I have been reading a Bible plan about pride recently, and while it shares some great insights about the nature of the original sin, I was floored by one devotional in particular. According to that plan, to combat pride, we must compare ourselves with God and realize that we are “nothing” in comparison. I found this method horrifying. Let me first say that this is not technically wrong; understanding the majesty and wonder of God is vital for humility (sinful pride’s enemy). My issue is using the word “nothing,” which implies worthlessness, a value of zero, not to be bothered with, or inconsequential. I am not a licensed therapist, but the way this Bible plan talks about pride frames it in a pro-self-loathing way, and I could easily see someone taking this text as far. However, that way of thinking is not at all what God wants, and it’s also dangerous and can lead to many insecurities, which are another form of pride.
This plan had hints of this low self-esteem view early on that I didn’t see. The first devotional speaks unwaveringly about how healthy pride is only directed outwardly for others. According to it, any form of esteem in ourselves props us above others and should be beaten back with a wrecking ball, which is a very unhealthy mindset. Insecurities manifest from low self-esteem, and those insecurities cause us to focus on ourselves, even if it’s how much we hate ourselves. It’s an often overlooked form of pride because it’s so internalized and can manifest in a way that appears humble. The truth is that insecurity and humility are incompatible. Humble people are too busy engaging with others to hate themselves or accentuate their flaws.
Self-esteem is not dependant on how you compare yourself to others, nor is it about what you are good at or what you accomplish. Genuine self-esteem is the result of respecting yourself enough and knowing that you are worthy of love and respect, but not at the expense of others. It depends on who we are in Christ, humble and thankful for the gifts and victories He has granted us.
The second greatest commandment is to “[…] love your neighbor as yourself.” (Matthew 22:39 ESV) Often we use this to emphasize how we should treat others, but it’s important to note that Jesus presents this commandment as a two-way street. Humility does not come from self-depreciation, nor is it a product of insecurity. Genuine humility comes from an even footing on the plane we all stand and understanding that everyone is as worthy as we are, not more worthy and certainly not less. God’s second greatest commandment tells us to love everyone, including ourselves, equally. When we focus on God’s love, we are not admitting that we are “nothing,” instead, we shift focus from ourselves to what truly matters, which allows us to love our neighbors and ourselves.
It was Paul who wrote: “What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things? Who shall bring any charge against God’s elect? It is God who justifies. Who is to condemn? Christ Jesus is the one who died – more than that, who was raised – who is at the right hand of God, who indeed is interceding for us.” (Romans 8:31-34 ESV)
I want to emphasize that Jesus died for us. He died because He believed we were worthy of His love. It’s okay to be proud of your accomplishments, but it is important to keep yourself in check and ensure that you aren’t propping yourself on a pedestal. To do that, we must engage with God’s mission and have a healthy mind about it (and therapy helps). God loved the idea of you so much that He thought you worthy of creation. If God finds us worthy of love, then we should love ourselves. We should love what He created.