How Friendship Affects Our Self-Concept
Friendships can be a tremendous blessing, a gift from God. Problems can arise when healthy, friendships turn out to be hurtful and confusing. One way this happens is when friends become emotionally dependent on each other.
Definition of emotional dependency: Emotional dependency occurs when the ongoing presence and nurturing of another is believed to be necessary for personal security.
No matter how wonderful that friendship may appear at first, emotionally dependent relationships can lead to bondage greater than anything imaginable.
I believe that is one reason the Great Physician who wrote that authoritative prescription to love in John 15:12, also said, “Love God with all thy heart and thy neighbor as thyself.” When our emotional dependency is on God first, then love to our neighbor and to ourselves is put in proper perspective.
Today, we are going to look at how God’s gift of friendship can build a positive self- concept.
What kinds of problems do people have because they have a negative self-concept?
What happens to us when we have a positive self-concept?
Have you ever watched a newborn colt try to stand up and walk for the first time?
Those little animals look like God made them all wrong...their legs are too long and wobbly to hold up their bodies, their eyes are so big they are out of proportion to the rest of their heads, and as they try and try to stand, their mothers just stand by and watch, no helping hand from Mom, maybe a nudge or two with her nose!
I don’t think horses, either mama horses or baby horses, contemplate their own existence, but people do. God gave us the ability to step outside ourselves and ponder what we’re like. Some of us have reserved grandstand seats to watch ourselves play out our lives... what we see ...and the conclusions we make... make up our self-concept.
The personal issues of identity and self-esteem—the two sides of self-concept are important, because the view we have of ourselves has a direct impact on how we relate to others and how we make and keep friends.
- how our self-concept affects our relationships with other people and God
- how our need to know God affects our self-concept
- how we come to believe the concepts we hold about ourselves
- ways we can change our self-concept
Identity is the mind’s eye picture we have of ourselves...some of us have a clear picture of who we are; we are in focus. We may not like all we see, but at least we know what is there.
A well-focused identity is important. Unfortunately, many people have only a fuzzy picture of who they are, their image of themselves is blurred. This is tragic because it can lead to a hesitant or fearful approach to the outside world.
There are certain times in life when our identity is likely to blur are times of major life change.
The teen-age years—
- Teens are going through dramatic physical changes.
- Teens are trying to establish their own identity apart from parents.
- Teens are adapting to new relationships away from the family.
- Teens have to cope with pressures of school and the idea of soon coming independence.
Some go through this time easily, however, this is a tough time in life, especially for those who do not have a clear grasp of who they are.
Life changes that can cause a crisis of identity:
Birth of a Child
Children Leaving Home
Change of jobs
All of these crises come when our identification of who we are changes in relationship to another person or role.
I would like you to take a few minutes to look at your self-concept. This is a personal exercise.
Column #1 you will write nouns to describe your “identity”, the various roles you play; positions you hold; and groups you belong to. My list includes: Child of God, Christian, wife, mother, daughter, farmer, teacher, Many of our roles will be similar, but as we describe ourselves more fully, we become unique. We call this part of our self-concept, identity.
Who Am I? “Identity”
I am (a child of God)
Identity is only part of the self-concept story. It gives the facts, not the feelings. We move to a crucial area of self-esteem when we ask about our feelings:
The question can be simply stated: “Do I like myself?” But the answer is not always so simple.
Building Blocks to Self-Esteem
- Em Griffin in his book, Making Friends and Making Them Count, suggests that in order to build self-esteem, we first need to discover our “sense of moral worth”: In order for people to have high self-esteem, they must be confident they are approved by God—that they are basically OK, they need inner assurance they will react in a good or upright way when confronted with an ethical choice.
- Because of Jesus and His love, Christians are in a unique position to experience a sense of moral “okayness”. God has declared us worthwhile. The evidence of this is at Calvary. Look at what He was willing to do for us. Because He places so much value on us He was willing to give all to win us back to Himself. He loves us, not because we are particularly lovely, but because we desperately need His love.
- The second area to discover is our “sense of competence.” Of course we are not experts in every area. Even studies with the most talented and gifted, show people usually have specific areas of special strength in a primary and a secondary area. If we feel we have to be experts in everything, we are doomed to have a poor self-image. Our sense of competence is partially determined by our actual ability, the other factor is our expectations. Our self-esteem will rise if we either increase our skill, or, scale down our expectations. And we can become discouraged if our expectations rise, yet our skill does not match it.
- The third area to discover is our “sense of self-determination.” Sometimes this is an overwhelming thought, yet it is scriptural. “Choose ye this day whom ye will serve, but as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord” (Joshua 24:15). And the saying, “If change is to be it’s up to me” indicates we have control over our own destinies. This feeling of self-determination is crucial for a positive self-concept.
- The fourth area is a “sense of unity.” Is our behavior consistent over time? Or are we always wondering, “now, why did I do that?” Can we be certain of how we will react based on past experience?
As Christians, if we know we have made a habit of taking our problems to the Lord, we have learned to lean on Him for strength. We know He cares for us and watches over His children with a love that is measureless and everlasting. When new trials come, we can face them with less anxiety, because, we know how we reacted to problems in the past, ( we took them to God) and we know how He reacted in the past! He gave us wisdom and strength.
2 Timothy 1:7, TEV says, “For the Spirit that God has given us does not make us timid; instead, His Spirit fills us with power, love, and self-control.”
