I’ve written a lot recently about depression and anxiety and how they impact my life. In the past I’ve commented on the ways that they affect my self-esteem or self-worth and skew my understanding of Christian teachings. My perception of my own worth, God’s love for me, and the gospel have been extremely warped by my mind’s tendency toward negative thinking. For example, let me share with you The Gospel According to My Depressed Mind:
- You suck.
- Jesus died for your sins, because He kind of had to since it was the right thing to do, so you suck a little less.
- But really, you still suck.
- Please, above all else, don’t forget that you suck, so you can fully appreciate how awesome Jesus is and what a great thing he did for you, because you suck SO MUCH.
As you can imagine, living with this understanding of the gospel is pretty miserable. Fortunately, I’ve come a long way in changing it to know that Jesus died for me because he loves me so incredibly much. But my default setting is still to doubt that God actually loves and likes me. I get nervous that actually feeling good about myself is bad, because maybe I’ll forget that I’m a sinner and become prideful and think that I don’t need God. Actually remembering the real truth of the gospel is a struggle because it feels wrong and foreign to my distorted mind.
This has made reading my Bible or Christian articles and attending church, very, very hard, because the second I hear anything that is a reminder of the fact that we’re sinful and don’t deserve our salvation, my depressed mind says, “Ha! I told you so. You actually do suck. It was totally wrong to try to feel good about yourself.” I’m learning to deal with this by having pep talks with Dave about what the pastor or the article is really trying to say and how my mind is warping it. It’s not them, it’s me.
But I’ve started noticing something horrifying: It’s not always just me. Some Christian teachings that I’ve read or heard really do contain the message that self-esteem is wrong, or at least it’s their logical conclusion. Some Christians really do think that feeling good about yourself denies the truth that we’re sinful. For some, there seems to be an obsession with sin, that above all else, we must never forget that we really do suck and don’t deserve anything.
These messages, as you might imagine, are a huge stumbling block to those struggling with depression and anxiety. But they lead to awful consequences for more mentally healthy Christians, too.
In the next few weeks I’ll be exploring both the harmful messages about self-esteem that I’ve come across and their effects on Christians, arguing that we need to stop being afraid of self-esteem. Stay tuned.