Go to any bookstore – online or in person – and you will find rows and rows…and rows and rows… of shelves housing books devoted to “self-esteem.” Most seem to focus on loving yourself, forgiving yourself, being good to yourself. Because we just don’t think enough of ourselves.
Here’s what I think: our problems with self-esteem aren’t that we don’t think enough of ourselves. Our problem is that we think of ourselves WAY too much.
At least I do, anyway. I don’t think a day goes by when I don’t think about myself, my needs, my wants. When I don’t feel frustrated that I am not being treated well enough. I look at people and wonder what they are thinking about me – do they like me? Are they talking about me to their friends? Are those conversations positive or negative? They better not be saying bad things because, believe me, I know some stuff about them…Yeah, um, you get the idea.
But plenty of days go by when I don’t think about others: the needs of others, the wants of others, whether or not I am treating others well enough. I am an expert on being self-centered. In fact, I could write a book about that! But being others-centered? I need some help there.
I have help there: it’s called the Bible, and it is SO much better than any self-help book on any real or virtual bookstore on the planet. The Bible has a whole lot to say about how we should think about ourselves. The verse I need to be reminded of most often is this one:
“Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others.” ~Phil. 2:3-4
The English teacher in me has to point out that those verses are imperatives – the “bossy” sentence. That’s Paul (lovingly) sticking his finger in our faces and saying, YOU – that’s right YOU – stop being so selfish! Worry more about others than you worry about yourself. The rest of the chapter (which I highly recommend reading) goes on to demonstrate how Jesus lived out this principle. He set the example for a selfless life, and we will experience great joy if we follow that example.
So if I really want to make ME happy, I should think about ME less.
Because my self has enough help
No one likes to be disliked. But some people can just naturally tolerate it better than others. My husband, for instance, is slightly bothered when he finds out someone dislikes him, but he can move on. I, however, am incredibly bothered and try to figure out why that person dislikes me, what I did to offend him/her, what I might be able to do to make him/her like me. OR I get angry and think of all the reasons why I don’t like that person, having
dozens of imaginary conversations with them in which I reduce them to a quivering pile of tears, giving them a real reason to hate me. And, if I am being honest, in my worst moments, those imaginary conversations become all too real. And they don’t feel nearly as good as I thought they would.
The fact is, there will always be people who don’t like you. Sorry if this is news to you. But Jesus Himself was hated, so…
The hardest part, I think, is when the person who doesn’t like us is someone we like – a person we thought was our friend or someone we look up to. I could care less if some jerk hates me. But what if it’s a colleague, the parent of a student, or an authority figure?? If you’re a student, maybe it’s someone you thought was a friend in your class, or maybe a teacher or a youth leader. That hurts!
I’d like to say there’s a formula to make everyone like you. But there’s not. Sorry. There are, however, principles that can help us deal with being disliked.
Before we get all “woe is me”, we must remember that we are sinners. Jesus didn’t come for everyone but us. He came for all of us – because we are all in desperate need of a Savior. So examine yourself. That person who dislikes you may have good reason. Ask God to reveal any sin in your own life. Ask that person if you have offended him/her. Come to him/her humbly, seeking restoration. That person may or not be willing to forgive you (we’re getting to that). But there is great peace in taking the humble position and seeking to restore what is broken.
Pray for the “Hater”
This does not come naturally to most of us. I know when I feel hated, I want to hate right back. But the Bible is filled with verses telling us to love our enemies and pray for those who persecute us. This can only be accomplished through the Holy Spirit working in us. In fact, I have found that God often allows “haters” in my life to draw me closer to Him. Because I hate it so much, being disliked gets my attention. Too much attention! I can become obsessive about it, thinking all the time about that situation. Every time, though, God gently reminds me it is HIS good opinion I need to focus on. It is HIS commands I need to follow. And those commands are not burdensome. Instead of obsessing over why that person dislikes me, I simply need to pray for them. God will let me know what to do next.
