'Live the life you have imagined.' 'Go confidently in the direction of your dreams.' 'Nothing can dim the light that shines from within.' 'What hurts you today makes you stronger tomorrow.' 'Fall down seven times, stand up eight.'
As someone who works in social media, I see these all the time—and if you're online, you will have seen an inspirational post like one of the above. Pithy sayings that encourage and motivate are all the rage at the moment and everyone from your favourite shoe brand to your great aunt will be posting them online at any given time.
What does this say about us? It's not just a millennial fad, as self-help books and many daytime talk shows can attest. The plethora of inspirational posts hitting our feeds is no accident, and it suggests a wider idea about how the world views esteem and happiness.
The message is this: We need to accept ourselves for who we are, and that you should love yourself. This is the answer to true happiness.
Sound familiar? It's a message that permeates our culture. We love the idea of finding ourselves and making ourselves the captain of our fate. It's an appealing idea and can feel empowering.
You may have even heard a Christian version, something along the lines that we should love ourselves because God himself loves us. But this would miss the point.
The point is this: These messages focus on 'ME', and as Christians this is where the stumbling block can be.
Read those inspirational quotes again, and the focus is clear. It's on us and what we want, and it's placing the solution to our problems squarely in the camp of loving ourselves for who we are. We place ourselves at the centre of our universe, and it makes us feel in control.
But what happens when we're not in control? What if we don't feel like we love ourselves, what if we feel like it's all too much? We can tell ourselves we're the best in the mirror every morning, but what foundation do we have when times get tough and it's more difficult to see ourselves this way? Can loving ourselves really be the answer to our problems?
When we look to ourselves for our solutions, we are on shaky ground. We know in ourselves that we don't have the answers to our problems—our inner life is subjective and transitory. We know that we have emotions and feelings that change and affect us, and we are subject to forces beyond our ability all the time.
Christian worth and value
Christians believe that God gives us our worth and value. He is eternal, unlike our transitory emotions and thoughts. He is constant, unlike our own unreliability. He is perfect, which is far from where we are. He has knowledge beyond what we can fathom and we can rely on him. As we read in Galatians chapter 2, verse 20, 'I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me.'
As Christians, it is certainly no sin to love ourselves, but whether we love ourselves or are down on ourselves, the focus is still on US. We need to remember that our worth and value doesn't come from us, what we do or even who we are. We are not defined by what we do—we are defined by who we are in Christ. We can stand tall in the knowledge that we have been given a Saviour who has made us clean and whole.
There is nothing wrong with loving ourselves, but we should do these things rooted in the gospel and knowing that our worth isn't based in anything other than what Jesus did. That is an inspiration and a promise we can hold on to.
Cheryl McGrath lives in Melbourne, Victoria. She is qualified in editing and works in communications.
Cheryl McGrath's previous articles may be viewed at http://www.pressserviceinternational.org/cheryl-mcgrath.html