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Christian Chain Mail No. 4: What if God thinks you suck?

December 17, 2010

Every day my mom is at work, she forwards me some scriptural word of the day. I usually ignore them, but every once in a while, I read them to find out what dubiously religious Biblical quote-mining is the order of the day. You have have seen the other entries in the series here, here, and here. Today’s edition addresses an email entitled: “Your Self-Esteem Must Come from God.”

…I have called you by your name; You are Mine. Isaiah 43:1

Dr. Martyn Lloyd-Jones said, ‘Though you are one of the teeming millions in this world, and though the world would have you believe that you do not count and that you are but a speck in the mass, God says, ‘I know you.’ How wonderful is that?

Take a moment and consider the things in life that rob us of self-esteem. Words such as, ‘I don’t want you; I don’t love you anymore.’ Or ‘You’re unsuitable for the job; sorry, we have to let you go.’ Or, ‘You keep making the same stupid mistakes. You’ll never get it right.’ Or, ‘Why can’t you be like your brother, or your sister, or so-and-so?’

Understand this: 1) Your self-esteem cannot be based on what you do for a living. Because when you can no longer do it you’ll feel worthless. Think about some of the famous people you know: athletes, artists, speakers, etc. When they can no longer do what they do they often get depressed, even suicidal.

2)Your self-esteem cannot be based on what you own. Recently the U.S. housing market lost up to 40% of its value in one year. Millions of people saw their social status go down and their financial security go up in smoke.

3) Your self-esteem cannot be based on other people’s opinion because it will always make you vulnerable to rejection.

What’s the solution? Discover what God thinks about you and build your life on it. ‘…thus says the Lord, who created you…who…redeemed you; I have called you by your name; You are Mine.'(Isaiah 43:1 NKJV) It doesn’t get any better than that!

I guess I can see what the intended message of this is. Don’t get caught in the consumerist rat race. Don’t rely on other people’s opinions. Etc.,

But I find this a bit strange.

I may be imagining all this, but I know plenty of people for whom what they had been taught of what God thinks of them led to the demolition of their self-esteem. It was the fuel of their depression.

Those gays…they know what God expects from them. At best, stay abstinent. At worst, just get over that whole attraction to the same sex thing.

They know what they need to do, yet their failures in doing so (or the void in their lives from attempting) aren’t exactly heartening. What is the result of that? What are the consequences of that? Is that the origin of self-esteem?

I know that some people say that self-esteem is overrated anyway. Emphasizing “self-esteem” has grown a generation of sorry, entitled people, some say.

…but I digress. After I posted the original post, I stumbled upon something that President Uchtdorf had said at the October 2010 conference in his talk “Of Things That Matter Most.”

The fourth key relationship is with ourselves. It may seem odd to think of having a relationship with ourselves, but we do. Some people can’t get along with themselves. They criticize and belittle themselves all day long until they begin to hate themselves. May I suggest that you reduce the rush and take a little extra time to get to know yourself better. Walk in nature, watch a sunrise, enjoy God’s creations, ponder the truths of the restored gospel, and find out what they mean for you personally. Learn to see yourself as Heavenly Father sees you—as His precious daughter or son with divine potential.

This message heads off one of the criticisms in a way — one shouldn’t criticize and belittle oneself until one begins to hate himself. Yet, I don’t know how God is supposed to be a foundation of self-esteem. How does it create self-esteem to know you’re a “precious daughter or son” of God “with divine potential”? What does that even mean? (And note that for non-LDS Christians, this isn’t even completely true. You are not literally the child of God. You are a creature, perhaps a pet, of a different species who perhaps can be adopted into the family. If I understand correctly.)

What does it mean for God to know you when God doesn’t have a great track record of being there for your birthday (or any other day, for that matter). I understand others’ mileages may vary, with some people feeling that they really do feel the companionship of the spirit or feeling that their prayers are answered, but these are not universal experiences.

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17 Comments
  1. Yeah… For myself, I’d say the plummeting self-esteem had to do with the fact that I was going on other peoples’ opinions about what God thought of me… In other words, I had still not transcended the rat race.