Try to Make Peace
Along with being a people-pleaser, I am also incredibly non-confrontational. I would rather walk away from a friendship than take steps to seek restoration. This is yet another area where God is continually working in me. We are called to do our best to be at peace with all men. So if I know someone is upset with me, I need to try and work things out. If someone has hurt me, I need to try and work things out. I don’t need to wait for them. I need to go to them – in humility and grace, with lots of prayer – and do all I can to make peace and restore what was broken.
Let It Go
You can can only do so much. You can’t make people like you. You can’t make people forgive you. You may take all of these steps and still find that person dislikes you. Then what? Let it go! SO much easier said than done, I know. But there it is. If you can say, in clear conscience, that you have done all you could, and that person is still unwilling to forgive or move on or admit their actions – then you are “all clear”. Don’t obsess. Find those who do like you and strengthen those relationships. Be in God’s word daily, in prayer continually, so you are pleasing the One who has given you life. Move on. That is possible – even with deep hurts. It takes time and prayer and supernatural strength, but it is possible. And you will come out of that hurt with more compassion, more humility, and a stronger relationship with the Friend who sticks closer than a brother.
I was on a search committee at church a few years ago. A group of us were tasked with finding a young man who could work with both the worship ministry and with youth – the list of his responsibilities were pretty long. We prayed before every meeting, asking God to direct us to His choice for this position.
Early on in the process, the supervising pastor told us, “We need to make sure the man we choose has been ‘broken’.” It sounded a bit harsh, but we knew what he was saying: Brokenness in ministry is inevitable. Recovering from that brokenness marks the difference between a mature believer and a baby.
I was reminded of that as I studied the book of Job. Job was broken in every way possible – spiritually, physically, mentally, emotionally…In a few short verses, he went from being an incredibly wealthy father of ten to a man bereft of everything he held dear – children killed, livestock and home destroyed, body devastated.
Yet, the scripture tells us in all this Job did not sin. He did not curse God (even though his wife encouraged him to do just that!). In fact, in his brokenness, Job worshiped God.
I thought, then, of the many people I have known and encountered and heard about, who experienced difficulties in this life and did not respond the way Job responded. People who did curse God. Some turned from the one true God to other “gods” who promise a more comfortable life, or away from God entirely because they “tried” God and He didn’t “work” for them.
Far too often, we choose to believe in a God we have crafted in our own minds – a God who makes life easy for us, who constantly blesses us, who protects us from everything bad, everything negative. And when that God doesn’t behave in the way we believe He should behave, we walk away.
We need to be reminded of the lesson Job learned. After three dozen chapters of Job’s friends trying to explain God and make sense of Job’s situation, God shows up. He rebukes those well-meaning (?) friends and responds to Job’s longing for an answer to the “why”?
In the final chapters of the book of Job, God explains that He is God. He doesn’t offer Job a “reason” for his difficulties, He doesn’t apologize for Job’s trial, He doesn’t promise to make everything better. He doesn’t have to!
He is GOD. We are not. Period.
That is the lesson Job learns in his brokenness. And he worships the holy, perfect God, repenting for daring to ask that this almighty, sovereign Creator God “defend” Himself to His creation.
Brokenness in the Christian life leads to strength and peace and joy. When we understand God is not a genie, not a “Santa”, not a Divine Butler who gives us what we want when we want it, when we fall to our knees and recognize God is God, worthy of our complete devotion and obedience and worship, we are set free.
C.S. Lewis’ greatest and least-known work is his final novel, Till We Have Faces. We just finished studying this work in my AP Literature class, and, even after years of teaching it, I still finish in awe of this amazing writer and his incredible story.
If you are like most people, you’ve never read this book, maybe even never heard of it. I don’t want to give too much away, but I do want to whet your appetite. This is far too good a book for readers to miss out on!
This novel is a combination of everything Lewis loved, and it is his fiction writing at its most glorious and most mature. Based on the myth of Cupid and Psyche, the novel’s protagonist is Psyche’s oldest sister, Orual. The novel is a first-person account, detailing Orual’s complaint against the gods and her eventual retraction of that complaint.
