Now for the hard part. Choosing HOW to build our self images. There are three possible foundation materials we can use to form our self images.
The first is the best: the rock of the Messiah Jesus, who is Truth. We must believe and trust that what God says about us is True. He says I am fearfully and wonderfully made! That means he designed my quick sense of humor and my observant nature because they would be a delight to Him.
I can use my quick wit to slash others’ self confidence and I can choose to nit pick every little thing I hear; but that is me allowing God’s creation to be bent and twisted with sin. Mind renewal, submission to authority and allowing myself to be transparent to close and God-seeking friends is required to keep me walking upright, rather than bent by sins that I don’t want to acknowledge, that need to be put out of my life!
But to have an excellent self image that is TRUE, I MUST believe myself to be what God says I am. I must believe what He says about sex and marriage despite the message TV shows and women’s magazines give me (or, gulp! The hopefully-airbrushed pictures in men’s magazines.) I must believe what He says about modesty rather than what the fashion critics say about the hot new look. I must believe what He says about my talents, attitudes and actions rather than what my office or neighborhood rival says.
If that in ANY way sounds easy, don’t be misled! In our society, messages about who we are and what we have to do and be so we can be considered valuable, are surrounding us daily.
Recently a friend of mine confided how hurt she had been, when she gave a home jewelry show presentation. A guest of the show was seated to her right, and this guest kept turning to the woman on her own right, and criticizing my friend’s demonstration. Her remarks were cutting, and just loud enough that my friend endured them through the entire show; carrying on with her presentation; but all the while wondering if she was really doing as badly as the guest was saying. Imagine the difficulty in continuing her demonstration with that constant negative feedback. That is an extreme, although effective, example of the assault the world can wage on our self images.
How hard it is sometimes to believe what God says about us, and to let His truth over-rule what we hear everyday! Some of us—like me– were not raised to respond to the continual direction & redirection of God’s Word. Hearing that we have to believe what God says and reject whatever disagrees with His Word can be a totally new concept! To understand that this is a daily and sometimes hourly task is a really difficult idea to grasp!
The second foundation material we can use to build our self-image is compliments and criticism of those we come in contact with. It seems obvious that we shouldn’t base our view of ourselves on every criticism we receive. Not so obvious is how unhealthy it can be to place our image in the hands of the compliments we get. I don’t mean that we should disregard compliments—those can encourage us when we’re ready to give up. And we can’t disregard all criticism—it can be quite constructive when verified and prayerfully evaluated. But we are in a very weak position if we base how we see ourselves on the feedback we get from humans.
Compliments are given based on what the speaker values. The danger lies in enjoying the appreciation enough to begin basing our values (what we hold dear) on that compliment.
Think we would never do that? If one constantly praises a little girl for her appearance (Oh! Aren’t you cute!) she can begin to value/place importance on her attractiveness. Of course, I’m not advocating we never tell the young girls in our lives that we think they are beautiful—but it’s very important to demonstrate by our comments that we also place a high importance on how beautiful her heart is, how proud we are that she is improving her mind and learning to serve God.
When I first learned how damaging it could be to constantly emphasize how pretty a little girl was, I developed a habit of catching her doing something kind or thoughtful, and telling her that she was as pretty inside as she was outside. (I tried to make sure she understood what I meant, but who knows, there could be dozens of little girls out there whom I convinced that their small intestines are quite attractive!)
Of course, I don’t’ think we need to spend much time on how unhealthy and unhappy we’ll be if we base our image of ourselves on the criticism of those we come in contact with. People are human, and their view of us is naturally limited. They can’t see our hearts, as God can. And even those who dearly treasure us and know us well can mistake our motives and comments frequently! Their moods and pasts can also influence what they say to us, too, of course.
On to the third self-image foundation material. We can build our self image by tearing others down, verbally, and building ourselves up with the rubble. This one is the most dangerous to us and to others. Not only does it leave a swath of destruction in our wake, but the material has invisible stress cracks, and must constantly be shored up with more rubble.
Have you ever been guilty of turning to a friend and making a snide remark about someone’s appearance, intelligence or comments? I have. It made me feel clever, or more stylish or better informed and I usually did it with a seemingly appreciative audience (well, they were laughing or agreeing, anyway.) And the “victim” rarely heard my comments. That’s building myself with the rubble of someone I just tore down. And it never really hit home until my friend described her jewelry demonstration experience. Of course, we all know people who make such remarks out loud, within the victim’s hearing. But keep in mind, this is destructive to the speaker (not just the victim) whether the comments are made quietly or publicly.
Do you know what God says about you? Is that how you view yourself? Frankly, you’re NOT ALONE if you don’t really look at yourself the way He sees you. BUT—you CAN begin to see yourself that way. And there’s no “magic” or “hocus pocus” involved.
Start at the very beginning. “God created…” First, spend a little time thinking about the creation PROCESS. It begins with DESIGN, doesn’t it? Now, when you decide to create something (lets say, a cake) you immediately begin to decide to put things into the batter that YOU LIKE, right? Well, there you go. Before God created YOU, He decided to PUT THINGS HE LIKES into His design of you!!!!