There seems to be a lot of confusion around this concept of self-esteem. Some parents are concerned about making sure that their children will have high self-esteem. Others think that a focus on self-esteem will make their children “soft.” With such opposite opinions on the matter, what are parents to believe?
The term “self-esteem” dates back to the late 19th century when psychology was just beginning to be recognized as a science in and of itself. It is typically defined as “a confidence and satisfaction in oneself.” On the surface, this seems like something every parent should want for their kids.
Or is it?
As Christian parents, do we want our kids to have confidence in themselves or do we want them to have confidence in the Lord? Do we want them to have satisfaction in what they can do for themselves or to be content and satisfied in who they are in Christ?
What God Has to Say about Self-Esteem
While the Bible doesn’t mention self-esteem specifically, there are some verses that reference how we are to think of ourselves.
- “For by the grace given me I say to every one of you: Do not think of yourself more highly than you ought, but rather think of yourself with sober judgment, in accordance with the faith God has distributed to each of you.” Romans 12:3
- “Do nothing from rivalry or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves.” Philippians 2:3
- “Let the one who boasts, boast in the Lord.” 2 Corinthians 10:17
From these verses, we can see that, as Christians, it really isn’t high self-esteem (confidence/satisfaction in oneself) that we should strive for, but humility.
What is Humility?
Maybe it is best to define what humility is not first. Humility is not being a doormat. Humility is not letting others take advantage of you or walk all over you. Humility is not putting yourself down. Those are examples of low self-esteem. Humility is simply a submission to God that is lived out in daily life. Want to know what humility looks like? Look at the life of Jesus. (For a great discussion on the biblical concept of humility click here.)
Finding the Right Balance: Low self-esteem, Humility and High self-esteem
So how do we help our children feel good about themselves but not so good that there is no room for God? It’s all about balance.
If we view this issue on a continuum, we can see that humility is the godly midpoint between low self-esteem and high self-esteem.
Low self-esteem has no place in a child of God. Consider these verses:
- “For you formed my inward parts; you knitted me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made.” Psalm 139:14
- “So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him” Genesis 1:27
- “But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession” 1 Peter 2:9
If this is how God sees us, how can we see ourselves as any less? If our children struggle with low self-esteem, we can lift them up by teaching them who they are in God’s eyes. If they struggle with pride, we can gently pull them back toward the midpoint by studying the master of humility, Jesus.
Helpful resources on the topic of humility:
Activity: Family Bible Study on Humility from CSAHM
Article (with practical ideas): How to Instill Humility in Children from Crosswalk
Book (with a great lesson for little ones): Fool Moon Rising