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Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Self-Esteem as a Lie

We are often told to have 'good self-esteem,' to 'forgive ourselves,' to 'take care of ourselves,' and the like.  While these sound good at first, they are based on a dangerous premise that the human person is self-referential.  By this, I mean that the human person is most content, and thus most happy, within himself.

This is a falsehood.  Within the self we find loneliness and isolation.  Yet, we are told this message so often that we believe it without critical thinking.

Humans are not happy by themselves.  We surround ourselves with people and even things because we hate to be alone.  Yet, we tell people that happiness is found within the self?  Why would we believe such a thing when it is so obviously untrue?

If we sin and regret our sins, the bigger question is why.  Sometimes we regret what we have done because it costs us something we value.  Most of the time, we regret what we do because it humiliates the image we have constructed to ourselves (to cope with our fears) and to others (to impress them with our goodness).

What we really need to do is not forgive ourselves, but let go of the prideful self-image that is the cause of the pain.  Of course I have sinned... I am a sinner!  I must accept who I am, and, more importantly for my own happiness, the negative way people will look at me as a result.

I must accept that I will do stupid things and disappoint others.  This is not to say that I will give up trying to be good, but I must realize that my shortcomings are obvious and I cannot reliably avoid them.

But, I also need others, the same people I will always sin against and offend... except for One.  This is why we need God: we need someone who will always be with us even when we are completely isolated from other humans.  Happiness begins when we are confident of one relationship that cannot be broken, and therefore it must be beyond human strength.  It can only be divine.

If I come to believe that God loves me beyond my own strength to repel or break, then I can esteem His love rather than myself.  I can receive His forgiveness rather than my own or even others.  I can care for all of His gifts, even my own body and mind, because they are His.

To help anyone, we must liberate them from the notion of happiness within the isolated self and teach people how to live in communion with God.  He will then heal us and give us the sense of belonging and protection that we so desperately crave.

We must emerge from the lie of self-esteem, and rather esteem the good God who loves us even at our worst.  If we become aware of this love and accept it, then we will experience true happiness.


  1. Fr. George God bless you.Ive recently discovered your blogs here and find them most helpful.Im new to orthodoxy and fresh back into recovery having been seeking the Absolute Truth and wrestling with addiction/12-Step recovery since I was a teenager...Thankyou for clarifying the truth in 12-Step recovery - its helped me to both relax and be vigilante as I proceed into a two-year program.Like youve said (wich was a relief to hear) the 12-Steps are orthodoxy simplified and its practioners seem to be striving towards the true Church but it(12-step recovery)also seems to be often diluted with ecumenical nihilism ... or something like that.

  2. Sounds like you 'have the message.' Hang in there.. even better things will come to you as you seek after Him.