at our worth. Before the fall, Adam's wife was called Isha or woman, indicating that her worth was based on her creation to be like Adam, one made in God's image. After the fall, she was called Eve, the mother of all the living—her function. Before the fall, obtaining another's approval was not important. But after the fall of Adam and Eve, because man had chosen to be independent from God and his sin had separated him from God, what others thought became extremely important. He no longer heard God's voice saying that he was very good. Therefore, he sought another voice to affirm his worth. Finally, before sin came into the world, shame did not exist. Now that Adam and Eve had eaten of the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil, they had the potential for moral judgment. Because of their shame, Adam and Eve hid themselves from God, sewed fig leaves to cover themselves, and blamed God, each other, and Satan. In this one stroke, an ungodly method of evaluating our image was so thrust into prominence, that even most Christians today do not question it. The "rat race" of life is a race to meet our needs for worth and significance at the expense of others. It has become the very expression of selfishness, which, even when modified by socialization, only results in making us more sophisticated, clever, selfish rats.
The Consequences of God’s System of Self-worth—All Are of Great and Equal Value
Unfortunately, even among Christian circles, there is disagreement as to what the Bible actually says about how sin has affected our self-worth. Jay Adams (1986) correctly points out that our creation in God's image did not vanish with the fall. This is clear in Genesis 9:6 and James 3:9. However, Jay then states, "intrinsically man is worth little." He attempts to prove that "man is of value only to other men, and not to God at all." (pp. 82-86) By this argument, he is trying to avoid the conclusion that it was because of man's worth that Jesus died on the cross, rather than because of His mercy and grace. To Jay Adams, man's image has been tarnished by sin, and, therefore, he is of little value. I agree that our image has been tarnished by sin, but I do not agree that this makes us of little value or worth. Christ died for us when we were helpless sinners or enemies, because he loved us (Romans 5:6-10), and because He loves us, we have value or worth. Jay Adams asks the question, "Of what worth is a weak, sinful enemy of God to Him?" The key to his confusion here is clear when he states, "To be of value is to be valuable for something." As most writers in this area, he has not differentiated the concept of worth from that of significance. As I have stated before, ask any father or mother if their child is worthless because he flunked a math test or hit his sister. Our child's worth is based on the fact that he is our child and that we love him, and not on how well he has obeyed us, or how much he has accomplished in life. It was not our inherent worth that was affected by the fall, but our significance or meaning—the carrying out of our potential which will be discussed in the next chapter. Adam was made in God's image and his inherent design is "very good." Nothing has changed or can ever change that!
What people think of us, and even how we choose to utilize our lives, does not change our inherent value. As in the case of the auction of a Rembrandt painting, the value is established by what a rational person is willing to pay for it. God was willing to give His Son in payment for humanity. In doing so, He placed the very highest value on man and did this while we were still sinners. Either God paid too much for us and got a bad deal, or we have as much inherent value to God as Jesus. In fact, to God, all of His children are of equal value. It is the love of God that provides the basis of our worth. In Romans Chapter 8, He has promised that nothing can ever separate us from His love. Seeing ourselves as worthless or having a "worm" theology is not required in order to recognize that we are sinners who have fallen far short of our potential. The fulfilling of our potential is what was lost at the fall and is being restored through the process of salvation, but not our value or inherent worth.
We also must be careful not to under-value God's love for us. It is not just that we are okay in God's eyes. We must understand that we are greatly loved and valued above the rest of God's creation, just a little lower than the angels (Psalms 8:3-5) and we are destined to judge the angels. I am loved and accepted just the way I am, not just tolerated. I am His especially loved child, and because I am loved, I can know that He will always have my very best interest in mind. God will never leave me nor forsake me, I have infinite value in His eyes and what He thinks of me is the only thing that really matters. No matter how much I may fail in the eyes of the world, or how much I might find success in the eyes of the world, I am still greatly loved along with every other person. That is why He wants me, through faith, to be freed of my selfish motivations, so that I can truly love my fellow man as He does. He has provided it all, not just a minimal level of acceptance. No matter what, I am loved!
The Process of Transformation by Faith
This root problem of low self-worth is primarily based on accepting the lie that a person’s value depends on his performance, approval or morals, and using the experiences of our life to evaluate our worth. The primary battle for our worth is in our mind. We have all fallen to some extent into the trap visited by Adam and Eve. Because they attempted to be their own God and determine their worth by their performance, the approval of others and their adherence to their values; they became worthless in their own eyes and shame overcame them. Helping a client escape from the world system for evaluating his self-worth requires a number of steps, because this system is so strongly entrenched in the lives of most clients.
