Self-Worth and Depreciation
Self-worth is frequently based on our feelings of worth in terms of our skills, achievements, status, financial resources, or physical attributes. This kind of self-esteem or self-worth often cultivates an independent and arrogant attitude. When we find ourselves not measuring up to society’s criteria for worth, we suffer serious consequences. Our self-worth depreciates dramatically. The illusion of being successful and admired gives way to disillusionment as our possessions and achievements that once nourished our souls fail to satisfy our appetites. Every individual experiences basic needs -- hunger, thirst, fatigue, etc. We are conditioned to satisfy these needs by getting something -- food, drink, or rest. Mistakenly we conclude that by getting, we will achieve an acceptable self-worth/esteem.
Nothing depreciates self-worth faster than regret, anger, or fear. For four years, Kelly worked in sales. If she achieved her monthly quota and bonuses, her self-worth soared with her supervisor’s praise. Like a barometer, her self-worth plummeted as she received criticism during non-productive cycles.
One day Kelly marched into work, carrying a large box. One by one she placed pictures of her family and cards from friends as positive reminders. She renewed her self-worth by considering ways she could give something personal to each client or co-worker -- a word of encouragement, a sympathetic ear, or a prayer for their circumstances. “In the beginning, I felt like such a failure when not getting sales that I practiced self-depreciation. But after I dedicated myself to giving not getting, I had an unmistakable ability to enjoy each moment. It was as if I was losing the ability to worry!”
There is a great example of this in the Bible. The apostle Paul “learned the secret of living in every situation” (Philippians 4:11-13). Self-esteem is an attitude of respect for and contentment with oneself based on the recognition of one’s abilities and acceptance of one’s limitations.
Self-Worth and Inflation
It is impossible for you to conjure up self-worth/esteem yourself. That feeling of happiness in acquiring something is a poor substitute for the true joy of contributing. The pursuit of perfection and approval drives us steadily farther from peace and self-confidence. If we focus our attention on our worldly resources, we will inflate ourselves with pride. Jesus reminds His apostles of true worthiness. “. . . The servant is not even thanked, because he is merely doing what he is supposed to do. In the same way, when you obey me you should say, ‘We are not worthy of praise. We are servants who have simply done our duty’” (Luke 17:10). A healthy self-worth is the result of remarkable life-change and understanding who we are in God's eyes.
Change happens to all of us. We will experience physical and mental growth, personal experiences, and changing social situations that will affect our identity. Identity is a person’s sense of placement in the world -- that which tethers us to our self-worth. Our identity can easily be over-inflated when our self-worth is miscalculated. It is healthy to remember, as we mature and circumstances change, that we are not bound by how other people evaluate us. “ . . . We turned our backs on him [Jesus] and looked the other way when he went by. He was despised and we did not care” (Isaiah 53:3). As the Son of God, Jesus’ self-worth was never inflated or depreciated by circumstances or those around Him. No amount of praise (inflation) or condemnation (depreciation) could alter His self-worth (Philippians 2:5-11). How then are we to achieve a life-sustaining self-worth?
Self-Worth and the Exchange Rate
Real self-worth is entirely internal. It’s realizing the true source of your usefulness and value. Imagine presenting an object which you consider commonplace, even obsolete to an interested buyer. Upon careful examination, the buyer offers to purchase the item for an exaggerated price. I once “unloaded” my grandmother’s ponderous baby grand piano (at a fair price) only to discover at a later date that there were only 30 pianos, with gold-gilded strings, in existence! “For God bought you with a high price . . .” (1 Corinthians 6:20). Our self-esteem needs to be based on the honor God gives us (Psalms 8:3-5). We are a priceless treasure, the object of His infinite love (Romans 8:38-39). God’s exchange rate for our imperfect lives makes our self-worth incalculable (John 3:16)!
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