Is self-esteem justifiable for a Christian ?
Esteeming others is highly recommended to the Christian: “, ” (Mt 22:39, Mk 12:31, Lk 10.27). But is self-esteem legitimate?
This is the dilemma posed by the book Self Esteem, the Cross and Christian Confidence (Leicester, Inter-Varsity Press, 1992, 2002) written by Alister Mcgrath, a theologian, and his wife Joanna, a clinical psychotherapist.
We propose to go through this book in some of the next Theo’s notes.
What is self-esteem ?
Self-esteem, i.e. to assess oneself on a scale of values, seems to be an inevitable human reaction to the image that everyone perceives of himself and that others are reflecting to him or that he thinks to receive from them.
It is more nuanced than self love that has more to do with self-realization and personal ambition.
Self-esteem and Christian humility
Counseling aims to “liberate individuals from the paralyzing habit of wrongly belittling themselves”, but does building a positive self image not venture to deny the reality of sin and the need of humility?
This is the position of some theologians  rightly opposed to anti or pseudo Christian movements of self realization, such as “positive thinking” . They feel self-esteem “as a pretext to worship ourselves” when we should be “regarding ourselves as criminals and putting ourselves to death every day.”
Minimum degree of self-esteem
The question then arises of the minimum degree of self-esteem experienced by children who are victims of severe facial deformities, and are still disfigured despite cosmetic surgery: they have a devalued self-image, relayed by the looks and sometimes the mockery of others.
One can only approve the response of psychotherapists. They enhance the self-esteem of these children by making them develop specific sports skills or others, to offset the devastating effects of the malformation, and to help them integrate into a group.
Limits of the belittling
Thus, this absolute denigration of the person (seeing oneself as a criminal), this requirement of voluntary humiliation (putting oneself to death every day) that are requested from anyone on a spiritual level, can they be set up as absolute requirements from those whose personal opinion, far from being a self-adoration, is already approaching the zero degree ?
The infirmity, a malformation, prolonged unemployment are already too often causing a kind of “social death”; should we then add a calculated and therefore legalistic personal killing which, for a Christian convert, would be added to the work of Christ ?
A balance to be kept
Esteeming oneself does not necessarily mean worshipping oneself, and “seeing oneself as a criminal” can have perverse effects in Christians encouraged by abuse education to fully belittle themselves and thus made unable to exercise gifts which could be useful for the Church or the society.
Furthermore do the proponents of this rejection of self-esteem apply it first without reserve to themselves, while their postion as known Christian writers gives them a very rewarding reputation in itself ?
Tensions resolved by Christs cross
The cross of Christ makes it possible to resolve these tensions between a negative self-image and a positive self-image as it moves the believer from separation from God to godliness.
And the theme of “personal human value” is present in many passages of the Bible.
(To be continued)
 Jay Adams and Paul C. Vitz
 Norman Vincent Peale and Robert H. Schuller