One of the saddest aspects of life in the twenty-first century is the number of people who appear to have a pathologically low opinion of themselves. Some say that this lack of self esteem is a modern phenomena, but perhaps not.
One of the world’s leading cosmetic surgeons in his time - we used to call them plastic surgeons - was Maxwell Maltz who in 1960 wrote a book entitled Psycho Cybernetics, defined as a system of ideas that could improve one’s self-image.
In turn, Maltz argued, the person would lead a more successful and fulfilling life.
In other words, Maltz claims to have discovered that when he changed an individual’s appearance, he also changed their personality; they looked better, so they felt better about themselves and as a direct result, they had a better life.
He quotes examples of people with serious facial disfigurements, who when he worked his magic, began to succeed in life, that could be academically, in business or in relationships.
‘Nothing,’ he believed, ‘is more important than a healthy self-image.’
Human nature doesn’t change much does it, and so it is reasonable to assume that the fortunes that are spent each year by individuals on nips and tucks, teeth whitening and hair transplants are evidence of the general malaise associated with low self esteem.
And yet, can’t you see a certain parallel between Maltz’ Psycho Cybernetics and the Christian message; when a man grasps the fact that ‘God loves me with an everlasting love’, he can do no other than feel good about himself?
I often think that’s what Jesus had in mind when he said, ‘Love your neighbour as yourself?’ He was saying, don’t wallow in self loathing, loving and respecting yourself is a pre-requisite to loving and respecting others.
Yet such is the penchant of many preachers to heap guilt on top of self-loathing that you might wonder, is their sick message part of a plan to elevate themselves, rendering them indispensable?
And the problem is that you become so fixated on the wretch that you are, or that he has told you you are, you take your eye off the one who wants to draw you into a realisation of the oneness that we have with Him.
Remember the great high priestly prayer of the Master, which it is safe to assume was answered?
‘I am praying not only for these disciples but also for all who will ever believe in me through their message. I pray that they will all be one, just as you and I are one - you in me, Father, and I in you. And may they be in us so that the world will believe you sent me.’
I guess it’s difficult to fully understand the intense unity that is ours, just as the Master and his Father ore one, so Jesus prayed that we too would be one with them. Reminds me of one of my personal epiphanies, John’s Gospel chapter 15, verse nine: ‘ As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you.’
That most remarkable of all statements never fails to blow my mind, Jesus loves me as much as, and in the same way as his Father loves him. Revel in the absolute security that brings and you’ll never be the same again.