Self-esteem helps us to feel responsible and valuable in our society. It gives us the sense of being of service to others and of reaching self fulfilment as people appreciated by our society.
However, the study conducted by Jennifer Warner on self-esteem warns us that when it is exaggerated, it becomes unhealthy, shallow and fragile.
This study teaches us a good lesson that high self-esteem, though good in itself, can become a prime directive for exaggerating our self-worth leading us into unhealthy behaviour hence becoming ridiculous in the eyes of those who had some kind of esteem for us.
In some situations, high self-esteem can produce in people the same tendencies as superiority complex; whereby one holds an exaggerated high opinion of oneself.
According to a number of psychologists, this happens at times as a compensation for the unconscious feelings of low self-esteem or inadequacy which induces some people to believe or to make others believe that they are better than others.
The common danger of these two tendencies above is that the subject concentrates more on his or her importance in society rather than on the services that he or she has to render to the same society.
And in this one misses the chance of being of service to others, which is an integral part of one’s journey toward finding human fulfilment.
What Jennifer Warner and a number of psychologists teach us in their study on high self-esteem, Jesus had taught already to his disciples during his earthly life.
He wanted his followers to avoid the tendencies of dwelling on their precedence among themselves and missing the chance of serving their community: ‘If anyone wants to be first he must make himself last of all and servant of all.’ He taught them.
He did this precisely in one episode when he noticed some kind of unhealthy ambitions in his followers.
We read in Mark 9:30ff, that after Jesus had predicted his passion, death and resurrection, his disciples, understood that a new situation was emerging, where by one of them was to be a leader.
Then their preoccupations were more on that topic of finding out who among them was the greatest in the eyes of their Master. Each one of them had a good esteem of himself since they were all chosen by him. He had a special liking for each one of them.
They all felt great in front of Jesus but they wanted to know who might the greatest among them.
Since everybody felt that he was capable of leading his brothers in case he was given a chance, it was not simple to decide among themselves who would take that place.
This took them a lot of time which they would have used to follow their Master’s teaching.
Jesus noticed the danger they would face with that kind of mentality, with which most of them were looking at themselves as future leaders of the community. He taught them that this was not the most important thing to do at the moment.
In fact according to Jesus, the greatest are those who are at the service of others; that those who would be first in God’s kingdom must be servants of all.
Though they did not understand what he was saying, they were all afraid to ask him a question because this teaching was contrary to what they had in their hearts.
In order to drive his lesson home Jesus then calls forward a child and teaches the Twelve that to receive a child or those who are as helpless as a child in his name is to receive both Jesus and the One who sent him.
The disciples did not understand what he meant at first because at that time children were without status or power in the community, and they did not possess any legal rights. People looked at that phenomenon as the normal way of doing things.
However, the lesson remains clear for the disciples and for us who read Jesus’ Gospel today.
We become great by being the voice of the voiceless, by defending the defenceless in our society, by helping the needy, those without power or status in our society. When we serve such people who are the least ones among us, we serve Jesus himself.
Jesus teaches that God’s judgment of us will be based on this criterion and it is with the same criterion that we should evaluate our own greatness, our own worth and our true self esteem.
It is by being of service to others without losing ourselves in the process due to high self esteem that our greatness shall be measured.
In brief, according to Jesus,true greatness lies in service and not in high self-esteem.