Thursday, November 3, 2011

Self-Worth: A Cautionary Tale

How do you define your self-worth?

The answer is a simple one for a Christian, in theory: God. He's the One whose love and grace gives us worth and our lives meaning.

And yet as we talked about self-worth and self-esteem in my Personality Theory class today, I realized that I don't always live that way. We read and discussed an article about the various contingencies of self-worth (i.e.: finding our value through different avenues). This includes everything from academics to our appearance. When we determine our value through those factors, then we tend to interpret our successes and our failures as adding to or detracting from our worth as a person.

This can also include writing. The article mentioned that if we find our self-worth through a certain avenue and then we are criticized in it, we shut down and do our best to avoid the criticism or make excuses. Why? Because when we find our self-worth in something besides God, then any perceived "failure" on our parts will make us feel like we have little value.

And I am guilty of acting in this way. I really strongly dislike criticism and do my best to avoid it or ignore it. But you want to know something? Authors are supposed to thrive on criticism and editing!

I react in revulsion. If I ask for a critique, what I'm really asking for is validation and a pat on the back. I just want others to tell me that I'm brilliant and I'm definitely heading in the right direction. It's sad, but true. And I'm the same way with academics - I often put a lot more emphasis on grades than on actual learning.

But if we really truly believe that our worth is found in God alone - in His unconditional love and His purpose for our lives - then criticism isn't something to fear. We don't have to be in competition with others or be the very best at something in order to have value.

Does that mean we simply don't try to succeed, though? Not at all! Yet success is redefined when we strive for an eternal perspective. And no matter whether we fail or succeed, God is at work, He should be glorified, and we should be at rest knowing that His love never changes. If He wants me to write a book, then I should weigh advice, give it my all, and forget comparing myself to others (in their writing speed, awards, publication, etc.).

And one more thing: the article addresses an "antidote" for all the issues surrounding the self-esteem issue. The antidote is to focus on others and to be a part of something bigger than yourself. And that's just what loving and serving God is - being a part of God's eternal plan as He calls us to love and serve others and to give Him the glory. Isn't it wondrous to know your worth is in the hands of a God who lovingly created you and has a purpose for your life?

From God's Word:

"But the Lord said unto Samuel, Look not on his countenance, or on the height of his stature; because I have refused him: for the Lord seeth not as man seeth; for man looketh on the outward appearance, but the Lord looketh on the heart."
~ I Samuel 16:7

"For I say, through the grace given unto me, to every man that is among you, not to think of yourself more highly than he ought to think; but to think soberly, according as God hath dealt to every man the measure of faith."
~ Romans 12:3

"And whatsoever ye do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God and the Father by him."
~ Colossians 3:17

"I will praise thee; for I am fearfully and wonderfully made: marvellous are thy works; and that my soul knoweth right well."
~ Psalm 139:14

"Let us hear the conclusion of the whole matter: Fear God, and keep his commandments: for this is the whole duty of man."
~ Ecclesiastes 12:13

“But lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust doth corrupt, and where thieves do not break through nor steal:”
~Matthew 6:20

"And the kingdom of heaven is like unto a merchant man, seeking goodly pearls: who, when he had found one pearl of great price, went and sold all that he had, and bought it."
~ Matthew 13:45-46

"What? know ye not that your body is the temple of the Holy Ghost which is in you, which ye have of God, and ye are not your own? For ye are bought with a price: therefore glorify God in your body, and in your spirit, which are God's."
~I Corinthians 6:19-20

14 comments:

Faye said...

Great post :) It's so hard to try to find self worth and validation in the world, because we're looking in the wrong place! Thank you for the reminder :)

Amber S. said...

Faye,

Thanks so much for stopping by, and I'm glad you liked the post! :) Our class today was really thought-provoking and struck home for me. It IS hard to find self-worth when you're looking in the wrong places! I'm grateful God is so patient with us and offers us grace! :)

~Amber

Vince said...

Hi Amber:

It has been said that science is a matter of asking the right questions. Often the answers are found in the questions themselves.

Attributing value at all to a person seems to be misplaced – what philosophers might call a category mistake. Can a person be said to have value in a sense that a dog can have a value? Can you set a price? Does the soul also have value in any measurable sense?

To have value is to be an object but to be ‘valued’ one does not have to be objectified. Do you think it is right to ascribe a value to God? What would your professor say to this question?

It’s not that a person has value so much as a person can be valued -- as in being appreciated and loved.

I think having value is more of mater of living a meaningful life. To the degree our life has meaning, to that degree it may be said to have 'value'. I believe that God gives us our value but it is our job to put meaning into our lives.