    When I went to the source, when I went straight to God to get the scoop from him, I got something completely different (and wonderful!).

    If you do not feel that God communicates with you, I’d say you at least owe it to yourself not to let the bastards grind you down.

  2. Somehow, though, John, I’m expecting that when these people say, “Discover what God thinks about you,” they aren’t anticipating modern and personal revelation (because, from the non-LDS perspective, it doesn’t exist foo’).

    And even if so, this would be a case where your revelation better align with common interpretations of scripture or you’re wrong.

    For your blog and your experiences, consider the *many* other blogs of people who seriously believe what God wants for them is to stay abstinent and alone forever.

  3. I know.

    Which is why I think it’s useful (as you’ve done here) to point out that if other folks are tearing you down, there’s no reason to give more weight to their hearsay about what God supposedly thinks of you than to what you know about yourself.

    I’m just saying.

  4. Update for Uchtdorf talk from conference that I revisited. He aptly addresses that we ought not be criticizing and belittling ourselves to the extent that we begin to hate ourselves. (as a complement to not allowing *other* to criticize and belittle us), so there’s something.

  5. I love President Uchtdorf.

  6. As someone who is likely to be described as having sound self-esteem, I’d say that I don’t esteem myself so much as I get out of my own way. As the bumper sticker says, “it isn’t always about you.”

    But whatever it is, it allows me to veer away from religious belief, because I am not seeking.

  7. As a Christian, I am so **** sick of religious exploitive spam and hoax chain letters, and seeing so many Christians willingly letting themselves get emotionally manipulated and suckered into passing along this dreck. Christians are doing harm to themselves, their reputations and relitionships online with this drippy pseudo-religious crap. I’m a hard-hitting, chain-smashing Christian – yes indeed, a Christian who smashes, not merely dislikes and breaks chain letters. I’m going to smash your examples on my site for Christians breaking chain forwards, of which, I am still the only member. One other Christian friend is eventually going to join when she has the time, but only two of us have taken up the cause to smash fraudulent chain letters as Christians, and put it out there that not all Christians are in love with stupid virals.

  8. Here’s my smash of this chain.

    Chain: …I have called you by your name; You are Mine. Isaiah 43:1

    Miss Capri: If you had, you would’ve put ‘Capri’ somewhere in that sentence.

    Chain: Dr. Martyn Lloyd-Jones said, ‘Though you are one of the teeming millions in this world,’

    Miss Capri: I nixed the rest of the quotation. Martyn Lloyd probably did say all of that, apparently he deals with spiritual depression and how to overcome it, but that’s no excuse to cheapen his message by putting it in a chain message.

    Chain: Understand this: 1) Your self-esteem cannot be based on what you do for a living. Because when you can no longer do it you’ll feel worthless. Think about some of the famous people you know: athletes, artists, speakers, etc. When they can no longer do what they do they often get depressed, even suicidal.

    Miss Capri: Who needs chain letters telling them that?

    Chain: 2)Your self-esteem cannot be based on what you own. Recently the U.S. housing market lost up to 40% of its value in one year.

    Miss Capri: How recent? Back up the stats with a citation and link to some economic source please. And that year could be any year…

    Chain: Millions of people saw their social status go down and their financial security go up in smoke.

    Miss Capri: Stuff happens. Of course people are going to feel down about it, they wouldn’t be living breathing human beings if they didn’t. But just because I may be reduced to tears at losing a job or my house going up in smoke, does not mean I totally built my self-esteem around social status or what I do for a living! Don’t assume such things.

    Chain: 3) Your self-esteem cannot be based on other people’s opinion because it will always make you vulnerable to rejection.

    Miss Capri: Oh, so if someone says something really hateful, I’m guilty of basing my self-esteem on others’ opinions because I got hurt feelings or just really ticked off about it? Rubbish.

    Chain: What’s the solution?

    Miss Capri: Nothing that comes from this chain letter, that’s for sure.

    Chain: Discover what God thinks about you and build your life on it.