This novel, Lewis insisted, is a parallel, not an allegory, like Narnia or the Space Trilogy. It doesn’t fit into neat boxes in its connection to Christianity. And yet, this is an even greater apologetic, in my opinion, than Mere Christianity. As Orual rails against the gods – who seem to torment her and mock her throughout the first part – we see humanity. Orual is incredibly intelligent, strong, able, and she loves deeply. But she is blind to the truth. In her hatred for the gods, she cuts herself off from everyone – her disconnect with others symbolized by the veil she wears over her face most of her life. She views life through the “veil”, sure that she is correctly interpreting reality, but actually becoming more and more blind with every passing year.
Her understanding of the world and the gods is limited, and yet she sets herself up as the gods’ accuser, as the victim, as God Himself.
She finally discovers (spoiler alert!) that she has been lying to herself her whole life. That the Truth can only be seen when she is honest with herself, when the veil is removed, when she accepts, like Job in the Old Testament, that God is God and she is not.
This book is so rich – an incredible work of literature and an incredible reminder of who we are before a holy God. If you have not read this – get it! Read it. If you have read it – read it again! I find some new nugget of truth and beauty every time I revisit this story.
“To say the very thing you really mean, the whole of it, nothing more or nothing less or other than what you really mean; that’s the whole art and joy of words.” (Till We Have Faces, 294)
Remember the Laura Story song, “Blessings“? It’s tough to listen to it without crying – because, if you’ve walked with God for any length of time, you understand the truth of those lyrics: “What if your blessings come through raindrops/What if Your healing comes through tears/What if a thousand sleepless nights are what it takes to know You’re near/What if trials of this life are Your mercies in disguise”
I just experienced a “blessings” kind of weekend. It was Homecoming at our school – the school we moved to just last year. The school where, fifteen months ago, my kids were strangers. They were also heartbroken – this school is 2500 miles from “home” in Florida, where they had grown up, where they have deep friendships, where they are known and loved.
And, yet, in God’s grace, fifteen months later, my daughters were named as Homecoming royalty at this school! The “home” part gets me. God took what started as “raindrops”, “tears”, and “sleepless nights” and turned them into “mercies”.
The fact that they were royalty isn’t the great part (though, you have to admit, it’s pretty exciting!). What’s great is that God has given them friends and a sense of belonging….in fifteen months! He has given them not one, but two “homes”. And, best of all, both my daughters have shared that this move brought them closer to God and closer to each other.
Maybe you are in a “trials” part of life. If so, keep in mind that God has a purpose, even in this. He wants to bless you – He wants you to know Him better and experience Him in a deeper way. Don’t run from him during hard times. Run to Him. It is quite possible that this trial is a “mercy in disguise”.
I don’t have time to read my Bible everyday. I’m so busy, I have to pray on the run, while I’m doing my make-up or driving to school. Life is just SO busy…
I’d like to say these are things other people say. But those excuses have all come out of my mouth at one time. Or a hundred. And they sound good. And I can back them up with stories, proof, statistics…I have a husband, three kids, a full-time job…
But here’s the thing. I’m not so busy I can’t watch all eight episodes of “Stranger Things” in less than two weeks. I’m not too busy to check social media
twice a day, three times a day, a lot. I’m not too busy to read that new novel I just downloaded on my Kindle…
I make time for what is important. I use the “busy” excuse for what’s not.
It’s easy to use the “Busy” Myth to excuse ourselves from spending time with God. People around us sympathize with the excuse, and they totally buy it – because they’re using it, too!
But here’s the thing I have learned the hard way – I have been created to spend time with my Creator. I need to abide in Him, to learn from Him, to rest in Him. When I don’t, I am a miserable, cranky, ugly person who watches way too much TV and spends far more time on my phone than I should.
So girls (and any guys who might happen upon this), I am calling you out – don’t you dare say you’re too busy to spend time with God. You’re not! Your priorities are just out of whack. So turn off the television, put down the book, click off the social media sites, and open your Bible. You’ll be amazed at what you see.