I have met few people who have not, at least to some extent, accepted the world’s system of evaluating worth. Most of those with a reasonably healthy self-worth developed it through worldly achievement and a healthy loving family. Even this provides an extremely shaky foundation since all of us eventually fail at something and no one will always bask in the approval of others.
Overcoming the world’s system requires both debunking the lies of the world system by showing our clients that the world system of worth does not make sense and establishing the client’s worth based on the Word of God.
1. The client must honestly evaluate the world's system of worth from a logical and biblical perspective and convince himself that it is a lie. Let us evaluate what the Bible says about the characteristics that we value so much in others and ourselves.
a. Wealth. We often ask, "how much is he worth?" We sometimes think that because a rich person must have done something to acquire his riches or that because of his riches he might have more influence, he is in someway more worthwhile. But if we believe that this is true, than it must also be true that this same person is worthless when the stock market crashes and he loses all of his wealth. Believing this lie led to a number of suicides after the stock market crash in the United States in the 1920’s and during the recent economic downturn in Japan. Jesus said that he was particularly called to preach the gospel to the poor and that God greatly values the poor. (Luke 4:18, 6:20) Jesus specifically refuted this belief with a parable that demonstrates how foolish we are to believe in riches. We must also realize that we cannot take our money with us when we die.
Lu 12:16 And he spake a parable unto them, saying, The ground of a certain rich man brought forth plentifully: 17 And he thought within himself, saying, What shall I do, because I have no room where to bestow my fruits? 18 And he said, This will I do: I will pull down my barns, and build greater; and there will I will bestow my fruits and my goods. 19 And I will say to my soul, Soul, thou hast much goods laid up for many years; take thine ease, eat, drink, [and] be merry. 20 But God said unto him, [Thou] fool, this night thy soul shall be required of thee: then whose shall those things be, which thou hast provided? 21 So [is] he that layeth up treasure for himself, and is not rich toward God.
b. Intelligence. I counseled a man who took IQ tests almost every six months because his parents had given him the idea that, unless he was a genius, he was worth little. Each time he tried to get the examiner to agree that if he were less anxious and had fewer psychological problems, he probably would have scored 20 points higher. Does it make senses that if we have a low IQ, are learning disabled or get Alzheimer's, we become worthless?
c. Education. College degrees are seen by some as making a person more worthwhile. The Bible tells us that God has chosen to use the foolish things of this world for His purpose, not the wisdom of this world.
1 Co 1:26 For ye see your calling, brethren, how that not many wise men after the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble, [are called]: 27 But God hath chosen the foolish things of the world to confound the wise; and God hath chosen the weak things of the world to confound the things which are mighty; 28 And base things of the world, and things which are despised, hath God chosen, [yea], and things which are not, to bring to nought things that are: That no flesh should glory in his presence.
After obtaining a number of degrees, I have concluded that a degree might be of help in getting a better job, but the information learned provides only a foundation for the job. It is seldom used on that job. It is mostly those without degrees who see university degrees of great value. In any case, what value will our degrees have after we are admitted as a nursing home resident?
d. Approval. One of Aesop’s fables describes how a father and son did everything they could to be pleasing to everyone. As they were leading a donkey along a road, they were criticized for not riding the donkey, so the father began to ride. As the father rode the donkey, he was criticized for making his son walk, so he got off the donkey and his son began to ride. As the son rode, he was criticized for making his father walk. Finally, they both rode the donkey and were criticized for abusing the donkey, making it carry such a heavy load. (Tan, 1979) The message is clear. We can never please everyone, no matter what we do. In fact, approval is probably one of the most fleeting events in life. Ask any war hero how long his great honor lasted?
e. Honor. A number of years ago, the United States Chief of Naval Operations put a gun to his chest and killed himself. He was about to be exposed for wearing "V's" on his military ribbons, which he did not have the paperwork to back up. Most agreed that he had qualified for the awards. He was the first Chief of Naval Operations ever to achieve that position by rising from the rank of seaman. Did he actually become so worthless, due to this one minor violation of honor, that his life was no longer worth living? His actions seem to indicate that he must have felt that this was true. According to John 5:44, seeking honor from men detracts from faith in God, "How can ye believe, which receive honor one of another, and seek not the honor that [cometh] from God only?"
f. Performance. Man believes that performance is most important. Saving face after a failure was so important to the crew of a Korean Airlines Boeing 747 that crashed short of the runway that they chose to burn to death rather than to face their failure. Is a man only worthwhile because he accomplishes something? Solomon, the wisest and most accomplished man on earth, gave us his opinion of this subject, based on his experience.
