I’m sharing some thoughts from Tim Keller’s booklet, The Freedom of Self-Forgetfulness.
Tim writes, “If someone has a problem with low self-esteem, we, in our modern world, seem to have only one way of dealing with it. That is remedying it with high self-esteem. We tell someone that they need to see that they are a great person, they need to see how wonderful they are.”
Do you like people to tell you things like that? I sure do—who doesn’t? But guess what? No matter how many times people tell you that you are a great person and are wonderful—or you tell this to yourself—it doesn’t change who you are, does it? The only way you and I can truly be changed into a person of worth is when we allow God to do it in us. This happens when we are born into God’s family through faith in Jesus Christ and the Holy Spirit takes up residence in us. He begins transforming us into the likeness of Jesus Christ, with ever increasing glory, as we read in 2 Corinthians 3:18.
One clear proof that you are no longer trapped in this false belief about the need for high self-esteem is that you truly forget yourself. You are not the first person you think of in the morning—at least not every morning! You don’t compare yourself to others or feel either superior or inferior to them because you don’t even think about comparing yourself with them. This happens when you are learning to be content with who you are, the way God created you, and how God has gifted you.
Tim also writes, “Boosting our self-esteem by living up to our own standards or someone else’s sounds like a great solution. But it does not deliver. It cannot deliver.” If you’re missing the freedom that is rightfully yours as a daughter or son of God through faith in Jesus Christ and you are trapped in the pursuit of good self-esteem, I invite you to find real freedom by learning what it means to live in the joy of self-forgetfulness.
This does not mean degrading yourself or denying your gifting. Rather, it means coming to a place where you are not always plagued with trying to be what others want you to be or trying to make yourself look good. You’re not very concerned with what others think about you because you are just not thinking about yourself that much.