“The self-esteem movement has failed us,” argues Simon Smart in an article in the Sydney Morning Herald. Smart describes how, in reaction to the (often humiliatingly) performance-based way people’s worth was assessed in the past, culture shifted to emphasize self-esteem. The problem, Smart explains, is that the self-esteem movement implied “you can find everything you need from within yourself”—which ironically left many “feeling deeply inadequate,” isolated, and unprepared for the world’s harsh realities.
Contemporary indie band Fleet Foxes captures this struggle in the song “Helplessness Blues.” Feeling trapped by society’s expectations to be uniquely special, the singer longs for a purpose bigger than himself, while unsure what that purpose might be.
For those feeling unworthy and overwhelmed by expectations, the gospel offers hope of healing deeper than renewed self-worth. Scripture reveals that without God we’re broken and lost—but so valued that He was willing to pay the ultimate price to give us new life (1 Peter 1:19,23). God loves us, not because we’ve earned it or are particularly special, but simply because we are His. As Marilynne Robinson once put it, “Love is holy because it is like grace—the worthiness of its object is never really what matters.”
This love, which never depends on us, is all we need to live with joy (1 Peter 1:8). As part of a family where we “love each other deeply with all [our] heart” (1 Peter 1:22), we can find peace, knowing that “we will be guided by love on every step of our lives” (Henri Nouwen). From that solid foundation, we can also find our purpose—to point with our lives to the One who is making all things new (1 Peter 1:9; Revelation 21:5).
Are you prone to treat others a certain way based on your assessment of their worth? How can you be intentional about modeling God’s unconditional love to others?
Taken from “Our Daily Journey”