Monday, March 5, 2012

Self-Esteem and God-Esteem

As a teenager, I spoke in church about the difference between the world's understanding of self-esteem and spiritual self-confidence. Well, even though I truly believed that I knew everything about life by the time I was a teenager, I have had some life experiences teach me a lot more than I knew then. ;-)
I believe there is something more important than self-esteem and I'll call it God-esteem. This comes when a person realizes and accepts the fact that God loves him/her just because. The person didn't do anything to win God's approval, but His Love is illustrated in the Atonement of His Son, Jesus Christ. We are motivated to love and serve Him because He loves us so very much.
Having God-Esteem is a priceless gift in your relationships with others.
I've been reading about Bernard of Clairvaux who taught about levels of love. He was a French monk who lived almost one thousand years ago.
First Level: to love myself solely-- not interested in others.
Second Level (not much better than level one): to love you for my sake
This love is selfish as we use someone for gain, comfort or convenience.
HERE'S A BIG JUMP TO THE THIRD LEVEL
Third Level: to love you for your sake
This form if love respects the other person. This love wants good things for the other and looks out for another's interest. This love sounds great! Here we would see mutual respect and service to the needs of others. Most families would be thrilled to have everyone possessing this third level of love.
However we learn from the French monk that there is a higher level of love.
Fourth Level: to love myself for your sake
This is a self-respecting love that stems from God-esteem. When you recognize your worth in God's eyes and are filled with this love then you can give the best of yourself to those around you. You can deal with struggles, stress in the relationship and even disagreements because you don't fear personal rejection. Your identity as a Spiritual Child of God is secure. You are not dependent on your family for your sense of worth, but dependent on God.
Jesus taught that we are to love God and then to love our neighbor as ourselves. Monk Bernard's last level of love sounds like Christ's second great commandment. It is through the first great commandment that makes following the second commandment possible. We need God-Esteem.
This acceptance of high worth in God is a blessing to a family. When my worth and identity comes from God, then I don't have to get that from you. I think it's fantastic to be affirmed in a relationship, especially by family members, but having God-Esteem means that we are not devastated when relationships in marriage or children or step children or siblings don't affirm us or define our worth. I really can stand confidently in the face of your rejection or distancing because none of it will take away my worth.

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