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Monday, October 1, 2012

A Scary Response to Someone With Low Self-Esteem

Let's look at a third way that Satan accuses us. We've mentioned this verse before, but let's look at it more closely. "Then I heard a loud voice in heaven, saying, 'Now the salvation, and the power, and the kingdom of our God and the authority of His Christ have come, for the accuser of our brethren has been thrown down, he who accuses them before our God day and night'" (Revelation 12:10 NASB, red highlight added).

Although this verse doesn't specifically say how Satan accuses us, I wonder if he wants us to feel ashamed because he is standing before our Faithful Father accusing us--His unfaithful friends.

Think of it this way. You know a person is going to go behind your back and talk about your sins, weaknesses, and failures to one of your friends. You are helpless to defend yourself (you know what she'll say is actually true) and you're not there to give any other perspective. How will you feel the next time you see the friend who heard about you? Now's the time to put the above green bag over your head. You feel ashamed! (She'll know it's you, though, because no one else wears such a cute sundress. Opps, sorry--I digress!)

That's the similar scenario thinking of Satan tattling about us in God's presence. We are apt to feel ashamed thinking of Satan talking behind our backs about us, because the truth is--what he says is true! Indeed true! You see, we really are guilty. We really do sin and have weaknesses and failures. No one says back to Satan in God's presence, "Excuse me, Almighty God, but _________ (put your name in here) isn't here to defend herself so I'll come to her defense and tell you that Satan is lying!"

We each deserve to be talked about negatively before our Holy God. None of us can stand before Him guiltless (Romans 3:23). We have every right to be ashamed and shame makes us want to hide and turn away from God's help and forgiveness.

It's a pretty gruesome scene, isn't it?

But you already know the solution if you are a believer in Jesus dying for your sins. Yes, we should be ashamed but Jesus is qualified to step forward and defend us. The defense will not be because the accusation is false. The defense will be that Jesus already paid the price for our sins. Our "defense" isn't about our innocence--it's about our justification. We are as guilty as can be, yet our sins have been forgiven and we have been cleansed. 

What great news! What freedom! There's no need to be ashamed. Jesus's death and resurrection on our behalf is "as if" we were indeed innocent even though we were once covered with guilt. And we're covered with Jesus's robe of righteousness.

I want to divert a little here and talk more about this in our next post. There's a lot more good stuff as to why we needn't be ashamed. But I want to apply these truths in a practical way. Hang in there with me.

Here's the scenario. You are talking with a Christian friend who has horrible self-esteem. She feels bad about herself and can never see anything good in herself. You see many good things in her but when you tell her about those good things, she counters it every time by pointing out her sins, weaknesses, and failures. She just keeps resisting your attempts to help her see the positive. How frustrating! 

That approach used to be my style of helping. "If only you'll see the good things you offer, you'll overcome feeling bad about yourself." It made perfect sense. To do the opposite--to agree with her about her sin--was terrifying because I thought I'd only layer more "bad feelings" upon low self-esteem. I feared that then my friend might feel even more badly about herself and then what would happen?! Horrors!


Then I started my journey of acknowledging my sins and neediness. I found great freedom and absence of shame by relying--not on my good points--but on being cleansed from my sin--even as a Christian. This may sound obvious, but don't we more often try to change ourselves or our circumstances in order to make life work? Or we give ourselves a pep talk to counteract the shame? Or make a list of the ten things we like about ourselves?

Christian counselor and author Larry Crabb gives this different perspective: "But think what it would be like to judge ourselves honestly, to admit our failure to love and to trust God as he deserves to be trusted, and to be confident of God's forgiveness and transforming power.
"Suppose we looked at our self-hatred not merely as a painful burden to be overcome but as a devious strategy to keep alive our hope that life would work if we could only do better. And then, once we recognized the unnecessary pressure created by that strategy, suppose we saw ourselves not merely as self-hating victims who need affirmation, but as God-doubters who wrongly demand that others come through for us. If we saw our wicked, stubborn violation of God's design, then we would value the cross as the place where God, through his Son, took on our sins and forgave us. And we would see that he continues to forgive us every day of our lives until the day when there will be nothing left to forgive." (pg 130-131, Finding God).

What would that perspective call for? Your friend moans about how she does everything wrong and you say, "You're right. You do." (This is applicable both for Christians and unbelievers).

She looks at you horrified and you think you've really messed it up now. But you continue by saying, "You heard me correctly. There is no hope for you...outside of Christ forgiving you and empowering you. You can't fix it but Jesus can. No amount of positive thinking will take away your shame. But you don't have to rebuild your self-esteem. You can confess your neediness, repent of your selfish demand to have things your way, and ask for God's forgiveness and cleansing. Then He'll change you from the inside out."

Shame can't win against that. Shame has no legs to stand on. A Power bigger than It has just declared your friend innocent. She doesn't have to manufacture her own innocence; she can take on Someone Else's. She can rebuke Satan's accusations based on her standing as God's forgiven child rather than a defense of her own performance. 

Dr. Crabb also wrote, "Either we live under pressure to grow, or we celebrate grace" (page 132). And only being grace-dependent fosters a foundation for growth in God's power.

I hope this offers hope from shame. Does it sound radically dangerous? Let me know. You may already be using these kinds of responses. Let me know how God has used it in your own life and in those you help. I know I find hope and peace in dealing with myself in this way. I'd love to hear what you think. 

Next time we'll look more into why we shouldn't be ashamed.

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