Ec 2:11 Then I looked on all the works that my hands had wrought, and on the labour that I had laboured to do: and, behold, all [was] vanity and vexation of spirit, and [there was] no profit under the sun.
g. Possessions. The hidden meaning behind many advertising campaigns is that if people saw us in that new sports car or new suit they would think that we must really be somebody. What happens when our car gets a small dent in the door or the suit gets a rip in it? Did our worth just decrease? Matthew says it this way:
Mt 16:26 For what is a man profited, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul? or what shall a man give in exchange for his soul?
h. Power and prestige. Some seek to have a place of power in our society and to have the prestige of being one of the “honored guests” at state events. This is also an illusion. God states that it is He Who directs the affairs of men and that the more He gives us the more He and others will require of us. It is those who do not seek position or authority who make the best leaders.
Ps 75:6 For promotion cometh neither from the east, nor from the west, nor from the south. 7 But God is the judge: he putteth down one, and setteth up another.
Lu 12:48b …For unto whomsoever much is given, of him shall be much required: and to whom men have committed much, of him they will ask the more.
i. Physical strength and athletics. The Olympics are a good example of how much people will sacrifice in order to win in competition. We honor the world's greatest athletes when they win, but are those who fail to win a medal actually worth less? Timothy, one of the youngest of the pastors in the early church, gives bodily exercise a much lower priority.
1 Ti 4:8 For bodily exercise profiteth little: but godliness is profitable unto all things, having promise of the life that now is, and of that which is to come.
2. The client must be convinced that God's evaluation of him is vastly more important than his accomplishments or what men say and think about him. Think of it this way. Let us suppose that you have become the most important man in America because you discovered the cure for AIDS. Your picture is in every paper and on the cover of every news magazine. People even want to name a highway after you and declare your birthday a national holiday. Now let us evaluate how important you really are. Momentarily, you may be the most popular person in the United States, but the United States has less than 350 million people compared to approximately 6 billion people on the whole earth. If you compare our earth to our sun, over 1 million earths would fit inside the sun. Pluto, the farthest planet from our sun, is about 3,670 million miles from the sun. Yet, compared to the known universe, our solar system is like one single grain of sand out of all the sand on all of the seashores of the entire world. (We still have no idea how big the rest of the universe is.) (Compton's, 1996, Tan, 1979) If our entire solar system was destroyed, the fact that it was missing, would not even be noticeable in that great expanse. Yet somehow we people think that our accomplishments, or that the opinion of just a few other human beings is really important. Without God, we are truly worthless and insignificant. However, the perfect God, Who cannot lie, Who made us and the entire universe, has clearly stated that He made us in His image, that we are very good, that He loves us, that He has chosen us to be on the team that is to rule the universe, that we are His adopted children, that we are joint heirs with His Son Jesus Christ, and that we will sit beside Him on his throne forever. It is these facts that make us truly worthwhile and significant.
Ps 8:3 When I consider thy heavens, the work of thy fingers, the moon and the stars, which thou hast ordained; 4 What is man, that thou art mindful of him? and the son of man, that thou visitest him?"
3. He must establish a close, intimate, experiential relationship with God, in order to trust God's Word more than man's world system. In order to hear the voice of God as Adam did, the client must achieve a close experiential relationship with God. Without it, he will be unable to feel and accept the love of God and achieve the peace that Adam experienced. He must accept himself as God does. Here is what God says about our position and our value to Him:
Lu 12:7 But even the very hairs of your head are all numbered. Fear not therefore: ye are of more value than many sparrows.
