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The Most Effective Way to Feel Better About Yourself

The Most Effective Way to Feel Better about Yourself

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Newsflash: I have always known that something was wrong with me, but for the longest time, I did not know what it was. As I became older, I realized that it was an internal awkwardness, a sense of shame. To compensate for my soul dysfunction, I craved acceptance or approval from others. I fell prey to self-generated values, even manipulating others to like me. I connected my value as a human to the opinions of others. It would have been a good day if they had given me the proverbial thumbs up. If they gave me the thumbs down, the clouds rolled in as I slithered away in search of significance another way.

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Self-generated Value

The person who longs and lives for the approval or acceptance of others while always guarding against their rejection is bowing to the gods of this world. Wanting to be wanted by someone does not have to be wrong, but we can quickly flip it on its head by permitting that desire to control us, even training us to do things we would never do if God managed our hearts. For the first 25 years of my life—before God regenerated me—I sought self-generated and manipulated love by pretzeling myself into whatever person I needed to become so others would accept me. I grew my hair down my back because my friends had theirs down their backs. I became a post-60’s hippie. I would drink beer because my friends did. The ironic thing is that I never enjoyed beer of any kind.

It’s instructive of what a person will do for the acceptance of someone. I smoked weed because my friends did it. My worldview was to become what I needed to be so that others would invite me into their fold. The essence of my worldview was to create the perception of value so others would enjoy being around me. Typically, I would find the most comfortable clique to belong to without going off the deep end, though I teetered along the edge too many times. The path of least resistance for me was to grow my hair long because I would never win friends or influence people on the field of play. I was a smallish, uncoordinated kid. Smoking weed was easier than getting good grades because it took less effort. I went with my strengths.

Creating and sustaining self-worth is like a weightlifting marathon without any relief. It required more work than I could deliver. Eventually, it landed me in jail, which was one of the best things to happen to me. Our culture makes it easier than ever to have self-generated value. You can dye your hair, enhance your breasts, tuck your tummy, and even throw your food back up until you become the person you hope others find appealing. You can go the chemical route to alter your physique. You can present your most favorable self on socials, hoping to receive likes and shares. You can dive into the fantasy world of porn where the average underachiever can create a cyber universe of desperate women to fawn all over him.

Testimony of Scripture

Then there is the Word of God—the ultimate show-stopper. The testimony of Scripture digs deep into dark, despairing, and desperate hearts. In a word, the Word says that we are totally and entirely worthless! Harsh? Unkind? Image shattering? Is it damaging to one’s self-esteem? What about our fragile psyches? Maybe we ought to take a look. Paul said this in Romans 3:12: “All have turned aside; together, they have become worthless; no one does good, not even one.” Isaiah said, “We have all become like one who is unclean, and all our righteous deeds are like a polluted garment” (Isaiah 64:6). Paul ties his matter-of-fact declaration to our inability to achieve any merit or righteousness outside of the alien righteousness of Christ. He’s talking about original and imputed sin.

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Having worthless righteousness and worthless worth are two different things. God made us in His image, which makes us valuable because of Him, but our fallen state makes us incapable of generating righteousness. There’s more about our original and imputed badness from God’s Word, but I’ll not deflate you entirely, though that might not be a bad idea—or at least it helps me to become less stuck on myself when the mirror of Scripture stares me down without apology. It’s just when I start to feel pretty good about myself that the Bible grabs my heart and says that I am worthless. I am the lowest of the low. I stink—from the inside out!

This worldview brought me to the crossroads of righteousness. The Bible prods me to decide if I will create my goodness so others will like me or if I will find righteousness somewhere else. Self-generated righteousness, the more technical term I have been talking about, is tiring and insatiable. There is no end to its demands, and it mandates that I must always be on guard, ever vigilant, hoping never to make the fatal mistake that would put me on the outs with the ones I expect to fill my love cup. Christ-generated righteousness is not dependent on my works because I’m resting in His good deeds on my behalf. His laborious and heroic work for me motivates me to cease striving. Jesus brings order to the chaotic craving of my soul.

Danger, My Friend

Be warned: There is danger ahead if you choose Jesus’ works over yours. You will not be free from the temptation to conjure up your righteousness. Your pride will not let you experience uninterrupted satisfaction in Christ because you’ll want to receive some acclaim. You must die daily. The devil in you—original sin—will push you to promote yourself. Your hideous desires to garner people’s affection will always be crouching at the door of your heart. Fight this, my friend. Don’t give in to the daily temptation to promote your value through self-generated efforts.

The person who realizes they are worthless regarding their righteousness is the individual who is ready to receive another righteousness that is far superior to any self-glorification that they could ever muster up. Practically speaking, I have to attack my pride by immersing myself in God’s Word, regularly praying, and having a group of friends willing to carefully and lovingly speak into my life. Without the watchful eye of my wife, children, and friends, my self-righteousness will grow unchallenged. The following graphic represents a sketch I used in a counseling session to illustrate what I’m sharing with you.

True Righteousness

The boy in green is me. The people in the group at the upper right are the ones that I hope will like me. I sense I need their approval and acceptance, and fear their rejection. Jesus is in the circle. The testimony of Scripture says that I am worthless. I have no inherent goodness; even my good stuff is rotten in the eyes of God (Isaiah 64:6). I’m a mess, with no ability ever to change my condition. While I can fake out others for a season through my self-generated righteousness, it becomes vain work that leads to a wasted life. Jesus Christ is the exact opposite; He has value. He is righteous, and I want to find myself in Christ because I cannot create what He offers freely.

If you’re going to feel better about yourself, you must find Christ. Not only does He have value, but He is valued—the Father loves the Son. The Father is only pleased with me when I’m in His Son. It is like someone appreciating you for the clothes you are wearing. As long as the righteousness of Christ clothes me, I am fully valued, treasured, loved, approved, accepted, and never rejected by the Father. My value is in Christ alone! I can’t work to get it, and I can’t do anything to lose it. Jesus is the treasure in this jar of clay, which can satisfy any soul (2 Corinthians 4:7). Rather than craving the uncapturable approval from other fallen people, you can fully rest in the inextinguishable righteousness of Jesus Christ. In Christ, we can cease striving for people-pleasing.

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Call to Action

  1. Is Christ’s righteousness enough for you? Please explain.
  2. What subtle ways do you get people to praise you? Humble brag? What’s your trick to trick others into liking you?
  3. Are you okay with others correcting you? Do you allow others to care for you, specifically when challenging you? Please explain.
  4. Are you daily growing in your desire to have Christ’s righteousness alone? Talk about how the gnawing internal awkwardness of shame is shrinking.
  5. How are you practically allowing your friends to help you in your fight against self-righteousness? If you’re not having those conversations, will you ask the Father to bring a close, trusted friend into your life so you both can benefit from the richness of these conversations?
  6. Who speaks into your life? How are they helping you mature in Christ?

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