    Miss Capri: That’s relative, and I’ve already done that. But not everyone can manage it due to serious depression, anger disorders, and a host of other conditions and situations that no preaching, or even friendships, and certainly no chain letter can fix. Some people don’t even want God in their lives at all, and they may or may not have self-esteem issues, whether they know it or not. This chain letter won’t do a thing for them. If they come to God in their own time, in their own way, I’m pretty sure it won’t be because somebody sent them a fwd. Some people suck to eternity at Christianity and in sucking so badly, turn others off it completely. There are Christians, and then there are the fake Christians who are really dumbarse idiots who believe or claim they are doing things in Christ that Christ himself would never approve of!

    Chain: ‘…thus says the Lord, who created you…who…redeemed you; I have called you by your name; You are Mine.’(Isaiah 43:1 NKJV)

    Miss Capri: Argh! Stop with the exploiting of scripture and people’s emotions to get them passing on forwards! If anyone wants to, they can read the Bible in their own home, and for those of us who like to read online, there is http://www.Biblegateway.com !

    Chain: It doesn’t get any better than that!

    Miss Capri: Sorry, but it’ll take a lot more than reading a few quotes carefully cherry-picked for use in a chain letter to cure the world’s self-esteem woes.

  9. capri,

    That was amazing.

    • Heh, Thanks. And that was fairly mild compared with the way I’ve smashed some. If you could see what I do with the sappy tear-jerking “Don’t drink&drive” poem and guilt-tripping false petitions, the “Men are better/happier” “It’s so great to be a woman” and those *cringe* hug-a-war chains. Let’s just say I’ve managed to scare at least one person who read some of it. And let me get hold of the “forward or a dead girl/clown will kill you” I love eating those for breakfast. They are so much fun to tear apart and rofl at. Sick kid hoaxes and fraudulent religious fwds really make me boil over, though. It was the sick kid hoax that really turned my growing annoyance with chain letters into a mission to crush them wherever they run into me.

  10. I’ve never understood the chain email phenomenon. My chain smashing usually consists of fact-checking on “Snopes.com” or something similar, and then forwarding links to the person who emailed me, showing them how the latest “conspiracy” to promote unbelief in schools or whatever is just an email hoax. I had one cousin who was sending me this crap all the time, and every time I’d just send her back a “Snopes.com” link. To her credit, each time she would follow up with an email to everybody she had just spammed, apologizing and giving them the real story. Eventually, after about a dozen of these, she started to learn how to check Snopes.com herself before passing on the latest right-wing Internet hoax.

    The “feel good” chain emails, I just shrug my shoulders and hit delete…

    • Oh, you might also want to include truthorfiction, hoax-slayer.com and breakthechain.org in the sources for helping smash chain letters. I use all and will write people back with links to debunk whatever chain they send, provided there are links debunking it up on those sites. Lots of times there are none, and for those, I’m usually so incredibly ticked off that it’s just better to put up a smash somewhere than try to write the sender back with just my lil’ ol’ opinion… I got one the other day about saying Merry Christmas and how I should do that, not to actually wish people a Merry Christmas, but to show off that I am a Christian, and to keep “one more American tradition from being lost in the sea of political correctness.” I screamed. Then wrote out a rant. Then sounded off in a rant via Youtube. Besides the fact that no matter whether I say Merry Christmas or happy holidays has no influence on what sort of Christian I am (I’m not going to be damned for saying ‘happy holidays’ any more than I’ll be the best Christian and save a tradition by saying ‘Merry Christmas) it is NOT even an American tradition! Do people never stop to think!? Christmas is celebrated by Christians – world wide! Just think of that! I actually wrote the sender back with a “Christmas isn’t getting killed and sending forwards wouldn’t save it.” or something to that effect.

  11. JGW,

    For any Snope-able email, that’s what I do. My mom has gotten a LITTLE better at this — now, whenever she gets an obviously fake email, she will text me to ask if it’s fake instead of indiscriminately forwarding. But even though I keep telling her that she can use snopes.com on her own, she hasn’t caught on to that yet…

  12. For the other stuff, I try not to get my panties in a knot. I just figure, OK, if this person thinks this is inspirational, cool. Glad they got something good from it (even if I find it a tad trite or annoying or even offensive).

