Compassionate Love: Displaying Compassion for Those Who Struggle with Mental Illness (c)2015 Nancy Virden
“We always watch ____(fill in the blank).” My kids would say this in public sometimes when they had only seen a show’s trailer. Whether or not it was a program approved by me, the message was sent that I gave permission to view it all the time. This was embarrassing, especially if I had stated just the opposite to the same people.
“Whoooooooaaaaaaa!” Jon would fly across the grocery store aisle and land on his rear end. If he was, as all little children do, walking backward or oblivious to his surroundings, he would feel a touch on the shoulder to get his attention, sparing carts and displays all over Cleveland. In response, he would sometimes dramatically fall back as if he’d been hit. He stopped after I sat him down one day and warned him what could happen if observers believed he was actually being thrown.
In both cases, I was not being suitably represented.
We humans are God’s image-bearers. Simply put, that means it is our job to represent him well. Since he made us, how can we prove our esteem for him if we are carrying none for ourselves?
Here is the hard truth. Contempt for oneself is not the opposite of a swelled head. It is actually false humility. Basically, when we say we have so little value no one can like us, we have lifted ourselves to the heights. Not only are we valueless, we are mega-valueless. So valueless in fact, not even God could love these heaps of mess.
With one fell swoop, God has been tossed off his throne and we have become the center of the universe. A healthy self-esteem show s reverence for the Creator as we accept that he never makes mistakes.
The term “esteem” gets a bad rap. Some people seem to interpret it as too high a regard, a favoritism of sorts. Preface this idea with “self” and it becomes a ten-letter bad word.
Fact is, esteem has gradations. From considering God with reverence to prizing a favorite work of art, esteeming someone or something is a form of valuation. How much esteem is involved is another concept altogether.
Too much self-regard is obnoxious. Too much self-hatred is, well, sad. Both are destructive.
Our value is what God says it is. The Bible says he loves the world, of which we are parts, so much he sent Jesus to pay the penalty for sins (John 3:16-17). Reflecting on those words, one can see Jesus did not die to raise anyone’s self-esteem.
Christ’s death and resurrection was for the purpose of making a way for me and everyone else to avoid paying the ultimate price for selfishness and pride, and to restore human-to-God relationships. God’s love as displayed through Christ is what raises us to walk with and learn from him.
Our problem is not lack of value, it is that we do not represent him well. In other words, God values each one enormously, but unless we accept our primary purpose is to enjoy and glorify him, we are choosing to step out of appropriate, balanced self-esteem.
Does God love people with whom he is not presently pleased? His love is so profound that he sent Jesus Christ to die for us before we cared. His love never fails. He always hopes, always perseveres, and even disciplines us so we can become children who reflect his character.
Self-esteem is appropriate; we have to learn to regard ourselves with the value God places on us. We bear his image, and need to think and act like it.
~~This post is an excerpt from Always the Fight 2nd edition to be released October 27, 2015. Available on the Books page of this website. ~~
NOTE: I am not a doctor or mental health professional. I speak only from personal experiences with and observations of mental illness. In no way is this website intended to substitute for professional mental health care.
If you are struggling emotionally today or feeling suicidal, or concerned about someone who is, please call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline 1-800-273-TALK (8255). Hope and help can be yours.
*pictures from QualityStockPhotos.com