“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.” `Matthew 11:28
No matter what the self-help gurus say, we can’t do anything we want. We’re not all winners all the time. Some dreams will never come true. And we need to learn to deal with that. We need to know how to be losers.
Some of us will play softball for a whole season and never make contact with the ball (me). Some of us will try to draw a tree and have it be mistaken for fallopian tubes (also me). Some of us will never, ever be liked back by that cute boy in our Chemistry class (yep…me).
No matter how much our parents may try to protect us, we will all, at some point, fail. But – and here’s the important thing – that’s not only all right. It’s good.
That’s right. Losing is good. Because failure builds character in ways that winning cannot. And developing good character is far more important than winning.
Losing teaches us humility. It teaches us to think of others. It teaches us endurance, hope, compassion. And these are qualities that make us winners, not on the sports field or the stage, but in life.
Jesus didn’t spend any time at all talking about winning. He did spend a lot of time talking about serving. About sacrifice. He was treated like a loser by people He created! He could have put those folks in their place, brought down a lightning bolt on Herod’s head or had the earth swallow up Pontius Pilot. But he didn’t. Because “the Son of Man came not to be served, but to serve, and to give His life as a ransom for many.”
So, go ahead, be a loser! But do it right. None of this feeling sorry for ourselves because we don’t make that goal or get that part or score that A. Ask God to help you honor Him in ALL things: good and bad, winning and losing. Lose the bad attitude and win a character that reflects Christ. Know that your worth isn’t found in what you can or cannot do, but in WHOSE you are!
I hate working out. Hate it. And don’t even think about scrolling down and offering advice on how to make it less hateful. I don’t want to hear it. Exercise is, I am sure, part of the curse. God could not have intended for us to have to exercise. There will be no gyms in Heaven.
However…I need to exercise. I used to exercise (on and off…more off than on) because I wanted to lose weight. Now, though, I have more a pressing motivation – if I don’t work out, my back hurts. See, my spine is fused, so my back muscles have to work a lot harder than regular folks whose vertebrae help carry the load. And, until this year, my muscles didn’t complain.
But, alas, my youth is evaporating and my muscles are no longer as cooperative as they used to be. In fact, those muscles started really yelling at me back in January. I was in pretty intense pain that lasted for a few months. I went to several doctors, had X-Rays, tried every remedy anyone offered. Then, I broke down and saw a chiropractor (which I never thought I’d do because I have like 3 working vertebrae – what’s the point?). But this guy felt my back and immediately recognized the problem – “Your muscles can no longer handle the pressure. You need to work out.”
But intense pain will make a person do anything. So I bought a membership to our local gym and began working out with my husband – who does not hate exercise. Nor does he hate telling me what to do. So he saw me lifting the 2.5 lb weights and he walked over and added 5lbs to it, then 10lbs. My arms, back, and shoulders are weak. Anything over 2.5 lbs hurts, people. And I look like an idiot, breathing like I’m in labor to push 10lbs up when the Hulk across from me is bench pressing 1000.
But, Dave says, you’ll never strengthen those muscles by lifting 2.5 lbs. I have to add more weights, have to push harder, because the end goal is less back pain.
And it’s working.
But I still hate it.
I realized something, though, last night at the gym: God is to us in life what Dave is to me at the gym. He adds more “weight” to our lives, not because he is trying to punish us, but because our “spiritual muscles” are weak. He wants to make us stronger, better able to carry the burdens of life, to lift people up and carry them to Him. But we won’t naturally do what it takes to get stronger, so God helps us along. And it doesn’t always feel like help. Sometimes it really, really hurts. Often, we hate that “weight”. But His yoke is easy, and His burden is light (Mt. 11:30). He is for us, not against us (Romans 8:31). As He is building our “muscles”, there may be discomfort, even embarrassment. But, in the end, we will be stronger and better equipped to fulfill His calling in our lives.
Parents and teens alike struggle with the question of dating. How old is “old enough”?
That’s easy. The answer is 30.
Kind of. Not that there’s anything wrong with waiting until 30. But just in case you don’t like that idea, here’s another, a little more complicated, solution:
There’s not an exact age.
