Self-Love and Self-Esteem; Self-Depreciation or Self-Respect and True Humility. Are these all one-in-the-same thing, and if so are there any problems with any one of them?

The Bible has a number of statements that put humanity in their right place. “God resisteth the proud, and giveth grace to the humble. Humble yourselves therefore under the mighty hand of God, that he may exalt you in due time... But be ye not called Rabbi: for one is your Master, even Christ; and all ye are brethren. And call no man your father upon the earth: for one is your Father, which is in heaven. Neither be ye called masters: for one is your Master, even Christ. But he that is greatest among you shall be your servant. And whosoever shall exalt himself shall be abased; and he that shall humble himself shall be exalted.” —1 Peter 5:5,6; Matthew 23:8-12

Well that is fairly clear counsel in regards to the proper position of our self-love and self-esteem. Spirit of Prophecy lists some 267 references to 'self-love' and 831 to 'self-esteem' and without exception, every statement is opposed to these traits. Some have misunderstood Jesus' counsel to 'Love thy neighbour as thyself' to mean we should love ourselves. But that is not His message, nowhere does the Bible support this. There are verses that indicate the opposite. Jesus said, “there is none good, but one, that is God.” — Matthew 19:17

Jesus was quoting Leviticus 19:18, “love thy neighbour as thyself.” If you don't want others to gossip about you, then don't gossip about them. In other words, He was giving the golden rule, “as ye would that men should do to you, do ye also unto them.” —Luke 6:31

Paul quotes the same text, “love thy neighbour as thyself” (Romans 13:9). In other words, if you don't want your neighbour treating you with adultery, murder, stealing, or bearing false witness, then set a good example for them!

Paul also states that the great sign of sinfulness in these last days will be “men shall be lovers of their own selves,” and the following verses list the 25 sins that are all centred in self-love. (II Timothy 3:1-7)

By contrast to self-love, Jesus said, “He that loveth his life shall lose it; and he that hateth his life in this world shall keep it unto life eternal.” —John 12:25

Paul wrote, “in me dwelleth no good thing... neither count I my life dear unto myself...who am less than the least of all saints.” —Romans 7:18; Acts 20:24; Ephesians 3:8. “Not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think.” —Romans 12:3

So where does all this self-aggrandisement come from? Is there a source and author for it? Self-love is a reflection of Satan who was filled with self-love when he said, “I will exalt my throne...I will ascend... I will be like the Most High” —Isaiah 14:12-15. Spirit of Prophecy states of Satan; “Concealing his real purpose (Satan)...assembled the angelic host. He introduced his subject which was himself.” —SR, p.14

In the parable of the two worshippers,(Luke 18:10-14) one a Pharisee, the other a publican, the Pharisee was full of self-love. “I thank thee, that I am not as other men...I fast twice a week, I give tithes of all that I possess.” I,I,I,I,I!

Nebuchadnezzar's problem was self-love until he was converted. Nowhere does the Bible say we should love ourselves, yet is has become a popular teaching of psychologists, psychiatrists, advertising agencies, and even in Christian ministers sermons, books and counsels.

Self Love

So let's have a look and see what inspiration says about the value of self. To exalt and love ourselves is to even break God's law. “The lover of self is a transgressor of the law...In his love of self...he is...out of harmony with the principles of heaven” —COL, p.392

Both self-love and self-esteem must be overcome and inspiration is definite on this.
“Love of self must be overcome... Self-esteem must be overcome. You must learn to esteem others better than yourself.” —2T, p.188,302

Where does Christ fit into our self-aggrandisement? “Those who are filled with self-esteem and self-love do not feel the need of a living, personal union with Christ...Their self-love...excludes the Saviour from their hearts.” —COL, p.162

With Christ left out of our lives with our self pleasing, heaven cannot penetrate the heart, neither can we enter the strait gate. “The light of heaven cannot penetrate the cold, dark walls of self-love and self-esteem...cannot pass the strait gate, and walk the narrow upward way” —3T, p.535, 435

Judas is left as an example of where selfishness will lead. “The leading traits of character of Judas were covetousness and self-esteem...self-esteem is hateful to God, corrodes the soul with the slime of selfishness...Self-esteem and self-sufficiency are killing spiritual life...there is no room for Jesus...Selfishness and self-esteem should be guarded against as your bitterest enemy. How unlike Jesus Christ...” —ST. Aug.21, 1884; 1888 Materials, p.390; UL, p.333; 5T, p.538; UL, p.250

Ultimately, self will end in ruin. “Self-esteem is a poisonous weed and will end in ruin.” — Ev. p.342; Ed. p.109

“Pride, self-esteem and boldness are marked characteristics of the children of today; and they are the curse of the age...It is not wise to send our youth to universities...Generally those educated in this way have much self-esteem. They think they have reached the height of higher education and carry themselves proudly, as though they were no longer learners. They are spoiled for the service of God.” —CG, p.144; FE, p.467

