They sound nice. They make catchy phrases to print on graphic tees, coffee mugs, and bumper stickers. But are they biblical?
Feel-good phrases like “just be you” and “love yourself” are plastered everywhere. You can hardly get on social media without scrolling through posts by fashion bloggers or celebrities quoting quipping lines to encourage their followers to make peace with insecurities through self-love.
Admittedly, I have been guilty of comforting myself and others with similar thoughts, but I listened to a podcast a few weeks ago that challenged my way of thinking.
I recently found the Relatable podcast by Christian Conservative Allie Stuckey. The episode I heard was called “3 Myths Christian Women Believe,” and as you can probably tell by the title, Stuckey debunks myths that Christians, particularly women, tend to believe about themselves. She analyzed the phrases “you are enough,” “love yourself,” and “be you.”
If you’ve heard the podcast, great, you know where I’m going. If you haven’t listened to it yet, finish reading, then listen to it. In this post, you’re going to read many of the thoughts that Stuckey challenged me with because I just had to pass them on.
I find personality tests extremely interesting. It blows my mind how you answer questions online, and the internet tells you everything you ever did or did not know about yourself.
A couple of weeks ago, my family took the 16 Personalities Test and laughed at how scarily accurate each of our results was. I found out that I’m an ISTP, and as such, I have strengths and weaknesses to which I am prone.
According to the test, my natural strengths are optimistic and energetic, creative and practical, spontaneous and rational, great in a crisis, and relaxed. My weaknesses are (this is where my family died laughing at the accuracy) stubborn, insensitive, private and reserved, easily bored, dislikes commitment, and prone to risky behavior. Lovely, I know.
If I listen to the advice my culture gives, I need to embrace my weaknesses. Society tells me that all of these characteristics–positive and negative–add up to be the hot mess that is Jenny Hiltz and I should be celebrated. I am perfectly flawed and can love myself for it.
Before continuing, I need to clarify that I do not believe it’s wrong to be confident. On the contrary, I think Christians should be the most confident people around. The apostle Paul said in 2 Corinthians 12:9, “But he said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness. Therefore I will boast all the more gladly in my weaknesses so that the power of Christ may rest upon me.”
Paul was confident in the knowledge that Christ could work through Paul’s failings to demonstrate God’s power and bring Himself glory. Instead of self-confidence, Paul exhibited Christ-confidence, and we as Christians can do the same.
But the line of thinking that we in ourselves are worthy or lovable should concern us as Christians because if taken to its full extent, we become our own idols, causing us to overlook or excuse our sins in the name of being ourselves.
For example, if I hurt a friend’s feelings with an overly sarcastic or blunt comment, my test results allow me to brush it off with a “Sorry, but that’s just how I am.” Or if my stubbornness keeps me from submitting to and honoring my parents, I can shrug and say, “Well, I’m an ISTP and can’t help that I’m stubborn.”
If I play too much into this lie, my personality type will be an excuse that absolves me from the responsibility of loving and serving others above myself. When it comes to loving myself or others, self-love should never be the higher priority.
In reality, self-love shouldn’t be a priority at all. God never tells people to love themselves. He already knows that they do. He tells us to love others as ourselves because the fact that we love ourselves is a given.
You may be thinking, “Ok, but I do love others. Why is it so terrible if I love myself too?”
The problem is that the gospel then becomes “me”-centered. We view ourselves as decent, good people, and the fact that God would show us love and grace makes perfect sense.
Paul Tripp says in his gospel devotional New Morning Mercies, “The more you understand the magnitude of God’s grace, the more accurate will be your view of the depth of your unrighteousness; and the more you understand the depth of your unrighteousness, the more you will appreciate God’s gift of grace.”
To underestimate the severity of our unrighteousness is to minimize the magnitude of God’s grace.
The Bible is full of verses that tell us who we are as human beings and why we are in such desperate need of God’s grace.
Who We Are
1 Corinthians 6: 9-11: “Or do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived; neither the sexually immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor men who practice homosexuality, nor thieves, nor the greedy, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God. And such were some of you…”
What a flattering description. We are idolatrous, immoral, greedy humans who have no natural inclination towards righteousness, yet our culture champions the cause of loving these selves who are entirely unloveable. If “being me” means fitting this description, I want to be someone else entirely.
Where’s the hope then? For those who are battling anxiety and depression, for those who look in the mirror and hate what they see, for those who feel unloved, and for those who struggle finding their identity, where is the comfort for them?
The hope is found not in who you are but in who Christ is and what He did for you.
Who Christ Is
Please do me a favor and read Ephesians 2: 1-10 aloud.
This passage starts by telling us more about our human depravity. We’re called “sons of disobedience” and “children of wrath.” We are dead in our trespasses and sins with no chance of being anything more. But then two words change everything. You want hope? Here it is:
Ephesians 2:4-5 triumphantly declares, “But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ–by grace you have been saved…”
Because God is loving and merciful, He saw our filthiness, loved us regardless, and extended His hand to us, offering a new life in Christ. Because we are “in Christ,” God looks at us and no longer sees our guilt. He sees Christ.
Christ our Redeemer, Christ our Forgiveness, Christ the Source of our strength, Christ the holy and righteous Son of God–that’s who God sees!
And that’s the hope!
Not that we are enough. We will never be kind, smart, funny, compassionate, or righteous enough in ourselves, but Jesus still somehow deems us worthy of His love. That is why I can have confidence.
The comfort for those who struggle with self-doubt and self-loathing is not greater self-love. It’s God’s love.
Be the New You
Romans 8 is one of the most incredible passages in the Bible. Don’t believe me? Read it.
The first verse gives the blessed assurance, “There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.” Believers do not have to fear the Lord’s eternal condemnation for breaking His laws because He has lavished His grace on us. Our acceptance is not based on our performance. Those who are in Christ, join me in inhaling and exhaling a deep sigh of relief!
The passage continues to tell of our drastic identity change. We went from “children of wrath” and “sons of disobedience” to “children of God” and “heirs with Christ.” As His children, we can experience an intimate father-child relationship with our Heavenly Father who faithfully loves us (Romans 8:38-39).
Although God’s love and grace free us from guilt and fear of condemnation, they do not exempt us from responsibility. When someone chooses to believe in Christ, he must put off his former sinful self and put on the new person that God has created in His likeness. Ephesians 4: 17-32 describes how our new lives in Christ look.
We’re told to put off lying, stealing, anger, and bitterness and put on truth, hard work, kindness, and forgiveness. As new creations, we must crucify our old sinful deeds and desires (Galatians 5:24). Don’t embrace them or make excuses by claiming they’re a part of who you are. Put them to death.
From personal experience, putting off old sinful habits is hard. I find myself being the “old me” instead of the “new me” more times than I could count. Thankfully, because of Christ’s sacrifice, I do not have to live in fear of not measuring up to God’s perfectly holy standard. I do not have to wonder if I’m worthy of His love. Scripture tells me that Christ is sufficient, and His sufficiency becomes my own.
So, Christian, when you find yourself struggling with doubts and insecurities, remember who you are in Christ–forgiven, redeemed, and unconditionally loved. You do not have to strive to win God’s acceptance because Jesus has already won it for you.
But don’t encourage yourself with our self-loving culture’s lie that “being you” is acceptable. On your own, you will never be enough. Instead, through God’s grace, be the “new you” that you were recreated in Christ to be.