What is self respect?
What is the price we pay for self-respect? Some people feel robbed of self-respect, while others have even killed to overcome feelings of inferiority. Psychologists insist that respecting others is impossible until we learn to respect ourselves. They believe that individuals, lacking in self-respect, are mistakenly too focused on helping others and not taking care of their own needs. One self-help site suggests that “you treat your self-respect like a pet. It is very easy to care for. Be sure to give it daily attention and it will grow big and strong.” Now, one might ask, “What’s wrong with respecting myself? If I can’t express honor and admiration for myself, how can I show proper respect for other individuals?”
Rob’s childhood consisted of multiple divorces and eventually leaving home at 15. He finally earned a high school diploma at 21. During his first years of marriage he faced frequent unemployment and serious credit issues. Rob’s self-worth plummeted. Then a door of opportunity opened. Now Rob is a top salesperson in his firm, the recipient of awards and bonuses. In climbing the ladder of success, Rob admires (respects) the fact that he succeeded without a college degree. Rob expects esteem from everyone around him. If he doesn’t receive approval, he responds with disrespect. The self-respect that Rob learned to give himself is based on self-centeredness.
Are self-respect and self-esteem the same? An individual with a healthy self-respect “likes” themselves -- even when encountering the inevitable failures in life. To esteem something is to “hold in high regard.” Self-respect and self-esteem are quite different. Self-esteem balances precariously upon a comparison with someone who’s always “a little better.” When we esteem someone or something, we face serious trouble if we do not measure up to those standards. Our esteem may ebb and flow, whereas a healthy self-respect (liking ourselves) is always grounded in what we are (and are not) -- not in what we can or cannot accomplish. I love to ice skate. I love to watch professional skaters. For years I took private lessons and trained on a personal skating rink. Yet I am not an exceptional skater. Realizing that I am not “Olympic material” doesn’t affect my self-respect.
How can we affect our self-respect? It is human nature to focus on ourselves. From childhood, we have those basic desires -- to be loved, to receive approval, to GET things. Children quickly become unhappy when things are not focused on them -- what they didn’t get, who hasn’t noticed them, who has infringed on their rights, who didn’t give them respect. Self-respect is affected by how we react to someone complimenting us. The more times we give little regard to a compliment, the more secure our self-respect becomes. Suppose someone compliments our ability to play a musical instrument or to use a pair of scissors. Should the success or failure of either skill affect our self-respect? Naturally, we accept compliments graciously, with appreciation for their sincerity. Our self-respect is affected when we accept compliments selfishly, with application to our identity.
How can we protect our self-respect? The first step is changing our focus from a selfish GET mentality to a selfless GIVE mentality (Philippians 2:3-4). There is nothing admirable about feeding our own egos. Admiration or devotion to ourselves and our accomplishments is a form of idol worship. An idol is anything placed between you and God (Ephesians 5:5). Even the apostle Paul did not judge his own motives or rely on accolades from others. “. . . Well, it matters very little what you or anyone else thinks. I don’t even trust my own judgment on this point. My conscience is clear, but that isn’t what matters. It is the Lord himself who will examine me and decide” (1 Corinthians 4:3-4).
The following questions may arise: “Does that mean I shouldn’t treat myself well at all? Am I showing humility if I treat myself badly?” You are held in high regard by God (Ephesians 1:4-5). Yes, you should take care of your physical and emotional well-being, but in the context that you are respecting the body that God has given you. When you show self-respect, it should be within the context of the God who designed you and has great plans for you. The choices you make in how you live show respect for the final product you will present to Him (Galatians 6:4-5).
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