When People Are Big and God is Small

Self-Esteem and the Fear of Man

Welch minces no words in his explanation that what we call “self-esteem” is really a masking of what the Bible calls “shame.” Read on:

Shame and low self-esteem are both rooted in Adam’s sin. They both are governed by the perceived opinions of others, and the both involve “not feeling good about ourselves.” The only difference is that our word “shame” still retains the idea that we are ashamed before God as well as before other people, while self-esteem is seen as strictly a problem between ourselves and other people, or a problem just within ourselves.

One of my favorite parts of that quote is the word “perceived.” How often do you (and I) look at others and assume what they are thinking about you? Just recently I had an experience when someone told me what they thought my husband was thinking…and they couldn’t have been farther from the truth. But their statement exposed their shame in that moment, assuming that David was thinking the worst of them when in fact he was trying to help them in a practical way.

Welch goes on to say that as sinners in need of covering, we love to hide…but we love to “spy.” “Spying might reveal the vulnerability of others so that we can believe that they are no different from us (or even not as good as us). Disgrace wants company.”

Go back and read that again. Reality TV, anyone?

When you get right down to it, most of the problem is that we think about ourselves TOO MUCH.

Welch suggests jotting down some ways in which fear of man controls us. Here are some areas of my struggle. And you must know how easy this is for me, being the people-pleaser that I am. :-\

  • Parenting: people must think…I am an irresponsible mother…I have poorly behaved children…I have wrong priorities in raising my children.
  • Church: people must think…we’re strange…we’re not serving enough…we don’t have our doctrine together…we’re terribly sinful. (more on this later, she said.)
  • Friends: people must think…I’m a bad friend…I’m too preoccupied with my family and not enough with my friends.

I must insert here that I do believe the Holy Spirit can (and does) prick our consciences about our relationships to others, and sometimes it is necessary to ask forgiveness for a word out of season or a careless action. However, for the most part, we (women especially, I think) hash and rehash conversations and encounters needlessly, trying to reassure ourselves that people think well of us…that we didn’t do anything wrong…that we don’t look stupid.

The only cure for the fear of man is a rightful fear of God! That’s where the book is headed.

Is this ringing bells with anyone?

3 thoughts on “When People Are Big and God is Small

  1. Thanks for appeasing me (though, I hope I did not plunge you downward into the black hole that is Fear Of Man :)) This really is helpful for me to read…I really should get the book after I finish the 5 half-read books I’m in right now πŸ™‚

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  2. So last week it was my turn to lead our life group discussion time. Topic: gospel-centered relationships. Everyone stop laughing at how absurd it is that I was leading that.Anyway, in the course of the prep work, Tim Keller had a good definition of humility that fits with the comments you made in the latter part of your post.He said humility is not thinking less of yourself, but rather thinking of yourself less. Surely my relationships with others will deepen, and people-pleasing actions diminish, if I would spend less (or no) time thinking about how my relationships make me look and feel, and more (or all) of my time on how I make others look and feel by serving them in love. Self-forgetful service. Please Lord, grant me this grace.

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