Ps 8: 5 For thou hast made him a little lower than the angels, and hast crowned him with glory and honour. 6 Thou madest him to have dominion over the works of thy hands; thou hast put all things under his feet:
4. The client must clearly understand, meditate, and act on the fact that he is of great worth no matter how successful he is or how badly he fails, until it becomes a revelation in his spirit. As we clearly saw in the previous chapters on faith, it is critical that he is fully convinced in all of his heart, not just in his mind. He must move what he believes from his mind to his spirit or sub-conscious mind. To do this, I teach clients what I call the “If it is true…” method. The client simply states what the Bible says about his self-worth, and then asks the question, “If this is true, how would I act?” Consistently acting correctly, according to the Word of God, will eventually provide the experiential evidence to develop the faith needed in his spirit. As an example, the client would state, “If it is true that my worth is based on the love that God has for me and not on how I perform or the approval I might get from taking on this new project, how would I act?” In most cases, this truth will assist the client to act according to what he has stated and his actions will result in a positive experience, which will strengthen his faith in what he believes. Of course, all of the other means for increasing the client’s faith that have previously been discussed should also be applied.
5. The client must consistently deal with the shame in his life, in order to maintain a healthy emotional "bank account."The story is told illustrating this fact about a young man who had been delinquent and living in debauchery. He was converted, but continued to be moody, ruminative, unpredictable in interpersonal responses, and never sure he would not backslide. Finally, on advice from an elder, he changed his strategy of hiding his mistakes and the sins of the past and confided in two trusted members of the congregation. There was a striking change noted by everyone. He stated this principle as follows: "When we tell or brag about some accomplishment or favor we've done someone, we exchange the 'credit' for immediate satisfaction that is we 'spend' it. And, in the same way, when we confess an evil, something we feel guilty about, we likewise get rid of it, dissipate it...like those things I did and thought I wasn't ashamed of, but was. Now that I have admitted them, they aren't a part of me any more—they just don't seem very important. By admitting these things, I have 'spent' my guilt. And now the same principle seems to work the other way 'round. Just as the wrong kind of 'credit,' if accumulated, will eventually destroy you, so good 'credit,' if not used up, gives you strength and inner confidence. The net effect is that you are, in any case, what you keep back or save: strong and self-accepting, if what you hide and keep back is good, and weak and self-hating, if what you keep and hide is bad. It is, quite simply, to reverse this whole strategy: admit and thus divest oneself of one's weaknesses, errors, follies, and hide one's charities, good deeds, virtues." Simply, pay your debts and save your income." (The Magnificent Obsession, 1929, Lloyd Douglas)
I am not suggesting that this is a way that we can build our worth, but is it a way to rid ourselves of toxic shame. The Bible makes it clear that if we do things to receive praise of men, we receive no further reward from the good we do. This is how we use up our assets.
Mt 6:1 Take heed that ye do not your alms before men, to be seen of them: otherwise ye have no reward of your Father which is in heaven. 2 Therefore when thou doest [thine] alms, do not sound a trumpet before thee, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, that they may have glory of men. Verily I say unto you, They have their reward. 3 But when thou doest alms, let not thy left hand know what thy right hand doeth: 4 That thine alms may be in secret: and thy Father which seeth in secret himself shall reward thee openly.
On the other hand, the Bible tells us that if we confess our sins, God forgives and cleanses us of them. This is how we liquidate our debts.
1 Jo 1:9 If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us [our] sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.
6. He must quit striving to improve his self-worth through performance, seeking approval, or trying to obey the moral law. Most persons struggling with low self-worth have become excellent performers and are driven in life to accomplish things. They usually have to be doing something all of the time to be happy. They have become human doers instead of human beings. In order for them to find God’s abundant life and escape the stress of the “rat race,” they must replace this drivenness with the peace that only comes from resting in what God has already done for us. Many times, I suggest they say to themselves over and over again when they have the urge to have to perform: “You don’t have to do anything! God will still love you.”
7. He must evaluate and treat others according to God’s truth. To be delivered from the problems created by the world’s system for evaluating self-worth, he must totally embrace God’s truth and act accordingly in the way he evaluates and treats others. He cannot continue to evaluate others according to the world’s system and evaluate himself by God’s system. Just as his inherent worth is based on God's love for him, so is the worth of every other person, no matter how badly they have performed. God’s love never changes. God said it and the client must believe that he and everyone else is made in God's image, that they are very good, and that nothing they do or can do can even change this truth. God is more concerned for the one lost sheep than the ninety and nine that are not lost. (Matthew 18:12). Even Saddam Hussein has as much inherent worth to God as the client does, and the client has no less worth than any of the heroes of faith like Abraham, Moses or Elijah. If the client truly believes this, he will treat and value everyone else as equal to himself.
