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Coptic Orthodox Church
edited December 1969
I often confuse humility with low self-esteem. So, how can one have healthy self-esteem without self-pride?
It seems to me that they go hand in hand.
St. Augustine defined pride as "Love of one's own excellence". This does not deny that the person who feels pride is excellent in some manner, but it denies that it is okay to fall in love with yourself over it. In fact, whatever it is you excel at that might cause you to think that you're so great is, in reality, something for which you should praise GOD, not yourself. It is God who has blessed you with whatever talents you have, and you should never forget that. When you forget that (and I'm afraid we all forget that sometimes), that's when you fall into self-worship and pride.
It is possible to think of self-esteem as working in the same way. What exactly is it in me that is worthy of being esteemed? (Highly regarded)
Is it that I'm smart? If I am, God is responsible. Is it that I'm witty? If I am, God is responsible. Is it that because I have a pleasant disposition and people generally enjoy my company? If that's true, God is responsible. Literally every good thing that I could say about myself is entirely a blessing from God, and what's more it's a blessing that He didn't have to give me (I certainly don't deserve it), but He did because He loves me even though there's no self-generated good inside of me (all good things are the work of His hands).
The point is not necessarily to say "Wow, I really am garbage...now I feel terrible about myself" (though Abba Isaiah does tell us that it is necessary to think of ourselves as "guilty" and having "done nothing good before God" in order to obtain humility), but to realize that "self-" anything is already looking at things from a skewed perspective. God created us in HIS image, so instead of looking for reasons to praise ourselves, we ought to be praising Him for all that He is, because He is worthy and He is the giver of all good things.
As to the point about low self-esteem, I think it is easy to get confused about this. It seems like the previous paragraphs do equate a low opinion with humility. BUT the important difference is that, as Christians, we don't just stop at knowing we're sinful and unworthy of salvation. Someone much more theologically gifted than I am once said that the essence of Christianity is transformation. God loves to take unclean souls and clean them up and make them new again. And that's just what we need, and that's what keeps us from stopping on the road and bedding down in our self-pity and just staying there until we die. Through the strength of God and all those things He has instituted for our benefit (prayer, confession, fasting, etc.), we get up and keep going and get stronger with each step. We don't forget that we are dust, but we realize that we are called to be something more than what we are.
That's the difference. Low self-esteem says "I'm terrible and I'll always be terrible and that's just that". Humility says "I'm terrible and I'll always be terrible, but that God will fulfill His purpose for me
if I am humble to become a dwelling-place for Him
". This is why pride is so dangerous. As long as you are proud, you cannot become humble. "He must increase, but I must decrease", remember? (John 3:30)
It's a must! So I would say (to you and more importantly to me) that this should be our focus. We must decrease, not for the express purpose of feeling bad about ourselves (low self-esteem/self-pity), but so that we can become truly great in the way that God has created us to be, which has nothing to do with how we see ourselves or how others see us.
I clapped after reading your post. ;D
I'm not confused anymore (great feeling)
Thank you for taking the time to respond dzheremi!
thankyou for that post
Great post dzheremi!
I'd just wanted to add this because I just recently finished reading 'The Screwtape Letters' by CS Lewis which has BRILLIANT chapter on humility. The book is written as a collection of letters from a senior devil to junior devil full of advice on how to best make his 'patient' (the human being he's been assigned to tempt) fall into sin. In the chapter on humility, he says this:
"You must therefore conceal from the patient the true end of Humility. Let him think of it not as self-forgetfulness but as a certain kind of opinion (namely, a low opinion) of his own talents and character. Some talents, I gather, he really has. Fix in his mind the idea that humility consists in trying to believe those talents to be less valuable than he believes them to be. No doubt they are in fact less valuable than he believes, but that is not the point. The great thing is to make him value an opinion for some quality other than truth, thus introducing an element of dishonesty and make-believe into the heart of what otherwise threatens to become a virtue. By this method thousands of humans have been brought to think that humility means pretty women trying to believe they are ugly and clever men trying to believe they are fools. And since what they are trying to believe may, in some cases, be manifest nonsense, they cannot succeed in believing it and we have the chance of keeping their minds endlessly revolving on themselves in an effort to achieve the impossible. To anticipate the Enemy's strategy, we must consider His aims.
The Enemy wants to bring the man to a state of mind in which he could design the best cathedral in the world, and know it to be the best, and rejoice in the, fact, without being any more (or less) or otherwise glad at having done it than he would be if it had been done by another.
The Enemy wants him, in the end, to be so free from any bias in his own favour that he can rejoice in his own talents as frankly and gratefully as in his neighbour's talents—or in a sunrise, an elephant, or a waterfall. He wants each man, in the long run, to be able to recognise all creatures (even himself) as glorious and excellent things. He wants to kill their animal self-love as soon as possible; but it is His long-term policy, I fear, to restore to them a new kind of self-love—a charity and gratitude for all selves, including their own; when they have really learned to love their neighbours as themselves, they will be allowed to love themselves as their neighbours. For we must never forget what is the most repellent and inexplicable trait in our Enemy; He really loves the hairless bipeds He has created and always gives back to them with His right hand what He has taken away with His left."
Pray for me
very good question and answers
yes, i like these posts.
i found i was much more comfortable with myself (not hating myself, not thinking i was amazing either) when i stopped thinking about myself so much.
instead, when i was worrying about myself or my spiritual life i started to praise God instead for His greatness, or i would pray for other people's problems and not think about my own all the time.
then i found that i became calmer and happier without trying to.
glory to God, who loves us so much and gave so much for us!