“But [Jesus] passed through the crowd and went on his way.” Luke 4:30b (CEB)
Jesus never seemed to have self-esteem issues. He was confident in himself and in his mission, and he was able to face even his hometown crowd, trying to call them to accountability. Their response? Throw him off a cliff – get rid of him! Even in his own hometown, people resisted his message.
Most of Jesus’ ministry was surrounded by controversy. I mean, think about it. He touched lepers, healed gentiles, talked with women, contradicted the religious leaders, defied or even revised some of the laws, loved little children, faced angry demons, and stood firm without flinching when people hurled angry questions and words at him. He knew who he was and stuck with it even in the face of death.
So, when I think about my own struggles with self-esteem when I was growing up and even lingering issues now as an adult who is nearing retirement, I wish I could be more confident and not let myself get in the way. I do pretty well most of the time, and I DO have confidence a lot, especially in my work as a pastor, but there are always those moments that jump up to make me doubt myself.
Then, this week I learned that one of the teenage daughters of a friend of mine was having tremendous self-esteem issues to the point of trying to harm herself. She is confused and struggling to figure out who she is. She’s looking in a lot of not-so-great places to find affirmation, but what she is receiving is a host of mixed messages about what she “should” do and how she “should” feel. That only confuses her more. Her parents are working with her and counselor to get help for her.
My reaction was that, even though I never went that far (probably because we didn’t have social media), I understood the depression, fear, confusion, and bewilderment that goes with trying to figure out your purpose in life.
The pastor part of me wanted to figuratively “shake” her and say, “You are God’s precious child! You have an identity! God loves you! I love you! Now you need to love yourself! Come on, snap out of it!” Unfortunately, I don’t have the right to say that to her, and I doubt that it would be very productive.
So, what do we do to help our children, teens, and even other adults see themselves as God does and love themselves so that they aren’t oppressed by lack of self-esteem. How do we give them tools so they can move to a better place? I’m not sure I have any real answers, but I believe we can start with prayer: for the other person and for ourselves. We can pray to be open to opportunities to say words that build up rather than tear down. We can pray for God to give us chances to love, love, love that person.
There are no guarantees that even that will work. However, we can be assured that the grace of God is with them, and maybe that’s the starting point.
Prayer: Gracious God, heal, renew, restore, make whole. Amen.