Let's take a look again at Philippians 4:8 . See Healthy Living Verses.
"Whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things."
There is no use denying that a considerable part of our thought life is self-absorbed. Although we should strive to be as God-focused as possible, there are going to be times when we think about ourselves. Philippians 4:8 applies to all thoughts, even our self-focused ones. So how do we think lovely, excellent, praiseworthy things about ourselves? I'm not suggesting we use this verse to foster self-esteem because I'm not a big fan of self-esteem.* It's indiscriminate. Most of the time, it does not reflect the truth of who we are. For instance, American students rank number one in academic confidence, and yet of all developed countries, they are (statistically) the worst at mathematics. Clearly having an inflated ego doesn't aid a person in understanding what it true. Here's what else is wrong with self-esteem: When children believe they are good at everything, they lack focus. They also lack the motivation to improve. Self-esteem is a slippery thing. Without the skills to back it up, an inflated self- image brings denial and anger when an individual is confronted by her flaws. Self-esteem is not lovely or admirable; it's competitive. It often feeds on the failures of others.
We are reading Humility by Andrew Murray for our adult Bible Study. Humility is truly a Jesus thing. Christ taught us to wash one another's feet, to keep our mouths shut when we're right, and to be ok when others are praised and we are forgotten. None of this means that we must think poorly of ourselves. One word for Biblical humility is meekness, not being abrasive. It's gentleness. This applies not just to how we treat others, but it applies to how we treat ourselves. This is why I prefer self-compassion to self-esteem.
Self-compassion is simply treating yourself with compassion, as you would treat any other person. It is allowing God's Spirit, that lives within you, to comfort you when you are feeling low. Self-compassion looks like a mother caring for her child's skinned knee. A good mother would not tell her child he is overreacting, nor would she compare him to other children still standing. She certainly wouldn't look at the hurt knee and deny it happened. Instead, she would pick her little one up, hold him close, and remind him that everything will be ok. That is a picture of self-compassion, and I believe that it can be very Spirit-led. Self-compassion enables you to seek healthy ways of slowly improving, rather than quick-fixes or beating yourself up or ignoring the problem. It helps you during hard times—times when high self-esteem has collapsed. Self-compassion has allowed me to feel God's grace and mercy in my shortcomings (and even in my successes). It is treating myself like a creature of God, and allowing Christ's power to be made perfect in my weakness (2 Corinthians 12:9). I have always struggled with self-criticism. As I've started practicing self-compassion, I have become much more at peace with myself. I am living out Ephesians 4:2, not only to others, but also myself. My current mantra is "Be humble and gentle, be patient, bear with yourself in love." I've passed this self-compassion teaching onto my children.
Children who set goals and accomplish them and who have parents who invest in them, usually develop healthy, positive self-talk. It has been said that a parent's words are the words her children hear in their minds. So be high-minded! Still, even with positive parents, it's a rough world out there. Most of us at some time or another have struggled to keep our thoughts above water. For children who have lived through trauma, this is especially true. I don't like to share too much information about my children on my blog, but I am always happy to talk openly with moms and dads who have or are considering adopting older children. Every adoption comes from a place of loss, and this is especially true for older children. Negative thoughts come from negative experiences. As a family, we have made a BIG effort to replace our poor self-talk with talk more in line with Philippians 4:13.
Last year we tried Beans for Thought. I put ten relaxing, positive thoughts on a 3 X 5 card and ten beans in a bowl. Each day the kids moved the beans from one bowl to another while repeating these positive thoughts. This worked great. The beans added interest and also helped the kids to slow down enough to think about what was being said. A few weeks ago, I had such a bad cold I couldn't get anything done. I decided to sit down and draw. I made a new list of affirmations. I wanted to think about Bible Verses that would help nurture positive feelings of self. Whenever I sense a child is slipping into negativity and acting out, I sit down with him or her, and we work our way through the cards. It's an opportunity to think about what is true and right about ourselves. We affirm what is lovely, admirable, excellent, and praiseworthy. It is a time to be compassionate and loving with ourselves and to remember who we are in the Lord.
*The history of self-esteem is rather fascinating.
Interested in learning more about self-compassion? Try this site.