Conceited Humility

“While speaking to God of poverty of spirit, the heart may be swelling with the conceit of its own superior humility and exalted righteousness.” —COL, p.159

“I have seen that self-glorification was becoming common among Seventh-day Adventists, and unless the pride of man should be abased, and Christ exalted, we should, as a people, be in no better condition to receive Christ at His second advent than were the Jewish people to receive Him at his first advent.” —5T, p.727,728

Those who seek for their own glory, often associate with others with similar sentiments, it builds them up. “He who is seeking his own glory, appeals to the desire for self-exaltation in others. To such appeals the Jews (in Christ's day) could respond. They would receive the false teacher because he flattered their pride by sanctioning their cherished opinions and traditions...Is not the same thing repeated in our day?” —DA, p.212,213

“The love of praise has corrupted many hearts...It is wicked pride that delights in the vanity of one's own works, that boasts of one's excellent qualities seeking to make others seem inferior in order to exalt self.” – 4T, p.223

Any publication we print, should not exalt mankind in any way.”In our periodicals we are not to exalt the work and characters of men in positions of influence, constantly keeping human beings before the people. But as much as you please you may uplift Christ our Saviour.” — CW, p.20,21

“The Bible has little to say in praise of men. Little space is given to recounting the virtues of even the best men who have ever lived. This silence is not without purpose; All the good qualities that men posses are the gift of God...More than this – as lessons of Bible history teach – it is a perilous thing to praise or exalt men; for if one comes to lose sight of his entire dependence on God, and to trust in his own strength, he is sure to fall.” —PP, p.717

“The sin most nearly hopeless and incurable is pride of opinion, self-conceit. This stands in the way of all growth.” —7T, p.200

Love for Christ Deals With Self

While self leaves Christ out, what about the thought of the price of the blood of our Saviour? “Pride and self-esteem cannot flourish in the hearts that keep fresh in memory the scene of Calvary...(and) appreciate the great price of man's redemption, the precious blood of God's dear Son.” —2T, p.212

Self-esteem dies when we behold Christ. “How quickly will self-esteem die when we view the matchless charms of the character of Christ...By beholding Christ, you will become changed, until you will hate your former pride, your former vanity and self-esteem, your self-righteousness and unbelief. You will cast these sins aside as a worthless burden, and walk humbly, meekly, trustfully before God. You will practice love...” — 4BC, p.1178; 1SM, p.388

“As Christ the Pattern is constantly kept before the mind's eye...self-esteem will be laid in the dust...The most sacred lessons of modesty and humility are to be taught to the children both at home and in the Sabbath School” — OHC, p.99; CG, p.144

To overcome this problem of self-esteem, we replace it with love for our brethren and sisters. “Let us diligently cultivate the pure principles of the gospel of Christ – the religion, not of self-esteem, but of love, meekness and lowliness of heart. Then we shall love our brethren, and esteem them better than ourselves... He who loves God will love his neighbor as himself. Pride lifts itself up unto vanity, leading the human agent to make a god of himself. The gospel of Christ sanctifies the soul, expelling self-love” —TM, p.505; Test. Vol.9, p.212

“The lower you lie at the foot of the cross, the more distinct and the more precious will be your views of Christ your Redeemer. The one grace that is so much wanted with everyone who professes to be a follower of Christ is meekness, humility, humbleness of mind. One view of Jesus sends self-importance to the winds.” —5MR, p.246,247

The Worth of Ourselves

“The Lord is disappointed when His people place a low estimate upon themselves. He desired His chosen heritage to value themselves according to the price He has placed upon them. God wanted them, else He would not have sent His Son on such an expensive errand to redeem them.” — DA, p.668; RH, July 14, 1910

“We need a correct estimate of the value of our own souls...The displeasure and judgments of God are against those who persist in loving self, loving the praise of men. They will certainly be swept into the Satanic delusions of these last days because they received not the love of the truth...They are lifted up in self-esteem and self-assurance. —R&H Extra, Dec.23,1890

“All should think and speak modestly of their own capabilities, and should be careful not to encourage pride and self-esteem.” —5T, p.548

On the other hand, we do have to be careful of making ourselves very humble while really being self-centred. “While the Christian life will be characterised by humility, it should not be marked with sadness and self-depreciation...There is no evidence of true humility in going with the head bowed down and the heart filled with thoughts of self... Hearts full of pride and self-esteem...demerit themselves in words, but would be disappointed if (such words)...did not call forth expressions of praise from others.” —GC, p.77; 4BC, p.1140

“If you form too high an opinion of yourself, you will think that your labors are of more real consequence than they are, and you will plead individual independence which borders on arrogance. If you go to the other extreme and form too low an opinion of yourself, you will feel inferior and will leave an impression of inferiority which will greatly limit the influence that you might have for good. You should avoid either extreme...You may be dignified without vain self-confidence...without sacrificing self-respect.” —3T, p.506

“It is not pleasing to God that we should demerit ourselves. We should cultivate self-respect, we should have a conscious dignity of character in which pride and self-importance have no part...Banish no longer your self-respect; for Jesus said I have bought you with the price of My own blood.” —OHC, p.143; TM, p.520