In a way, I think your Bible quotes are also saying this.

I enjoy your deep thoughts.

Vince

Amber S. said...

Vince,

You bring up some very good points about the difference between having value and being valued. I confess I hadn't really thought of the distinction in that sense until you mentioned it. Your comments always challenge me to think more deeply about the topics I post about - and while sometimes that makes me feel uncomfortable at first, I really do appreciate it. :) I don't want to become stagnant. I want to keep on learning and growing, realizing that there is so much I don't know about or understand! Thank goodness God knows, understands, and is sovereign over all. :)

Anyway - back to your comment! This week we were studying the Humanistic theory in class, and we focused on the "self-worth" portion of the research. I agree with what you're saying, that in our relationship with God and with others we shouldn't objectify ourselves or one another by trying to estimate our value. And yet, sadly enough, I think we still do that without really thinking about it directly or realizing it necessarily. I know I'm guilty of wanting to impress others through my grades or even my blog posts, and I seek the approval of others. Through God's grace I want to strive towards that point of accepting and internalizing the truth that God values me because of who He is, and I don't need to (nor should I) find self-worth anywhere else.

And yet, as you say, we are called to have both faith and works - not that we can be saved through works, but that faith and a love for God fuels our works. And those can indeed have value and meaning, although value is determined differently through God's eyes than through the world's eyes.

Definitely a lot of food for thought... Thank you again for always challenging me and encouraging me to go deeper! Your comments always have a lot to offer. :)

~Amber

Lotti said...

Thanks for your post .... I am thankful for a loving Heavenly Father who created me perfectly and even when I don't think I'm good enough .... he knows that I am. That gives me hope.

Amber S. said...

Lotti,

I'm glad you enjoyed the post! :) There is indeed much hope to be found in knowing that our gracious God lovingly created us and sustains us! Even though we sin, He offers us forgiveness and the hope of eternity with Him through faith - a completely undeserved, precious gift. And through His strength and grace He can work in us and through us in such amazing ways.

Have a wonderful day! :)

~Amber

Vince said...

Hi Amber:

I’d like to add one more Bible quote to your selection from Matthew 6:20.

King James Bible (Cambridge Ed.)

“But lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust doth corrupt, and where thieves do not break through nor steal:”

Vince

Amber S. said...

Vince,

That's a great verse to add to the discussion - thank you! :)

Now that I've been thinking about it more, I might include these ones, too:

"And the kingdom of heaven is like unto a merchant man, seeking goodly pearls: who, when he had found one pearl of great price, went and sold all that he had, and bought it."
~ Matthew 13:45-46

"What? know ye not that your body is the temple of the Holy Ghost which is in you, which ye have of God, and ye are not your own? For ye are bought with a price: therefore glorify God in your body, and in your spirit, which are God's."

~I Corinthians 6:19-20

Hope you don't mind me chiming in with more, too! :)

~Amber

Joy Tamsin David said...

Great devotional Amber!

As a parent I'm often guilty of finding self worth in my kids and their accomplishments. As you get older, there are just more traps to fall for. :S

Amber S. said...

Joy,

Thank you! I hope it was helpful/encouraging to you. :)

I can imagine there would indeed be more traps as one gets older... Or at least quite different ones!

~Amber

Julia M. Reffner said...

Amber,

I must admit sometimes I lurk if I do "visit" because I'm embarassed that I'm often reading weeks of posts at a time if I do make it to a blog. I love these verses that you shared. I love that you share the word of God, instead of just a person's viewpoint.

I for sure have been guilty of putting my worth in the wrong things, most recently I would say homeschooling. I'm in a servant leadership role in my homeschool group and my temptation is to volunteer for everything, bring a meal to this person, etc. But my motives, eh, not always so good. I'm often looking for man's approval.

One thing that's really helped with my writing is having a face-to-face partner. Online is great, but you can read critiques then wait to respond. Roundtable critiques have really worked on my heart and my graciousness in responding. It has also given me some interesting opportunities to witness.

Amber S. said...

Julia,

Please don't feel bad about "lurking" - I don't always comment on others' blogs either, and I know that you've been keeping busy! It means so much to me that you would take the time to catch up on my posts. :) Thank you!

And thank you for your transparency and advice! There's a lot to learn no matter where we are in life, and I appreciate you sharing what you've been learning with us. :) I hope I can grow more in terms of being gracious and grateful for critiques!

~Amber

Julia M. Reffner said...

Amber,

I enjoyed catching up on your blog. I love seeing your love for the Lord on your blog!

Amber S. said...

Julia,

Awww, thank you! :) I'm grateful for your friendship and encouragement!

~Amber