The Paradox of Perspective
There are two extremes in our perceptions of our selves: pride and low self-esteem. While the western culture tends to encourage one and discourage the other, they are both equally sinful in the eyes of God.
The person who exhibits excessive pride says “I don’t need God”, “God has never done anything for me,” or “I have done everything myself.” This person is failing to acknowledge God as the provider of every breath they have taken, every thought they have had, and every success they have enjoyed in their life. They believe they are self-made and self-sustaining. This thinking prevents them from acknowledging any sin and therefore confessing that sin which in turn prevents them from experiencing the love, grace, and mercy of God in their lives. But, because these people are controlled by pride, they don’t even recognize their need for such things.
At the other end of the spectrum are the people with low self-esteem. These people feel they are too worthless, too sinful, or too far gone for God to care about them. Low self-esteem is equally as sinful as pride because it refuses to acknowledge God as the creator and sustainer of all. Where the prideful person takes credit for all the good things in his life, this person fails to acknowledge anything good in his life. He also excludes himself from God’s love, grace, and mercy because he fails to respond to God’s voice.
Both of these attitudes are sin because they fail to praise and worship God for who and what He is, and to submit to His will.
I believe we all suffer from the effects of pride and low self-esteem, some to greater degree than others. Even within the church these two sins are evident in the lives of people. The pastor who thinks he is never wrong (or never good enough) and the pew-sitter who thinks he is never good enough (or never wrong) are equally guilty of sin due to improper perspective.
Here is an illustration on perspective. The new World Trade Center in New York City is billed as the tallest building in the western hemisphere and the 4th tallest in the world. At 1,776’ tall the WTC is impressive as it towers over the city and the view from the top is awe inspiring. But, a few blocks away there are people living in cardboard boxes that are neither impressive or awe inspiring. When we envision these two structures, one creates a sense of pride and the other a sense of low self-esteem within us. We also tend to look at ourselves and other people with the same prejudices.
I believe this is because of our perspective. From the street level, the WTC is a massive structure but from space, it is indistinguishable from the box down the street. This paradox of perspective also applies to people. When we look at ourselves or others from our point of view, we can only see what is visible from the street level. Some people look and act like the WTC and some look and act like cardboard boxes. But when God looks at us, He sees us all the same.
Below are two pictures of New York City. In one picture there are stark differences, in the other, everything is the same. This is the way God sees each of us. While we are all different in His sight, we are also all the same. We are different because He created each of us as unique individuals, but we are all the same in that we are all equally sinful in His eyes. None of us has reason for pride, and none of us has reason for low self-esteem. Both of these attitudes reject the work of Jesus Christ on the cross and therefore prevent us from enjoying the love, grace, and mercy of God.
The prideful person must acknowledge his sin and humble himself before God. The person with low self-esteem must accept the new creation that they have become. Both must acknowledge that the blood of Christ has made them acceptable to the Father. Both must praise and worship God the Father as the Giver and Sustainer of life and all that life includes. And both must submit their lives to the will of the Giver of life.
The Bible teaches us that we are all sinners damned to Hell. But the Bible also teaches us that we are loved beyond comprehension. This paradox of perception is difficult to understand and as humans, we tend not to trust things we don’t understand. In my own life, I often find myself struggling to reconcile the conflicting positions. When I am enjoying the view from atop the WTC, I tend to forget that God put me there, and when I am quivering in my cardboard box I tend to forget that God has promised to never leave me nor forsake me.
Regardless of my position, I must always check my pride and low self-esteem, submit myself to the will of my Creator and Sustainer, and worship and praise His name because He alone is worthy of such.
I cannot allow the paradox of perception to block my acceptance of God’s truth and neither can you.
Dear friend, please take a moment to meditate on these words and ask the Holy Spirit to impress upon you God’s view of you.