Self-love and Self-esteem – Good or Bad?

Our society emphasizes self-love and self-esteem. It is one of the most common concepts that self-help material and psychology use. Even beyond those areas, self-love and self-esteem are key foundations in most of the education that kids and adults receive. 

So, is this from man or from God! Is self-love and self-esteem something that is good or is it bad? 

Well, God's Word is very clear on the subject of self-love.

(Download this document "Satan Loves This, Do You?" for more details on the problems with self-esteem or self-love.)

Self-love and Self-esteem – Good or Bad

But know this, that in the last days perilous times will come: For men will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boasters, proud, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, unthankful, unholy, unloving, unforgiving, slanderers, without self-control, brutal, despisers of good, traitors, headstrong, haughty, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, having a form of Godliness but denying its power. And from such people turn away! -- 2 Timothy 3:1-5

Future for Relationships

Carl Rogers, a renowned psychologist said, “It would take a bolder man than I to predict what will emerge (for relationships and marriage).” That is a great statement for anybody that trusts in their knowledge without a foundation in God's Word. Why? Obviously, none of us know the future. But, it is interesting that he made that statement when he believes people are inherently good and seek to make things better.

If you trust God, there is no need to predict the future. God tells us what to expect. And, for relationships, God lists a number of problems that destroy relationships. Check out the scripture stated above - 2 Timothy 3:1-5.

Self-love Is NOT God's Strategy

Satan, as ruler of this world, spreads the lie that the most important thing you can do is focus on you – flash your ME. Why does Satan want that? Because it excludes the proper focus toward our gracious Lord and serving others. And, why is it so effective? Because of mankind’s built in sin nature demands a self-focus.

Satan is definitely all about himself. His ME flashes all the time. He wants to be God and wants you to adopt the same corrupt thinking – focus on ME. Then you will be upset with God (and others) when things do not go as you want.

Self-love Is the Root Cause of Relationship Problems

Lovers-of-self are self-centered, self-absorbed, self-indulgent, and self-satisfied. Everything is about them and what they can get. Sometimes it is about others, but don’t be deceived, they are getting something out of it. 

It is THE PROBLEM for all relationships! So, it makes sense that God mentions self-love first in the 2 Timothy 3:1-6 passage. In fact, it is easy to see how self-love leads to the remainder of the items in the list.

Also, using the term self-love is a contradiction if love is defined as “pursuing the best for others; patiently, kindly, sacrificially and unconditionally.” The key word “others” must be replaced or removed. Self-love only pursues the best for ME!

If this sounds uncomfortably familiar, it is because everyone already loves themselves. But that isn’t what the world says or teaches. That is the opposite of the billions of dollars spent on self-esteem courses especially in our educational system. And most counselors, psychologists, and self-help gurus promote the same trash. Your flesh naturally esteems itself – at the expense of others.

Self-love Isn't a Fruit of the Spirit

Think about the Fruit of the Spirit:

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control. Against such there is no law. Galatians 5:22-23

Notice the one specific element that is directed at self-love – self-control or control of self. Actually, all of the fruit works against self-love. More specifically, look at God’s warning through the Apostle James on what happens when you love yourself or are self-seeking.

For where envy and self-seeking exist, confusion and every evil thing are there. James 3:16

No wonder the focus on self-esteem and self-love backfires. Wow! Confusion and every evil thing are there.

God Esteems Humility NOT Self-love!

God places a high value on humility not self-love. Such a high value that Jesus modeled humility and serving others as the BEST example to follow. Philippians chapter 2 shows you how Jesus acts and how He wants you and I follow His example and have His thinking.

Let nothing be done through selfish ambition or conceit, but in lowliness of mind let each esteem others better than himself. Let each of you look out not only for his own interests, but also for the interests of others. Philippians 2:3-4

What a contrast! God wants you to "esteem others better than himself!" Note that looking out for yourself is normal not something to enhance or improve. The clear implication is - you already look out for your interests, start looking out for the interests of others.

God knows we are depraved with a sin nature. So, He want us to change our focus and look out for the interests of others as Jesus did.

Another way to illustrate this is consider how much focus is put on 1 Peter 5:7, but not the context.

casting all your care upon Him, for He cares for you. 1 Peter 5:7

Because of this great verse you might focus your attention on God taking your troubles away, but the context is very important. Verses 5-6 say,

God resists the proud, but gives grace to the humble. Therefore, humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God, that He may exalt you in due time. 1 Peter 5:5-6

Humbling yourself is the path to God’s grace and care! Only then will you realize how needy and sinful you are. Humility helps you see God's abundant goodness and holiness. And, when humble, only then will you cast your cares on Him.

Doesn't the Bible Teach Self-love?

Because of the popularity of the self-esteem movement, people in churches have misused the Bible to teach it. For instance, they use:

Jesus answered him, “The first of all the commandments is: ‘Hear, O Israel, the LORD our God, the LORD is one. And you shall love the LORD your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind, and with all your strength.’ This is the first commandment. And the second, like it, is this: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no other commandment greater than these.”Matthew 12:30-31

They also use:

So husbands ought to love their own wives as their own bodies; he who loves his wife loves himself. For no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, just as the Lord does the church.Ephesians 5:29

They use those passages to teach that you cannot or will not love others until you learn to love yourself. Because, if you do not love yourself, then you will not love your neighbor. And husbands, love yourself so that you will love your wife!

NO, the Bible Does Not Teach Self-love!

Well that plays nicely into putting yourself above others, right into the hands of what Satan desires. But that is the exact opposite of what God wants. That bad thinking accepts the teaching and assumptions of the self-esteem movement. The movement wants to increase productive members of society, which is great. So, the theory says, people must think well of themselves or they will not be productive.

The above stated scriptures actually teach what Satan does not want you to believe. They imply you already love yourself. In other words, you know you love yourself, go show that much love to your neighbor. The scripture does not say that loving yourself causes love for for your neighbor. It provides a comparison of loving yourself to loving others.

God’s Word tells us that a focus on self, which is pride, is the downfall of man and Satan. Scripture do not promote loving yourself or to enhance, encourage, and improve your self-esteem. God’s Word does encourage pursuing the best for others.

Finally, here are two outstanding quotes.

The world looks for happiness through self-assertion.  The Christian knows that joy is found in self-abandonment.  – Elisabeth Elliot

The heart of every problem is a problem in the heart. – Warren Wiersbe

GR8 Relationships—Pursuing the BEST in work, in life, in love.

Right Thinking—Right Relationships—Right NOW!!

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  • Excellent argument. I saw something innately with the stove love movement but was never able to figure out exactly what it was. This article did an excellent job illustrating that. In a generation full of narcissist that love selfies and are selfish the self-love movement is actually hurting them.

    • I just updated the blog with a sermon document that I originally had planned to link to, but forgot to do. It provides substantially more information. Also, you will note the comments from the book Willpower by Roy Baumeister which provides some excellent secular thought on self-esteem versus self-control in chapter 9.

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