Pornography, Self-Esteem, and Selfishness

I caught some flack recently for using the word “self-esteem.”  Apparently, and unbeknownst to me, it has joined a ranking of Christian curse words- anti-Biblical and evil.  I understand the reasoning, but I strongly disagree.


The Reason Christians Have “Outlawed” Self-Esteem

Mainstream psychology teaches that we are all, deep inside, good people who just need to believe in how good we are.  Poor self-esteem is used as an excuse for a lot of things, including women getting into pornography (the actual industry itself).  It has become a scapegoat- an excuse for us being not-so-good human beings.

Flip on to popular reality shows and you’ll hear it.  She’s a hoarder because she has low self-esteem.  He’s a drug addict because he has low self-esteem.  He shot his mom because he has low self-esteem.  She eats dirt because she got made fun of for being fat.

So the remedy to every problem is to just increase someone’s self-esteem.  All we have to do is get them to see how good they are, and then they will stop hoarding, doing drugs, shooting people, eating dirt, etc, etc, etc.

It makes perfect sense then that we, as Bible believing Christians who actually believe that man is intrinsically bad, would shy away from a psychology that teaches self-reliance, and self-dependence.  We should shy away from a philosophy that says all goodness is found within ourselves.


What Self-Esteem Really Is

Self-esteem is the way I view and perceive myself.  That’s what it is.  That is what the words mean.  Whether or not you agree with the psychological application of it does not change that we each have some form of self-esteem.

Self-Esteem is how I perceive my own worth.  It does not include how I convey that worth (self-image) or how I act on that perception of worth.

One man, unhappy with my use of the word, said that when he was committing adultery, he felt like he knew better than everyone else.  He felt like he knew better than God.  “That’s a pretty high self-esteem,” he said.

Personally, I would classify that as arrogance, but I do understand what he is saying.  Every sin is based on self-reliance (again, different from how I perceive my own worth) and selfishness (I want what I want and I want it now).

I feel I know best, and my way is best.  That does not mean I feel like I have worth and value, it just means that I am depending on myself to get myself out.  It is a self-centered attitude, which many women caught in pornography will admit to having.  We know we are selfish, and we will be the first to tell you that.

Lust is self-centered.  Pornography is self-centered.  They are selfish self-preserving perversions of self-giving sex.  There’s a lot of “self” in there, but the “self” I do care about is self-esteem which is all too often missing from the lives of women who struggle with lust.


Why we can’t cut self-esteem out of the conversation.


…isolated and messed up…


…I’ve hated myself over and over for it, thinking that I was a strange weirdo…


…I am lost and alone and I don’t feel like God even cares about me anymore…


…I know what you’re probably thinking right now…that i’m sick, twisted…


…I feel hopeless and I don’t know how I’m supposed to change…


…but I feel like {God} wants no type of affection from me until I get myself together…


…I feel like a have no power over it.  I desperately want to get out of it as it has stolen my Joy from me … I’m fed up and depressed…


Now, do these sound like women who think they know better than everyone else?  Do these sound like women who are stuck on themselves?  Do these sound like women who have a prideful opinion of who they are?

Every one of those is copied and pasted from e-mails I’ve received over just the past three months.  There are hundreds just like them.  Each one very clearly illustrates a completely incorrect view of self (or an incorrect self-esteem).

I agree that we all are fallen creatures and that there is nothing good in us, but these are daughters of the King.  These are Christian women.  They are girls who grew up in church, who serve in church, who love the Lord and should have no problem with understanding the worth and the beauty that they have in Christ.

But they don’t understand; they don’t get it.  They only get half of it.  They get the part that they aren’t any good on their own; they are missing the rest.

Part of their road to healing is understanding their worth in Christ- understanding their worth= self-esteem.  They have to understand their identity in Him, the beauty and the freedom He bestows on them.  They have to understand the love He extends to them, and that no, they are not worthy of that love, but He is offering it to them anyway.

We can’t cut self-esteem out of the conversation.  Should it monopolize it?  No, but it has to be in there.  Without a proper view of who we are before God, who we are in Christ, and who we are to each other, there can be no healing.  There can be no true freedom and certainly no abundant life.

One comment

  1. Self-Esteem is how I perceive my own worth.

    The natural solution is therefore to speak not of “self-esteem” but of “self-worth”.

    The problem with using the term “self-esteem” is one of semantics: your definition here is fine, but it is your own — the culture’s definition is quite different (you encapsulate the latter rather well in the first part of your post: having “low self-esteem” has now become a catch-all excuse for sin). Words matter and although you are clearly not aiming to promote the psychologists’ humanistic viewpoint, it’s nevertheless true that if you employ their preferred terms, then these terms will bring with them their popular secular definitions and connotations in your audience’s mind.

    Would you consider using “self-worth” to describe a person’s perception of their own worth? It is much clearer and avoids the unfortunate baggage which “self-esteem” has now acquired.

    I hope my suggestion has helped, anyway.