The Importance of Self-Image

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by Brent Lewis

My Brother/My Self

We have seen that pride is at the root of all of one’s problems with brother or self. Pride receives a major defeat in our lives when we are converted to Christ — though it will be a factor to be reckoned with throughout life.

We now must look a little deeper into the problem of self and explore the subtle difference between humility (the opposite of pride) and inferiority. God intends for us to be humble (James 4:6), but He has never intended for us to feel inferior. Feelings of inferiority in any human life is a product of the work of Satan, not God. There are unfortunately many Christians who fail to see the difference between humility and inferiority, and are caught up in a stifling self-hatred which is totally unsupported by the Scriptures.

Those who study human behavior tell us that children develop an inferiority complex early in life. A young child has no clear picture of himself. He sees himself only in the mirror of his abilities, his appearance and his character. A child’s sense of values is based on what any authority figure—such as a parent or a school teacher—tells him. The ideas he gets from such people help to construct his self-image.

A child is strongly affected by what others think of him—particularly the values that his peers place on his appearance or his abilities. Frequently while growing up, children with unthinking cruelty will say to another, “Why is your nose so crooked?” or “Did you know that your ears stick out?”

Some children are deeply affected, often for life, because they never receive any praise from their parents in the formative years. The father may tell a small child, “You will never be any good,” and the child has no alternative but to accept the prediction as a fact. As parents, we need to recognize the extreme importance of the praise and encouragement we can give to contribute to the feelings of self—worth of our children.

While inferiority usually shows itself in the form of  self-rejection, it can also appear in another form. Sometimes it assumes the manner of superiority. Many people are afflicted with swaggerinig braggadocio only because they are attempting to cover the self—hate harbored deep within themselves. And they fail to see that their demand—”Look at me—see what a wonderful person I am” — only drives others further away and contributes to more feelings of self-rejection.

Our loving Father wants me to be happy, contented and free in this life. Self-hate shrivels my soul and
makes me miserable. How can I begin to sweep it out of my soul and live my life free from its evil grasp?

Seeing Myself As Jesus Sees Me

I believe that Jesus gives us the answer to this problem in an incident involving the life of Peter found in John 1:42: “And when Jesus beheld him, he said, Thou art Simon the son of Jona: thou shalt be called Cephas, which is by interpretation, A Stone.” In the Greek text there are subtle shades of difference in the words “Simon” and ”A Stone.” This is best seen in a translation which reads: “Thou art Simon (a reed) but thou shalt be Cephas (a stone).”

It seems to me that Jesus gave Peter a whole new conception of himself. As men looked at Peter they saw instability and change; Peter saw in himself much the same; but Christ could see hidden depths that Peter and others could not plumb and He knew that by His love and power He could make Peter into the man he should be.

The ultimate answer to changing one’s life from the suffocating curse of self-hate and self~rejection to self-worth and self·dignity is to see ourselves as the Lord sees us. With Him it does not matter about the shape of one’s nose, or the capacity of one’s intellect, or the size of one’s estate. He merely looks at the strength of our character and the openness of our heart.

How can we begin to overcome feelings of inferiority and build up a positive self-image in which we see ourselves as complete in Christ? What are the principles of self-acceptance? We shall discuss these in the next article—but each of them has this key: we must see ourselves as Jesus sees us.