Many of us from an early age learn to wear ‘masks’ to hide who we really are in an attempt to make others like and respect us. We may hide our weaknesses and flaws, but in reality, we are not realizing our God-given potential because we are bound by an incorrect, unhealthy attitude toward self. When our attitudes toward self are distorted, we are not able to fully fulfill the unique role that God has created for us in His divine plan.
God’s original intentions and the effect of sin
The highest point of God’s creative activity was the creation of human beings, male and female. The first couple were created in God’s image, filled with the qualities and characteristics of God. They had a perfect relationship with God, a beautiful, loving relationship with each other and a fulfilling, inspiring relationship with creation. They were completely content, humble and at peace. They were confident in their own value and in their relationships, and had a healthy attitude to self. There was no sin, no death, no shame, no distress, no disease.
Tragically, the first couple disobeyed God and, as a result sin, shame and death entered the world. Their relationship with God was broken and they were afraid. Their relationship with each other was damaged and they felt ashamed and bitter towards each other. And their relationship with creation was spoiled and they had to struggle to preside over it. Sin negatively affected every part of God’s creation.
Sin entered the lives of the first couple so that they were no longer full of God’s characteristics. No longer were they completely happy and content, with satisfying roles. Instead they were filled with guilt and shame and had to struggle to survive. Sin distorted their attitude to self and marred their self-image.
God’s plan of Restoration
God’s amazing plan is, through Jesus, to redeem, restore, and heal everything spoiled by sin, including our inherently marred self-image and our distorted attitude to self. So although each person’s attitude to self has been affected by sin, God has continued to create human beings in His image. Each person is born with some of God’s characteristics and has potential to become more like Him. (Psalms 103 &105 summarise God’s characteristics and attributes.)
Becoming the people God created us to be
Knowing that each person has been created in God’s image with the potential to become more like Him can be radically transformative. It can set each of us on a journey to becoming more fully the person God desires. Discovering that we have certain characteristics because God has created us in His image can help us to value ourselves more and can start to heal our marred self-image. Getting rid of negative characteristics that result from our own sin, as well as those caused by the injustice and failings of others, is part of the liberation of the whole person offered through God’s plan of reconciliation.
Jesus is our greatest example of a person with a healthy attitude to self, a person fully aligned with God the Father’s plan. He demonstrated both humility and high self-worth. The gospels reveal Jesus in His humanity, fully manifesting the characteristics and qualities of God. His teaching inspires and encourages us to become more like Him. As we follow Jesus, His Spirit dwells within us to guide us in His ways and to mould us more fully into His image and into the unique individuals He created each of us to be. In this process, arrogance and debilitating low self-esteem are increasingly replaced by humility and a high sense of worth.
Sometimes our negative aspects of self can be transformed instantaneously as we submit to God and request that He form specific characteristics within us. Several people I know, when they realised that God was slow to anger, understood that He could not have created them quick to anger. They asked God to make them slow to anger and give them patience. For some, patience was simply formed within them from that time, while to others God revealed a simple way by which they could control their anger.
More often, perhaps, the transformation of our marred self demands a more intentional process of submitting ourselves to God and allowing His spirit to reveal truths about who we are and how we can become the unique individuals He has created us to be.
We must prayerfully examine key truths about how God sees us, and acknowledge ways in which we have allowed lies to influence us, identify personal habits that reinforce our unhealthy attitude to self, and address how we respond to other people’s opinions of us. Do I:
- Always compare myself with others?
- Seek affirmation and approval from others?
- Criticize others while justifying myself?
- Accept unhelpful cultural attitudes about my physical appearance?
God’s Spirit can help us to change any wrong thinking, to replace unhelpful habits with new life-giving habits, and to resist untrue, negative opinions of others. We can practice daily habits that facilitate this change:
- Study Jesus’ example of humility and self-worth.
- Don’t pretend to be different from who you really are.
- Choose to use failure positively.
- What can you learn from your failure?
- What can you do about it? Do you need to apologize to anyone?
- How can you avoid making the same mistake again?
- Pray for God’s help and reflect on your positive achievements.
- Reject any unhelpful cultural view of your physical appearance.
- Choose to reflect on God’s view of you.
- Choose to develop the inner beauty of patience, love and encouragement.
- Choose not to compare yourself with others.
- Refuse to find fault with others or to gossip.
As our attitude to self becomes more aligned with God’s desire for us, we are better able to fulfill the role He has for us in His amazing plan. As our relationship with God deepens throughout our lives, His love transforms us more and more into His image. We increasingly become the persons He has created us to be who bring glory to Him!
Kate Marsden has 15 years of wholistic ministry leadership experience. She is co-founder of Mustard Seeds Shared with her husband, John. The Marsden’s live and minister in Bangladesh and beyond.