8. The client must fully accept the worth that God has provided for him, see himself as worthwhile, and accept himself as God does—His beloved and favored child. When we finally realize experientially, how much God loves and favors us, we can believe that God has and will always meet all of our needs—including that of our self-worth—and enter into His rest and cease from our own attempts to make ourselves valuable. Unfortunately, for some, a child’s original concept of God is that of his parents. If, when the client was a child his self-worth was damaged by parental abuse or neglect, he will have difficulty experiencing God’s unconditional love. A simple exercise of comparing the characteristics of the client’s father and mother with how he perceives God can help him see the fallacy in the way he perceives God. An intensive study of the grace and the love of God in the Bible, or other books such as Knowing God by Packer (1973) can help. I have found the book Search for Significance useful in helping clients recover from low self-image. I often use the four fear tests (pp. 46, 66, 90, 105) to help the client understand the underlying problem of fear. I then use McGee's method for dealing with false premises (pp. 158-159) to help the client change his thinking process, which has resulted in his warped concept of God and his low self-worth.
9. He must learn to appreciate all that God has done for him and replace the motivation to fix his own deficit with the desire to serve God and others out of love. Until we have replaced our motivation to fix our self-worth, with the understanding that we are already worthwhile because God loves us, and thus are motivated by our appreciation for all that He has done for us, we will still not have fully recovered from the effects of our previous feelings of low self-worth.
For further discussion of this subject and a comprehensive model for overcoming low self-image, please refer to the biblical counseling model of Barak later in this book and the discussion of self-image at the conclusion of the next chapter.
Steps for Overcoming Low Self-worth
1. We must be convinced that the world’s system for evaluating self-worth is a lie. We are of value simply because God loves us, not because we perform, are approved of by men or follow the law.
2. We must be convinced that God’s evaluation of us is vastly more important than man’s evaluation.
3. We must establish a close, intimate relationship with God, in order to trust His Word more than man’s word.
4. We must completely accept and act on the fact that we are worthwhile without regard to our successes or failures.
5. We must quit striving to improve our self-worth through performance, seeking approval, or trying to obey the moral law.
6. We must realize that all men are of great and equal value because God loved all of us and sent His son to die for us while we were sinners and enemies of God.
We must accept the unmerited favor (grace) that God has for us, appreciate what He has done for us and accept ourselves as His special children, who are of infinite value to Him.
Out of gratitude for all that He has done for us, we should be motivated by love to serve Him for the good of the Kingdom of God and love others as we have been loved.
One of the ways to clearly understand how faith is used to resolve root problems is to examine the solutions to these problems as they are presented in the Bible. As I established in my book, Transformation!, the Bible is full of solutions for psychological problems hidden in the types and shadows interpretation of well-known biblical narrative stories. If everything that has been suggested so far in this book is true, then the application of Faith Therapy to each of these situations should clearly identify the root cause of the problem and present a solution based on faith.
As we search the scriptures for a biblical model for overcoming low self-image, we come to the story of Barak’s defeat of the Canaanites who were under the command of Sisera. The name Canaan means, “lowland” and it stands for low self-image. Their defeat by Barak is described in Judges Chapters 4 and 5.
1. The problem of low self-image is an intellectual one. It is based on the principles that we believe concerning the worth of man. The problem is something that is within us. Jabin, the name of the king of the Canaanites, means, “intellect.” He is the King of Hazor, which means, “enclosure or castle.” Putting this together, I believe this clearly indicates that the problem of low self-image resides in our mental faculty.
2. Overcoming low self-image will be a very difficult battle because our ways of thinking are strong and have been established over a long period of time. The Canaanite army had 900 chariots of iron. Chariots stand for capability and iron stands for strength, but nine stands for insufficiency. This was a very formidable fighting force, but there was something insufficient about it. It was led by a commander named Sisera. His name means, “meditation or battle array.” The worldly lies about self-image have been repeated and meditated on to such an extent that they have become so strongly fortified that they are even imbedded in the sub-conscious mind.
3. It takes both revelation and dedication to defeat low-self image. Deborah, whose name means, “Bee” (which suggests hard work or dedication) called for Barak. Barak means, “lightening flash,” which in this context, I believe, means revelation. This revelation comes from God. I believe that this is revealed in Barak’s father’s name, which means, “father of delight or pleasantness” who came from the “holy place.” Although Deborah gave him directions from God for the battle, he refused to go without her. Because of his refusal, she accompanied him to the battle, but the glory was given to a woman. I believe this is saying that revelation alone would be enough to deliver us, but most of us require perseverance to convince ourselves that the revelation is true. Women are known for favoring their intuition over their intellect. The truth of a Godly self-image may already be established in our mind, but we must believe it in our heart. This will take perseverance.
