The Truth About Self-Pity and Low Self-Esteem

Self-pity is simply the grief that I have nothing to brag about in myself.

Ever have those days when you feel like a failure at everything? The closer I walk with God, the more my sin, my deep-rooted self-love, comes into high-definition focus. And honestly, I'd really love to be the most put-together person in the room, the most spiritual, the most holy, the most fill-in-the-blank woman I know. Why? (Honest confession time.) Because I love boasting in myself!

And if we are all honest, who doesn't? Who doesn't love feeling like they are awesome? Like they are the bomb-dot-com, as my husband would say.

Are you feeling sorry for your sin-sick self today? Be reminded that those "woe-is-me" thoughts are anything but godly. They might seem spiritual and masquerade like noble desires to "be better" for God, but you are only mourning the loss of your own greatness. You are still only focused on yourself.

You were meant for boasting—just not in yourself.

Here is the occasion for the mental guerrilla warfare described in 2 Corinthians 10:3–6. By taking captive our thoughts, the grieving of our own destroyed goodness might lead us to a proper boasting.

The Right Kind of Boasting

First Corinthians 1 is the best cure I know for a low self-esteem. Read it with me here, and if you dare, read it out loud to let it settle on you.

For consider your calling, brothers: not many of you were wise according to worldly standards, not many were powerful, not many were of noble birth. But God chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise; God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong; God chose what is low and despised in the world, even things that are not, to bring to nothing things that are, so that no human being might boast in the presence of God. And because of him you are in Christ Jesus, who became to us wisdom from God, righteousness and sanctification and redemption, so that, as it is written, "Let the one who boasts, boast in the Lord" (1 Cor. 1:26–31).

The truth is the Bible actually encourages a low self-esteem. Did you catch what we were just commanded to do in this passage? We are to consider, meditate, and think on the fact that we are:

  • not wise.
  • not powerful.
  • not noble.
  • foolish.
  • weak.
  • low.
  • despised.

Ouch. Not really the list you would attach to your résumé under "stand-out characteristics." But this is God's description of us. Many of us would do well to lower our self-esteem to match the truth of who God says we are.

Now before you get too depressed and start digging that pit of self-loathing, hear the rest of the message. You were meant for boasting—just not in yourself. Here is the main point of God choosing weak, foolish, low, and despised people:

So that no one may boast before God. Let the one who boasts, boast in the Lord!

If you wanted to know God's goal, this is it. He is in the process of saving people who will have no occasion to rejoice in themselves. He is saving a people who are excited about one thing—God Himself!

The Bible is never meant to give us a higher self-esteem but a higher God-esteem. We are called to esteem ourselves very lowly and esteem Him very highly. He alone is worth glorying in, celebrating, magnifying, and boasting in.

First Corinthians 1 exists because we are so prone to obsess about ourselves. It's good to be reminded that we are not amazing; God is. We are not righteous; God is. We are fools; Jesus is our wisdom. We are weak; He is our strength. The problem with low self-esteem is not that we have it. It's that we don't complete the intended path toward a high God-esteem. Let low self-esteem be your guide into a celebration of God.

Let the Law Lead You

So then, the law was our guardian until Christ came, in order that we might be justified by faith (Gal. 3:24).

My self-pity is often a result of not measuring up to the law. I recognize how selfish I am and feel sad about it. But this is not the point of the law. The law is not meant to keep us standing still, aware of our sin with nowhere to go. The law is meant to be a guide, moving us toward Christ. It is our inability to keep the law that reminds us of our need for a Savior.

Christian, you are meant to re-experience your salvation every day. In each moment you fail, in each moment you don't measure up, in every moment of self-pity or low self-esteem, you are to find in Christ a very present and active Savior from your sin. Not just on the day you first believed, but every day of your life. That all your boasting might be in Him!

For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast (Eph. 2:8–9).

Are you struggling today with a low self-esteem? Are you feeling sorry for yourself? Choose this day to humbly proclaim this truth: "The saying is trustworthy and deserving of full acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am the foremost" (1 Tim. 1:15). Yes, you are the worst of sinners. But yes, you have a strong Savior who is worth every amount of boasting you can muster! Stop mourning that you have nothing to celebrate about yourself, and lose yourself in the joy of celebrating a God like no other who came to redeem undeserving sinners and adopt them into His family!

In what circumstances do you struggle with insecurity and self-pity the most? What hopes do you have for your own glory in those moments? What aspect of God's character can you celebrate when you are tempted to think only of yourself?

About the Author

Kelly Needham

Kelly Needham

Kelly Needham teaches the Bible at her home church where she co-leads a Women’s Teaching Program, training women to accurately handle the word of truth. She is the author of Friendish: Reclaiming Real Friendship in a Culture of Confusion and … read more …

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