BRADY COLUMN: Overcoming the prison of inferiority

Published 11:30 am Friday, February 18, 2022

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Reuel Howe, renowned pastoral counselor and educator, tells of a seminar participant named Joe. It seemed that Joe participated in a seminar for five straight days and offered absolutely nothing. Again and again efforts were made to draw him in because he looked lonely and miserable.

Finally, Joe said, “I haven’t spoken because I don’t feel that I have anything worth saying. I’d rather listen.”

It is reported that in the exchange that followed that Joe admitted that he was tired of listening and would like to contribute. But then he added that he felt inferior because of what he regarded as an inadequate education. The cause may be different, but the condition is the same. Like Joe, numbers of people in our time feel inferior. These folks are imprisoned by a low sense of self-esteem. For the most part, they feel inadequate and worthless. Many are depressed. Specifically, low self-esteem hurts our relationships, numbs our potential and keeps us from useful service.

Now, Jesus addressed this sense of inadequacy, worthlessness and inferiority in his 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” we almost overlook the key ingredient to the entire process-the words, “as yourself.” It all begins here. If we are to truly 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 will not happen overnight, but it can happen.

First, we can love ourselves by remembering that it is God’s assessment of us that counts! 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 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 inferiority. It’s who owns us that makes us important.  So where do we get our idea of our self-worth? Do we get it from some reflected distortion of our past or present? Or do we get it from God?

Second, we can love ourselves by refocusing our incorrect theology!

Some think that while it is right to love other people, it is sinful to love ourselves. Numbers of us are incorrect in our thinking that we must degrade or belittle ourselves in order to be believers. Simply put, our love for God and others is based on our love of self. If we do not properly love ourselves, we cannot properly love God and others Always, we transfer to God and others the attitude we have toward ourselves.  A friend shared that his wife attended a woman’s retreat and a few days later received a letter from the retreat leader. The letter coincided with this prayer: “Oh God, help me to believe the truth about myself no matter how beautiful it is.” We can refocus our incorrect theology.

Third, we can love ourselves by reclaiming our uniqueness! The truth of the matter is that everyone of us is unique and special just because we are alive. There is simply no one else like us. There never has been and never will be. Every one of us is one of a kind, and that ought to make us feel important, unique and special. I once attended a banquet when in Dallas, Texas honoring the great pitcher, Nolan Ryan. What a great pitcher even more, what a great hero for our modern culture. The man who introduced him said, “What makes Nolan Ryan unique is the fact that he has not forgotten that there are other things in life more important than baseball.” That’s certainly true, but what really made Nolan Ryan unique is that he’s one of a kind created by the very hand of God. And that’s also true of you and me. That’s the reason we don’t have to compare ourselves with anybody else, because we are all one of a kind. In reality, there is nothing to compare.  “Love God and your neighbor ‘as yourself.’”