Exceptionally low self-worth plagued my early years. In elementary school, life lost so much joy I also lost laughter for several months. In high school, primarily only the permanence of suicide kept that from being tried. In college, I learned how to gold medal in competition—with others.
You see, if I had little innate worth, then I could build worth from comparing myself to others. Or, put bluntly, competing. Of course, they remained oblivious to the carefully chosen contests. With Mac, it was having a better looking girlfriend. With Bob, I exceeded his grades. With Steve, I had better looks. With Ron, my dad had a faster car! As long as I could outdo a person in one area, then I had some worth.
Of course, that meant I needed people. Not as real friends, but to use them for my own manipulative needs. Any acceptance they gave me added to my meager esteem.
But returning to God at 23 brought an unexpected change, and a startling revelation about spiritual formation. God soon showered me with realizing I had some innate worth. After all, he allowed his son to become sin for me. He loved me as I was, but too much to leave me as I was. He not only transformed my behavior, but my view of myself.
So, I no longer needed people. I mean, not in competition. God valuing me gave enough value that I didn’t need to compete with others. Ironically, the less I needed them for me, the more I needed them. For the better, inner me. For the kingdom. For them. For God.
I no longer had to live up to their expectations to gain their approval, which ironically provided the freedom to be the person God meant me to be. I could choose, with God’s direction, what to do to enhance me spiritually, to advance the kingdom. I found that saying no to some plans others had for me allowed me to say yes to the most important options.
And, relationships improved. Being less shackled to others’ opinions deepened my connection with God. Gaining self worth from God meant that I could enjoy people for who they are, not what I could get from them. I hope this all makes sense.
Kick Starting the Application
So, three tips that you can ponder on how to make spiritual formation work.
Grab onto the value God places on you. He made you in his image. That principle will transform your appreciation of God. And of yourself.
Because self worth primarily comes from God, put pleasing him above pleasing others. Again, that will free you from living up to others’ expectations of you so you can focus on pleasing God. That principle will transform your intimacy with him.
Love people for who they are. Accept them as God accepted you. Imperfect, but with innate worth. Focus on benefitting them spiritually, not vice versa. That principle will transform your interpersonal relationships.