A few years back I worked on a newspaper, and I remember somebody had the gall to criticize it. I was so depressed over the next few days, I wanted to quit!
This was during a time when God was dealing with a root of insecurity that controlled my life. He was speaking to me how my self image was wrapped up in what I did and what other people thought and not by who I was in Christ.
Two days later, someone gave the paper a big compliment. I was elated. At that moment I was ready to work night and day on the publication.
That’s when I got a tap on the shoulder. It was God.
I felt the Lord say being euphoric when someone complimented me was no different than feeling depressed when they criticized. It is caused by a root of insecurity where you are dependent on what other people think to function.
Insecurity is devastating for Christians. You suffer emotional trauma. Your life is a roller coaster– one moment you are flying high and the next moment you are in a valley of depression.
It stems from basing who you are on what you do. If this is how you value yourself then:
- If you fail at something — you are a failure.
- If you make a mistake — you are an idiot.
- To be a success — you must accomplish.
When a person suffers insecurity you respond in a variety of ways to life situations as you are driven by emotions of worry or fear.
Insecure people are controlled by what others think of them
In Luke 10: 38-41, we read of the day Jesus showed up at the home of Mary and Martha. In this particular account, we see the reaction of two people — one controlled by emotional insecurity and another not.
If a person’s self worth is based on what they do, they believe God only approves of them when they are doing something.
This was Martha’s lot.
When Jesus arrived, Martha immediately made preparations. She did the “responsible” thing — a great cover-up for trying to impress people by what you do.
Meanwhile her sister, Mary, sat at Jesus’ feet.
Martha says “Lord do you not care that my sister has left me to do all the serving alone? Then tell her to help me?” (v 40 NASV)
We see a number of things happening in this one brief statement.
First, Martha was convinced that Jesus was impressed by her activity. Notice how Martha asked and answered her own question.
She was basically saying, “Lord do you not care that Mary is not helping me?”
The answer in Martha’s mind was an automatic “yes,” so without waiting for the Lord’s response she immediately provides Jesus’ answer: “Tell her to help me.”
Martha believed Jesus was impressed by her activity, simply because her self-image was wrapped up in what she did.
Second, Martha was setting Mary up to make her responsible for any shortcomings in the service. If it failed, it was because Mary didn’t help.
Insecure people want to blame others for their failure. If your self-worth is based on what you accomplish then deflecting blame to others is the only way to defend your self-worth.
People secure in themselves can receive criticism because their self-image is not based on successful or failed accomplishments. They also accept failure as part of life and when it happens, it does not affect what they believe about themselves.
Third perfectionism — Mary obviously thought things were quite fine the way they were, but it was not good enough for Martha. A person who’s image of themselves is based on what they do is inherently a perfectionist.
Things are never good enough because it ultimately reflects who they are.
I know people who never graduated from university, because they didn’t or couldn’t complete their term papers — essentially they were never good enough to hand in.
Finally, people who are insecure are terrified of relationships. Their relationships are based on trying to impress people by their accomplishments.
It is difficult for insecure people to be vulnerable and let people see them for who they really are. They don’t believe people will accept them, because they have never accepted themselves.
Insecure people tend to be hypersensitive in relationships. If people seem busy or rush by them after church, they believe they must have done something to offend them.
In the end Jesus answered Martha with these words:
“Martha, Martha, you are worried and bothered about so many things, but only one thing is necessary, for Mary has chosen the good part, which shall not be taken away from her.”
Mary understood that she did not have to impress Jesus with her activity. She knew Christ accepted her just as she was.
This is the key.
26 For you are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus. (Galatians 3:26 NASV)
Because of our faith, we are children of God. Just like your own children, that relationship does not change if they fail or succeed. They remain your children through the good and bad.
This is exactly what you have to know and believe with God. He is your Heavenly Father. You are His child, now believe it.
More in this series:
- Dealing with insecurity: Are you controlled by what other people think?
- Dealing with insecurity: the chronic second guesser
- Dealing with Insecurity: The desperate need for bigger and better