“If they could but see Jesus as He is, and themselves as they are, so weak, so inefficient, so unlike their Master, they would say, 'If my name may be written in the obscurest part of the book of life, it is enough for me, so unworthy am I of His notice.'” —5T, p.160

Self Must Be Overcome

“Every one who enters the pearly gates of the city of God will enter there as a conqueror, and his greatest conquest will have been the conquest of self...In order for us to work as Christ worked, self must be crucified. It is a painful death; but it is life, life to the soul.” —9T, p.183; 6T, p.125

“Though professing to be converted, we carry around with us a bundle of self that we regard as altogether too precious to be given up. It is our privilege to lay this burden at the feet of Christ, and in its place take the character and similitude of Christ. The Saviour is waiting for us to do this.” —9T, p.189,190

“Those who walk humbly with God will not be striving to obtain greater responsibilities, but will consider that they have a special work to do, and will be faithful to their duty...Our simplicity will accomplish much in this work. We are not to try to climb up to high positions or to gain the praise of men. Our aim should not to be  the greatest. We are to have an eye single to the glory of God...So long as he remains consecrated to God, the man who God has endowed with discernment and ability will not manifest an eagerness for high position, neither will he seek to rule or control. Of necessity men must bear responsibilities; but instead of striving for the supremacy, he who is a true leader will pray for an understanding heart to discern from good and evil.” —TM, p.420; MYP, p.26; PK, p.31

“One of the greatest curses in our world...is the love of supremacy. Men become absorbed in seeking to secure power and popularity. This spirit has manifested itself in the ranks of Sabbath-keepers, to our grief and shame. But spiritual success comes only to those who have learned meekness and lowliness.” —6T, p.397

To conclude, following are a selection of quotes that help put us in our proper place before God. After all, there is no better place than at the feet of Jesus, realising our total dependence on Him and the utter inadequacy of self.

“Those who have had the deepest experience in the things of God are the farthest removed from pride and self-exaltaton. They have the humblest thoughts of self, and the most exalted conceptions of the glory and excellence of Christ. They feel that the lowest place in His service is too honorable for them.” — 5T, p.223

”Kneeling in faith at the cross he has reached the highest place to which man can attain.” —AA, p.210

“Come down from your spiritual stilts and practice the grace of humility.” —Ev, p.102

“Human nature is ever struggling for expression ready for contest; but he who learns of Christ is emptied of self, of pride, of love of supremacy, and there is silence in the soul. Self is yielded to the disposal of the Holy Spirit. Then we are not anxious to have the highest place. We have no ambition to crowd and elbow ourselves into notice; but we feel that our highest place is at the feet of our Saviour.”  —MYP, p.162

“Heaven’s golden gate opens not to the self-exalted...But... will open wide to the trembling touch of a little child.” —COL, p.404

“Blessed are the meek. The difficulties we have to encounter may be very much lessened by that meekness which hides itself in Christ. If we possess the humility of our Master, we shall rise over the slights, the rebuffs, the annoyances, to which we are daily exposed... Lowliness of heart is the strength that gives victory to the followers of Christ.” —DA, p.301

“Those who reveal the meek and lowly spirit of Christ are tenderly regarded by God.” —DA, p.301

“Wealth, position, worldly rank in all its varieties and distinctions of human greatness, are all but so many degrees of littleness.” —1SM, p.260

“The only greatness is the greatness of humility.” —DA, p.650

“The unstudied, unconscious influence of a holy life is the most convincing sermon that can be given in favor of Christianity.” —AA, p.511

“Those light-bearers shed forth the purest radiance that are the least conscious of their own brightness, as those flowers diffuse the sweetest fragrance that make the least display.” —5T,p.75

“Among the peculiarities which should distinguish God’s people from the world in these last days, is their humility and meekness.” —4T, p.226

“It is always safe to be meek and lowly and tenderhearted, but at the same time we are to be as firm as a rock to the teachings of Christ.” —9T, p.266

“Constantly reveal the sweetness of His character...The humblest workers, in co-operation with Christ, may touch chords whose vibrations shall ring to the ends of the earth, and make melody throughout eternal ages.” —MH, p.159

“Those who are lifted up with pride, whose souls are filled with vanity, should look upon this picture of their Redeemer, and humble themselves in the dust. The entire chapter of Isaiah 53, should be committed to memory; Its influence will subdue and humble the soul defiled by sin and uplifted by self-exaltation.” —4BC p.1147

Three Wonders in Heaven

“A Christian once said that when he reached heaven he expected to meet with three causes of wonder. He would wonder to find some that he did not expect to see there. He would wonder not to see some that he expected to meet and lastly, he would wonder most to find so unworthy a sinner as himself in the Paradise of God. Many who have stood in high places as Christians upon the earth, will not be found with the happy throng that shall surround the throne.” —ST, Feb.24, 1890

Based on The Time of the End, by James Hayward, p.560-566