Our culture insists we should love ourselves, make time for ourselves, do something for “me” for a change. This state of mind is supposed to lead to a stronger self-image. A book by Robin Meade, published in 2009, is entitled Morning Sunshine! How to Radiate Confidence and Feel It Too. In preparation for writing this book, I remember seeing that she was soliciting suggestions for “what you do to gain self-confidence.” (I have not read this book and am not likely to.)
The more we concentrate on ourselves, the more self-absorbed and selfish we become, and our true self-confidence gets shaky. I remember as a self-conscious teenager, for a time I thought people were constantly judging me, staring at me, talking about me. Some wise person—I’ve forgotten who—told me other people were too busy worrying about themselves to worry about me. That thought helped me gain a little better perspective.
The more we are concerned about other people, their needs and longings, the less we worry about ourselves. The more we give ourselves away to God and to serving other people, the stronger and more free we are.
Here’s a little story in Luke 10:
On one occasion an expert in the law stood up to test Jesus. “Teacher,” he asked, “what must I do to inherit eternal life?”
“What is written in the Law?” he replied. “How do you read it?”
He answered, “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind’; and, ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’”
“You have answered correctly,” Jesus replied. “Do this and you will live.”
But he wanted to justify himself, so he asked Jesus, “And who is my neighbor?”
In reply Jesus said: “A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, when he was attacked by robbers. They stripped him of his clothes, beat him and went away, leaving him half dead. A priest happened to be going down the same road, and when he saw the man, he passed by on the other side. So too, a Levite, when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side.
But a Samaritan, as he traveled, came where the man was; and when he saw him, he took pity on him. He went to him and bandaged his wounds, pouring on oil and wine. Then he put the man on his own donkey, brought him to an inn and took care of him. The next day he took out two denarii and gave them to the innkeeper. ‘Look after him,’ he said, ‘and when I return, I will reimburse you for any extra expense you may have.’
“Which of these three do you think was a neighbor to the man who fell into the hands of robbers?”
The expert in the law replied, “The one who had mercy on him.”
Jesus told him, “Go and do likewise.”
The two most important commandments, according to Jesus, are to love God and other people. Nowhere does it say “love yourself and worry about your self-confidence.” It says to give yourself away and you’ll find life—a sort of paradox. It’s funny how much paradox is all around us even when we aren’t aware of it.
**I borrowed the picture of the God billboard from this linked site.