    Occasionally, Göran sends me something really funny. And on RARE occasions, it’s funny enough that I’ll actually forward it on to a few friends…

  13. The problem is that many times, people are so clueless/inconsiderate/ignorant that what they find inspirational is actually hurtful, or it misses the mark.

    This is the same problem that arises when people feel they know what’s in your besy interest but you don’t. Sure, they don’t mean any harm, but the path to hell is paved with good intentions..

  14. With the new year coming, you could possibly be in for a chain that tries to be cute with a bunch of “Rules For 20xx) and is loaded with exploited scripture.

    I’ll smash it here for you.

    Chain Letter Rules, Not God’s Rules – for any year

    Chain: Rules from God for 2009/x

    Miss Capri: Not rules from God. Rules from a chain letter for every year after it first was started, because this thing is likely to circulate for ages in one form or another – and it probably started way back in 1999… There were a few quoted scriptures strategically placed throughout the chain for maximum emotional impact.

    Chain: 1. Wake Up !! Decide to have a good day.

    Miss Capri: Some people are incapable of that especially if they are suffering from depression or some sort of extreme pain or illness. Others just aren’t morning people, so give them time to get on with their day a little and whatever happens, they may call it a good day. Other times you can’t help but have a bad day right from the time you get up, especially if the first thing you receive is some horrible news. (Scripture verse taken out) Don’t abuse scripture in this way to perpetuate a chain letter with a bunch of pithy so-called rules. And don’t try to start off my morning with one of these forwards, because that will not make me feel friendly toward you.

    Chain: 2. Dress Up !! The best way to dress up is to put on a smile. A smile is an inexpensive way to improve your looks.

    Miss Capri: I like that message far more in the Annie musical. In a chain letter it just sounds incredibly cheesy and unoriginal. The scripture said that God looks in your heart rather than on outer appearances while humans focus too much on outer appearance. It really has no connection with the chain letter rule that tried to be cute.

    Chain: 3 . Shut Up!! Say nice things and learn to listen. God gave us two ears and one mouth, so He must have meant for us to do twice as much listening as talking..

    Miss Capri: That’s not God’s rule. No where does it say “Shut up” in the Bible or that nonsense that we should use our mouth less because we’ve only got one. We only have one head as well, remember, but we have 8 fingers and 2 thumbs so by this logic we must try to think less and pass on chain letters 20 times more. Uh, sound good to you? I hope not. The scripture that was quoted means basically in modern english to be careful about what you say, not to just shut up and listen.

    Chain: 4. Stand Up!!….. For what you believe in. Stand for something or you will fall for anything..

    Miss Capri: Take that advice a little closer to home and stop spreading chain letters. Stand up against viral kruft.
    The scripture verse that was placed here encourages people to do good. So, do good by stopping manipulative virals that misuse scriptures and religion in order to get passed along.

    Chain: 5. Look Up !!…. To the Lord.

    Miss Capri: And don’t confuse the Lord with chain letter spam. The scripture that was strategically placed here talked about having the strength to do anything in the Lord. So can you apply this strength and be strong enough not to get hoodwinked by chain letters?

    Chain: 6. Reach Up !!… For something higher.

    Miss Capri: Which discounts this chain letter and all other manipulative virals trying to look higher but are actually not. The scripture that was inserted talked about trusting in, leaning on, and acknowledging the Lord in all thy ways. Yes, trust in the Lord with all your heart and Lean not on chain letters for inspiration, whether they contain scriptures or not. Trust in the Lord, and know that he is not in that forward.

    Chain: 7. Lift Up !!… Your Prayers.

    Miss Capri: You don’t need chain letters telling you this. The scripture verse was a part of Paul’s letter to the Philippians telling them not to worry about anything and pray about everything, in other words, exercise a little more faith in the Lord. To appreciate that scripture fully, keep in mind the context, the time and place in which it was written. Don’t use it to dismiss real concerns as if they are nothing when they come up. By all means pray, but not because a chain letter exploits a scripture verse that tells you to. The praying that counts is the praying that’s sincere.

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  1. Christian Chain Mail #5: Why People Leave the Church « Irresistible (Dis)Grace

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