But there are some questions you should ask yourself to determine whether or not you – or your child – are ready to date.
- Why do I want to date? If it’s because all your friends have boyfriends and you feel left out, because you feel prettier when you have a boyfriend, because you like the attention, or because you don’t like paying for movies – you’re not ready.
- Am I ready to think about marriage? I can hear the groans already. But seriously, if you are a young woman seeking after God, then dating is not a sport or a hobby or a science project. It is the way you get to know the young man who will eventually be your husband. Not that you should marry the first guy you date (though that’s pretty cool when it happens!), but that possibility should be there. If you’re not within 2-3 years of seriously considering marriage, then don’t date. You are setting yourself up for temptation and distraction – both of which can hinder your relationship with Jesus.
- Do I really understand I Corinthians 13? That’s the “love chapter” in the Bible. Know that chapter, memorize it, and then live it out with those close to you – your parents, your siblings, your friends. If you can’t get along with your little sister, if you and your parents fight every time you try to talk, if you constantly jump from friend group to friend group…you are not ready to date.
- Does this guy love Jesus? And I don’t just mean is he a Christian. The Bible says we are to be “equally yoked” – this is more than just sharing the same basic faith. You, hopefully, are someone who is passionate about knowing and serving Jesus. You want a spouse with the same passion. Don’t settle for anything less, I don’t care how hot he is.
- What do my parents think? If your parents say you can’t date, then you can’t date. That’s where our daughters, ages 15 & 17 are. We aren’t trying to, as my younger daughter jokes, force them to “commit social suicide”. We are trying to help them focus first on their relationship with Jesus so they will be ready to make godly choices when the time comes for them to start dating…Age 30 ;). Also, if your parents don’t like the guy you like, trust their judgment. If they’re wrong, and that really is the guy for you, God will work it out. In his time. He is all-powerful, after all.
Dating is fun, and the memories you make dating your future spouse are sweet. But don’t rush it. You might feel like you HAVE to date, that this guy you’re crushing on is the best thing since Snapchat. But even what we think is the best is nothing compared to what God has planned for us. Wait for God’s guy in God’s time.
“Don’t excite love, don’t stir it up, until the time is ripe—and you’re ready. ” Song of Songs 2:7 The Message
Most girls crave relationships. We want to be known and loved and thought about. We want to share our feelings, our ups and downs, our questions and frustrations with those who will listen and understand. We spend hours watching movies and TV shows that glorify these kinds of relationships – perfect marriages and friendships where brief struggles are resolved and everyone lives happily ever after.
The reality, of course, is that friendships aren’t always beautiful, and marriage isn’t always perfect. There are glimpses of beauty, of course, and moments of perfection in these relationships. But anytime sinful humans are involved, there will be tears, frustrations, annoyances…Our friends can be draining, our guys can be insensitive. Or vice-versa! Feelings get hurt, we say things we regret. What we thought was the “perfect” relationship, we realize, is flawed. Disappointing. So we “start over” with another friend, another guy. But no one can live up to unrealistic, super-human expectations. So the cycle continues.
UNLESS we understand this: What we are craving – a soul-deep, unconditional love – is already ours! The God who created us gave us those cravings, and they will only be fully satisfied in Him. Not even the greatest of BFF’s or the most amazing of boyfriends/husbands can truly meet all our needs. They aren’t supposed to! In fact, one of the greatest paradoxes in life is that the more we try to find fulfillment in another person, the more empty we feel.
However, when we fully surrender to the One who loves us more than we can possibly imagine, we find everything we are looking for. We find true, soul-deep, unconditional love. And God’s love in us allows us to love others without unrealistic expectations. God’s love in us allows us to forgive offenses and be patient with shortcomings and always hope for the best. It even allows us to walk away, if a relationship is destructive. Because the only One we “need” is the One who will never leave us, forsake us, or let us down.
So, as you consider what your #relationshipgoals are, don’t look around. Look up. The “one” is already there, already loving you and listening to you and knowing you. You already have what you want.