Now, write adjectives to list emotional attributes or traits you see in yourself, how you “feel” about yourself. I find this more difficult. My list includes: dependent on God, people-oriented, supportive, and learning to love! Note that in this list we may have both positive and negative characteristics.
I’ve taken you through some of my responses to help you learn a good way to get in touch with yourself. If you sum up the pluses and minuses on your list, you’ll begin to see a bit of how you feel about yourself. This emotional part of self-concept is usually called self-esteem.
Christian literature suggests that our self-concept is made of three parts, identity, self-esteem, and our personal view of God.
- Identity: the roles we play in life.
Self-esteem: how we feel about ourselves as a person.
- View of God: what kind of “person” we believe God to be.
As Christians, we may find that until we have a clear picture of who God is, and if He can be trusted, we as His created beings are not complete. I think we recognize our need for completeness in God when we realize His call in 2 Corinthians 5:17-19:
“Anyone who is joined to Christ is a new being; the old is gone, the new has come. All this is done by God, who through Christ changed us from enemies into His friends and gave us the task of making others His friends also. Our message is that God was making all human beings His friends through Christ. God did not keep an account of their sins, and He has given us the message which tells how He makes them His friends.”
When my daughter was 18 months old, I began to realize the tremendous responsibility I had to raise her to know God. She was such a happy little girl—so bright and inquisitive. Her little face just seemed to glow with love and trust. How could I teach her all she needed to know in order to move safely through this life and on to the heavenly life?
I had a fairly positive self-image: I had graduated from college, lived on my own for a year, married a magnificent man, then worked three more years in my chosen field before we decided to start a family.
I had known God and loved Him all my life, yet this new responsibility created a crisis that caused me to recognize that even with my strengths. I had serious limitations for meeting the challenges of leading this precious soul to Jesus.
I still had questions of my own to deal with before I could effectively teach my child. In my heart, I wanted a clear picture of how God deals with sin and sinners. I turned to the Bible and the Christian writings to seek answers.
In the story of the Good Shepherd, I found a tender, compassionate, understanding Savior. When one of His lambs wandered away, He did not curse or swear, or ignore it. He went looking for the lamb, He found it and carried it home. He put salve on its wounds and He rejoiced over the lamb that was found.
When I read that story as a young mother, it had a great impact on me. I realized how many times God, the Good Shepherd, had come looking for me, found me, saved me and all the time, He was healing me from the wounds of my sins! I rejoiced in the God of my salvation! “We all like sheep, have gone astray, each of us has turned to its own way; and the Lord has laid on Him the iniquity of us all” (Isaiah 53:6, NIV). I was learning to trust God more fully! I could teach my child about this loving Savior. How do we gain a clear picture of God so we can be complete?
The Bible says God is love. 1 Corinthians 13 describes love, and in essence, it describes God’s character. But how do we know for sure?
A good idea is to read the Bible for yourself, from front to back, watch step by step the history of how God struggles to show Himself to people, how He struggles to keep a knowledge of Himself alive in the world, how He seeks, woos, and eventually wins some to Himself. If you have difficulty understanding, just keep on reading and eventually the picture of God will become clear.
Natural law of the mind— The Great Controversy, 515
“It is a law both of the intellectual and the spiritual nature that by beholding we become changed. The mind gradually adapts itself to the subjects upon which it is allowed to dwell. It becomes assimilated to that which it is accustomed to love and reverence.”
God had Paul write the concepts of this natural law to the people of Corinth found in 2 Corinthians 3:18, NASB: “But we all, with unveiled face beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory, just as from the Lord, the Spirit.”
By beholding, we become changed.
When we know God as it is our privilege to know Him, we shall become like Him, for we shall see Him as He is.
“As we discern the perfection of our Savior’s character we shall desire to become wholly transformed and renewed in the image of His purity. The more we know of God, the higher will be our ideal of character and the more earnest our longing to reflect His likeness. A divine element combines with the human when the soul reaches out after God and the longing heart can say, ‘My soul, wait thou only upon God; for my expectation is from Him” (Thoughts from the Mount of Blessings,18-19).
As nice as it would be to stop and say, “if you have a right relationship with God, your poor self-esteem will vanish and you will become whole”, we cannot stop here.
Babies watch their parents faces and respond in kind... to smiles and coos, to frowns and harsh words.
Other people attribute meaning to our lives. People can look at the same action and interpret it different ways. The way we allow their comments to affect our self- esteem, depends on how well we know ourselves.
flexible or wishy-washy firm or stubborn courageous or foolhardy generous or wasteful enthusiastic or unstable steady or dull
Because others see us one way, it may not be the true reflection of our real selves.
Auntie brings two lollipops for her little 4-year-old nephew and 3-year-old niece. She asks the little boy to choose red or green. He has no preference for flavor when asked, “What color do you like best?” His sister runs up and grabs the red one. Auntie says “My, she knows what she wants; can’t he make up his mind about anything?”
- Who was giving him a picture of himself?
- How would it affect his self-esteem?
- Was it a true picture?
- Who gives you your picture of yourself?
If you are dealing with poor self-esteem you might try one or more of these suggestions:
- toss yourself into a meaningful cause
- surround yourself with folks who make you feel good
- share your feelings with someone else
- seek professional counseling
- change the way you look
- practice assertiveness
- know yourself
Read your Bible, get to know God, it is a law of the mind that you will become like the person you worship and adore.
“For God did not give us a spirit of timidity but a spirit of power and love and self-control” (2 Timothy 1:7, RSV).
From: Friendships: God’s Gift to Bless Our Lives by Lou Blanchfield