4. The lies about self-image are to be defeated by drawing them out and showing them to be inconsistent, which will result in a transformation in the client’s thinking. Barak was to go to Mount Tabor, the mount of transfiguration. He was to draw Sisera to the river Kishon, which means, “winding or crooked.” When the lies of the world system of self-image are drawn out and challenged, they are found to be inconsistent and erroneous. They are not straight and true. We find later that because of the rain (Word of God), the river overflowed and washed the chariots away. God will get involved using his “water of the Word” to stop the thoughts of low self-image in their tracks. In chapter five we find that the “mountains melted before the Lord” possibly suggesting the chariots became mired in the mud or were swept away in a flash flood.
5. Even the universe itself proves that our concepts about self-image are wrong. We are told in Judges 5:20 that “the stars fought against Sisera.” If we compare ourselves and our accomplishments to the magnitude and splendor of the universe, we must understand that we, and everything we do, are absolutely nothing without God.
6. Deciding to willingly challenge our preconceived ideas is the key to beginning the road to victory. In Judges 5:9, we are told that it was the nobles (those in charge, our will) that gave themselves willingly to the task of defeating the Canaanites.
7. The actions required are a matter of wrestling with the lies and dwelling on the truth of the Word. Barak was told to call 10,000 men of Naphtali (wrestling) and Zebulun (dwelling) as his army. Ten thousand usually stands for human infirmity and failure. Without God’s help, there was no way that they could win.
8. We must accept that the lie has become a part of us, refuse to deny its existence, challenge it with the simple truth we have learned, and “nail it” with the Word of God. Jael invited Sisera (meditations or thoughts) into her tent (acceptance). She gave him milk (simple truth) to drink. She did not agree to follow his request to say he was not in the tent. She then took a tent stake (truth is the mooring of our intellectual life) and drove it through his temple (which would pass through the brain or the location of the lie) with a hammer (one of the types of the Word of God).
9. Changing self-image takes persistence and perseverance in removing the old lies and embracing the truth. The heroine of this story was Jael. Her name means, “mountain goat,” which, I believe, is characterized by persistence and perseverance in difficult situations. She was married to a man named Heber (companion) who was a Kenite (possession), a descendent of Hobob (cherished), the father-in-law of Moses (who stands for the law or truth), who pitched his tent at Zaanaim (removings) near Kedesh (holy place).
10. When we have totally overcome the lies concerning self-image with the truth of God in an experiential way (that includes our emotions), we will have total victory. After driving the tent stake through Sisera’s temple, she “smote off his head.” (Judges 5:26) We are told that Barak was to “lead captivity captive” (Judges 5:12), a term that was later used to describe Christ’s complete victory over the Devil. (Ephesians 4:8) In Judges 4:24 the war continued until King Jabin himself was defeated. The final result was that the land had rest 40 years. Four represents God’s government in the affairs of men and 40 is the biblical length of the complete, successful reign of a ruler.
Clearly, what I have been describing is a lifelong process, but I have found that dramatic changes are possible for clients who will seriously take on the challenge of developing a truly biblical self-image through faith.
Steps for Overcoming Low Self-image
1. We must realize that the problem of low self-image is an intellectual one based on the strongly established lies of the world’s system for evaluating self-worth and significance.
2. We must be willing to challenge our preconceived ideas concerning worth and significance with God’s truth.
3. The lies of self-image are defeated by drawing them out and showing them to be crooked and inconsistent until our thinking is transformed.
4. We must accept that the lie has become part of us, offer it the simple truth, and “nail it” with the Word of God, trusting the Word of God more than the word of men.
5. We must completely accept and act on the fact that we are worthwhile without regard to our successes or failures, and treat all men as they are—of great and equal value.
6. We must fight pride in our lives by being careful not to accept credit for anything we do, since without Christ we cannot do anything of eternal value.
7. We must accept the significance that God has provided for us when He adopted us as His sons and daughters and made us joint heirs with Jesus Christ.
8. Changing our self-image takes persistence and perseverance until our new image in Christ becomes a revelation to our spirit.
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