Hal Brady

Hal Brady

A tall good looking young man came to a minister’s office one day to talk. The young man’s very appearance gave evidence that he had a lot to live for, but he had a troubled mind. The youth had just finished taking a series of tests for admission to college. However, the result had not been encouraging. “They tell me,” he said. “I just can’t cut it.”

I would dare say that young man felt what a number feel who are in sight of this article. Sometimes we feel that that we just can’t cut it. We simply do not have a high enough opinion of ourselves. And this unfortunate attitude hurts our relationships, deadens our potential, hinders our usefulness and detours our living life at its best.

There’s a passage of scripture that directly addresses this sense of low self-esteem or worthlessness. In answer to the lawyer’s question about the great commandment, Jesus said, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment. And a second is like it, you shall love your neighbor as yourself”(Matthew 22:37-39).

When we first read these verses, we are so overpowered with “loving God and loving neighbor” that we almost overlook the key ingredient to the entire process — the words “as yourself.” It all begins here. If we are truly to love God and neighbor, we must love ourselves.

So how do we learn to love ourselves and overcome our feelings of inadequacy and worthlessness? Well, it won’t happen overnight, but it can happen.

We can love ourselves by remembering that it is God’s assessment of us that counts! A few years back an advertisement in a national magazine was sponsored by the Humane Society. Of course, the purpose of the ad was to interest people in adopting homeless pets. The ad featured a full page color picture of a puppy and kitten. As an emotional appeal, it accomplished its goal.

But it was the sentence at the top of the page that was and is so crucial. The sentence reads, “It’s who owns them that makes them important.”

That’s also true of us, especially as it relates to our feelings of low self-esteem or inferiority. It is who owns us that makes us important. Who really owns us anyway?

Too many of us measure our worth not by God, but by some distorted reflection from our past or present. Like other personality traits, our self-image has its roots in our early life. If we were given positive feedback from parents, friends, and other people close to us, more than likely we developed a positive self-evaluation.

On the other hand, if these same key people in our lives did not give us regular positive feedback, more than likely we developed a negative self-evaluation. We developed feelings of inadequacy, inferiority and/or worthlessness.

One day an elderly man in a Southern town was talking: ”I don’t amount to much in this town,” he said, “I have not been what men and women call ‘successful.’ But I think I do amount to something with God. I can forget what people around here think of me when I remember what God thinks of me.”

That man was spot on — it’s God’s assessment of us that counts.

We can love ourselves by claiming our uniqueness! There is a personal identify with everything in God’s creation. We are told that out of the billions of leaves on the trees of this planet that there are no two leaves exactly alike. Of all the snow that falls on the earth in the wintertime, no two snowflakes are exactly alike. And then there are fingerprints. There are nearly eight billion people on this earth and there are no other fingerprints like ours.

Now, I want to do something elementary and ask you to repeat the following phrase to yourself, “Because I am unique...”

...Because I am unique I don’t have to compare myself with any other person.

...Because I am unique, I don’t have to be the best there is to make a contribution.

...Because I am unique, I can live above all my low moods.

Many years ago there was an old minister in the Southland who had a sermon entitled, “God Never Made A Person He couldn’t Use.” We can dress that up in a thousand different words, but it always comes back the same. We all have our weaknesses, and we all have our strengths as well.

“Love God and your neighbor as yourself.”

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The Rev. Hal Brady is an ordained United Methodist minister and executive director of Hal Brady Ministries, based in Atlanta. You can watch him preach every week on the Atlanta Interfaith Broadcasters TV channel Thursdays at 8 p.m.

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