Dear Sisters and Brothers,
We have all met people who have an exaggerated opinion of themselves. Thankfully, they are not very common, but we probably have run into a few of them at work, at school, or in the branches of our extended family trees. The psychological problem they have is called narcissism. In general, they deny any kind of criticism.
At the other end of the scale are the people who have insufficient self-esteem. They accept every bit if criticism they get and pile on loads of self-criticism. They can be very kind and generous people except when they come to considering the person in the mirror. There seem to be a lot more of these self-haters than narcissists. We meet them everywhere.
This self-loathing is like an auto-immune disorder. This self-attack can be relentless. It can drive them to becoming perfectionists or people who find It hard to cope with daily stress. It is made worse by the way they filter what others say. They don’t believe compliments, but they latch onto harsh criticism. They don’t remember their successes as well as they remember their failures. Instead of having humility they constantly feel humiliated.
The parts of a person’s mind and soul can’t be separated as well as we describe parts of a car engine or the ingredients of a recipe. People with low self-esteem are also prone to depression, anxiety and compulsive behavior. It is always a complicated mess.
Whether we are on the inside or outside of this problem, our challenge is to share God’s love with these people. We need to communicate again and again that there is a middle ground where they see themselves as neither the heroes or villains of their own stories.
Actually there is another group of people who constantly shift from these two extremes. That’s another topic, though.
Humility, the balance between self-loathing and narcissism, admits who we really are.
We are sinners who are loved by God.
We are neither perfectly good nor perfectly bad.
We are the sometimes like demons and sometimes like an angels, but we are neither.
We are parts of God’s creation who are also God’s adopted children.
The difficult truth is that it is extremely hard to help someone to find balance. It takes extreme patience and diligence.
The best thing is to remind them is that Jesus came to save all of us sinners. It is never a question of us being good enough for salvation. It is only a question of Jesus being good enough… And he is.
And remember that narcissists don’t need your approval, but most people don’t need much criticism.
And… if you can, help the self-loathers to find something inside themselves that is worthy of praise… And sincerely praise those things.
All of this can be an incredibly difficult task, but it is incredibly important.
If you hate yourself, please understand that you are loved by God and by people who know you well. You have to help yourself out of this pit as the rest of us are there to help you out and cheer you on. Most importantly, try to accept the fact that God loves all kinds of people… Including you.