The Self-Esteem Trap

During my last two years in college, I became involved with Campus Crusade for Christ. This group became my life. I enjoyed their weekly meetings, Bible studies, and retreats. At one meeting I received a list of affirmations, with Bible verse references, about my identity in Christ.


I learned that believing these affirmations would build good self-esteem, giving me victory over my problems. Since I was very shy, I was excited to have this. I put the list on my dorm room wall, read it daily, and highlighted my favorites.


One affirmation taught that I am a “joint [heir] with Christ” (Romans 8:17 KJV); his riches are mine. This led me to draw a beautiful princess.


She stood, smiling joyfully, wearing a glittering crown on her curly reddish-brown hair. A gold cross hung around her neck. She wore a white, full-skirted gown, graced with wide pastel pink and blue stripes. I gave this princess my favorite nickname.


When I shared the drawing with my discipler, she beamed at me and said,

”This is wonderful, Bev! Were you happy when you drew this?” I smiled, and nodded yes.


I also imagined myself a princess sometimes to gain self-assurance while waiting in line in the cafeteria. This made me feel special, and I loved that.

After I graduated, I finally spent time looking up the affirmations' Bible references to read them in context. This opened my eyes. Each one gave only one part of a Bible verse, rather than the whole truth.


Just teaching that I’m a “joint heir in Christ” leaves out the truth that we will also suffer with Christ so that we can be glorified with him. The Bible teaches us to have an humble heart, rather than puff ourselves up. (Romans 12:3 KJV) But their repeated “I am”s had encouraged me to praise myself instead of Christ.


Campus Crusade for Christ's affirmations sounded good and reasonable. They had given me confidence, but it never lasted long. I would reread them whenever I doubted God’s approval or was afraid. They distracted me from the real struggle with sin, and encouraged me to depend on myself rather than on God.


Another affirmation stated that I am “accepted in the beloved,” (Ephesians 1:6 KJV). This one is like a warm embrace from God; I knew that he accepted us in Christ, but I didn’t understand how wide and wonderful his love is.


God accepted us before the world began. Even then, God planned to adopt us as his children and give us to Jesus “according to the good pleasure of his will to the praise of the glory of his grace...” (Ephesians 1:5, 6a).


Focusing on God's plans put it in perspective. God planned that those he chose will become holy and blameless in his sight. (Ephesians 1:4 KJV). His goal for all of us is to become like Jesus, who alone is always in perfect fellowship with God.


I used to focus only on my new identity when I read Ephesians,. But now when I read it I’m drawn to worship God for what he has done. Realizing the treasure I have now because Christ lives in me, I’m thankful.


I know that I’m a work in progress that God will faithfully complete. (Philippians 1:6 KJV) Jesus prayed that God would sanctify us through his truth. God’s word is truth. He sanctified himself for us “that [we] might also might be sanctified through the truth,” (John 17:17,19 KJV).


Because God saved us, we are in “...Christ Jesus, who of God is made unto us wisdom, and righteousness, and sanctification, and redemption: That according as it is written, He that glorieth, let him glory in the Lord,” (I Corinthians 1:30,31 KJV).


The word of God provides everything we need to live for him; it's our true guide: the lamp for our feet. (Psalm 119:105) Don't depend on the words of men, because men can deceive and be deceived. ( 2 Timothy 3:13 KJV )


The deceptive words of men encourage us to embrace the world’s wisdom and glorify ourselves, but if we humble ourselves to God, he will lift us up. (James 4:10 KJV). Then, we can truly glorify God.


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Comments: 2
  • #1

    Carole Probert (Monday, 08 April 2019 00:46)

    Thanks for sharing this, Beverly. This was blessing and good counsel for each of us.

  • #2

    Beverly Waller (Sunday, 14 April 2019)

    Hi Carole! Thanks for writing. I"m so glad that my article was a blessing to you all.