Should your Women's Ministry drop the self-esteem talk?

Christen Jacobs's picture
Have you ever felt like women's ministries kind of have the same three topics on repeat? Women are tired of going to church and chanting "I am beautiful" while wearing Proverb 31 shirts and taking selfies in front of a pink backdrop. I get it...as a female minister who is addicted to church history and loves exegetical preaching, the narrative of women's ministry can stand to be a little less Fru-Fru. Yet before you consider deleting the topic of self-esteem and beauty altogether, I implore you- don't do it!  I am living proof that good theology does not do away with crippling insecurity. My in-depth understanding of the Imago-Dei (image of God), has not changed my innate desire to continuously compare myself to other women. It hasn't stopped me from feeling insecure about my plus sized body and trying to figure out how to cover my inexplicably large pores. We cannot simply delete this topic from our ministry grab bag. The worthlessness that accompanies poor self-esteem is a virus that infects ever part of a woman's life when not properly addressed. 

 
An ex-boyfriend once told me I had a big nose and bad skin. In those few words, he eviscerated my very being. Why? because he said out loud the two things I knew to be the ugliest parts of me. He let the words, I dared not speak, into the atmosphere where they could not be forgotten. 
 
One day I was walking along and a car full of young men pulled up next to me. As they blew their horn and whistled I was secretly revived by their admiration. They came nearer, yet once they saw my face they pulled off! I would love to think that my striking features intimidated them however, it seemed more plausible that they didn't like what they saw. I tried to laugh it off but I have never forgotten.
 
Stories like these chiseled away at my already fragile self-image.  This shadow of myself followed me through high school and college. I needed to prove my value so I courted the praise of men: the more popular I was the more validated I was, the hotter the guy the more attractive I felt, the more envied by other women I was, the more empowered I felt.  All of this led to poor choices as I allowed men to treat me unfairly simply because I wanted to maintain my status. My search for value also created a  deep divide between my sisters in Christ; instead of assets to my personal walk, I saw other women as benchmarks that either challenged my worth or affirmed it because I personally devalued theirs. 
 
It was all a hideous affair and one I'm not proud of. I would like to say that growing closer the Lord immediately banished this type of self-destructive behavior.  The truth is, even as I entered ministry traces of these memories came along for the ride. Over the years my search for validation grew into pride. My lack of value caused me to overcompensate and I surrounded myself by my accomplishments in order to add worth to my stockpile. This became my normal. 
 
God's grace began to penetrate the wall I had built up and I began to wage a battle aginst my negative thought life. Slowly but surely the years of consequences that arose from my own negative self-image began to fall away.
 
 In 2 Corinthians 10:3-5 Paul is addressing the church concerning his authority in Christ and he began to describe the battle we face in the spiritual that is fought only with spiritual weapons. He cautions us as believers that these spiritual weapons are to be used to demolish any thought process, any speculation, or theory that would dare to assert themselves over Christ. The way one win's this battle is to take these thoughts captive, by force, causing them to submit to Christ. 
 
Is it possible in our efforts to modernize women's ministry we have underestimated our enemy's tactical plan? Brothers and Sisters, I caution every church leader, Sunday school teacher and bible study facilitator, do not neglect to arm the women in your ministry with weapons to tear down the strongholds of self-doubt, poor self-esteem, and competition. Teach them to arm themselves with God's word and assault Satan's kingdom by forcing these errant thoughts under the submission of Jesus Christ. All too often Satan's most prolific weapon against women goes unnoticed and untreated and she is left to drown in her search for value. 

Comments

Great article Christen!
It has often been said in Christian circles that we don't need self-esteem we need Christ-esteem.  while it is true that low self-esteem is not a sin and can sometimes even be a sign of humility, it can lead to sin. I know. I've been there.
Like you I do not have the best skin or the cutest button nose and I'm also a little chunky. I have also maintained my Christian standards in purity and (until last week) modesty. As a result I'm a 26-year old dateless virgin.
I struck up a friendship with a man who lives in my apartment building. He is a great guy and we have a lot in common. Over the past three months we have spoken casually almost every day and we have a lot in common but he never pressed it further. I found out he would be moving soon so I decided to ask him out, but I didn't think he would say yes because of my "inferior" face and figure.
I decided to make sure. I knew he could see our porch from his apartment. So I would undress and sit out and sunbathe. He would see me immodestly posed, lust after me, and say yes.
My immodesty worked better than I expected. He asked me out for coffee after he saw me. Now I feel so guilty about sinning and making him sin in order to get him to like me. I'm so upset.

Christen Jacobs's picture

Laurie, First let me tell you there is forgiveness in the arms of our savior! I suggest you find some trusted Christian community and accountability. James 5:16 says, “So confess your sins to one another and pray for one another so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person has great effectiveness.” It is easy to perpetuate bad choices when we are isolated. That is why the scripture encourages us that really living the Christian life with those you know are trustworthy is a “Group Project.” If you are in Christ my sister your sins are already forgiven so let go of the guilt and forgive yourself. Within guilt Satan likes to pick at our esteem more than ever.  In regards to the young man I cannot tell you what to do but I can tell you to pray. Get on your knees even and listen to the will of your father. Matthew 7:11 tells us that God is a good father who knows how to give good gifts. In the case with this young man since he has agreed with the pretense of lusting for you, it would seem that this is not a gift of the father but a gift that came from your hand. That can be a dangerous place to be. I suggest you take some time and cancel your date. If the young man is in Christ, (which he should be in order to be God’s gift for you) pray for him and if this is meant to be God will work it out.  It is difficult finding comfort in the Lord alone while you long to have a husband, I have been there. Some of us sacrifice that longing for a lifetime but if you are surrounded by community and fulfilling your purpose I know you will find peace in that. However the scripture also tells us to pray as the nagging widow who continued to bring her request before the wicked judge. That means that no matter how many times you have asked God for this keep crying out to him. But when it does come it should come the right way where in you did not have to manipulate the situation, rather God will incline a man to you so much so where he will only have eyes for you.

God Bless sister and I mean that from the bottom of my heart. 

It's been a great honor to see women participating in every aspect and competing with men. In many firms, women are leading. God has given us the special power of tolerance and birth giving. We are no weaker now. We are working equally like men. I am a woman and owner of an immigration law firm from last 7 years and I am proud of myself. I have also faced many difficulties first, but I am glad I never gave up on it. I fight with the circumstances which were against me and now I am a successful entrepreneur. 

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