Have you ever said or thought, “My problem is that I have low self-esteem”? I think most of us have had those feelings at some time in our life. After all, that’s the message we’ve been fed from many sources: If you could just get rid of that low self-esteem, you would feel good about yourself and you could put all your problems behind you.

I’m sharing with you from Tim Keller’s booklet, The Freedom of Self-Forgetfulness. In it, he points out that up until the twentieth century, almost all cultures believed and taught that having too high a view of yourself was the root cause of all the evil in the world. Human pride, selfishness, greed, and evil were presented as the cause for all bad behavior.

However, in our modern western culture, we have developed a completely opposite idea. Now our educational systems, our counseling curriculums, our treatment of prisoners, and much of our legislation starts with the viewpoint that all we need is to feel good about ourselves. Think of some evil in our world today—such as abuse of children. This philosophy would have us believe that this evil would go away if those who abused children didn’t have such low self-esteem.

Even secular psychologists have come to see the error of this belief system. Some have reported that there is no evidence that low self-esteem is a big problem in society, but rather that people with high self-esteem pose a greater threat to those around them. Unfortunately, this is hard for people to accept. As Tim writes, “The thing about the low self-esteem theory of misbehavior is that it is very attractive. You do not have to make any moral judgments in order to deal with society’s problems.”

If you’ve been trapped in this belief that you just needed some better self-esteem, I urge you to let it go and come to God’s truth as given in his Word. Feeling good about yourself can only be achieved as a by-product of knowing who you are in Christ, and then forgetting yourself as you live your life to love God and others. There is great freedom in self-forgetfulness!