How Do You View Yourself?
HE WAS a proud man. Having been promoted to a lofty government position, he gloated over the adulation and admiration heaped upon him. But to his great annoyance, another official refused to accord him such honor. In revenge, the haughty official schemed to destroy all the people in the empire who were of the same ethnic background as the offender. What a distorted sense of self-importance!
The schemer was Haman, a high official in the court of Persian King Ahasuerus. And the object of his hostility? A Jew named Mordecai. Although Haman’s genocidal reaction was extreme, it illustrates the danger and grave consequences of pride. Not only did his arrogant spirit create a crisis for others but it also led to his public humiliation and finally to his death.—Esther 3:1-9; 5:8-14; 6:4-10; 7:1-10.
True Worshipers Are Not Immune to Pride
Jehovah requires that we be ‘modest in walking with our God.’ (Micah 6:8) The Bible contains various accounts of individuals who failed to maintain a modest view of themselves. This brought them problems and grief. Considering some of these examples can help us to see the folly and danger of unbalanced thinking.
The thinking of God’s prophet Jonah became so unbalanced that he tried to run away when he was divinely commissioned to warn the wicked people of Nineveh about Jehovah’s judgment against them. (Jonah 1:1-3) Later, when his preaching activity had succeeded in causing the Ninevites to repent, Jonah sulked. He was so concerned about his own reputation as a prophet that the lives of thousands of Ninevites were of little or no concern to him. (Jonah 4:1-3) If we immodestly take ourselves too seriously, we may find it difficult to maintain a fair and accurate perspective of people and events around us.
Consider also Uzziah, who had been a good king of Judah. When he became unbalanced in his thinking, he arrogantly tried to usurp certain priestly duties. For his immodest and highly presumptuous actions, he paid with his health and loss of divine approval.—2 Chronicles 26:3, 16-21.
Unbalanced thinking nearly ensnared Jesus’ apostles. They became very concerned with personal glory and power. When the time of great test came, they abandoned Jesus and fled. (Matthew 18:1; 20:20-28; 26:56; Mark 9:33, 34; Luke 22:24) Their lack of modesty and their thoughts of self-importance almost caused them to lose sight of Jehovah’s purpose and of their role in connection with his will.
Harmful Effects of Self-Importance
An unbalanced view of ourselves can cause pain and can damage our relationship with others. For example, we may be sitting in a room and may notice a couple whispering to each other and laughing. If we are self-centered, we might incorrectly assume that they are making fun of us because they are speaking so softly. Our mind may not allow us to consider any other possible explanation for their conduct. After all, whom else could they be talking about? We may become upset and decide never to speak to that couple again. In that way an unbalanced view of our own importance can lead to misunderstandings and damaged relationships with friends, family members, and others.
Those who take themselves too seriously may become braggarts, perpetually boasting about their supposedly great talents, deeds, or possessions. Or they may dominate conversations, always having to bring in something about themselves. Such speech betrays a lack of genuine love and can be very annoying. Thus, conceited ones often alienate themselves from others.—1 Corinthians 13:4.
As Jehovah’s Witnesses, we may meet with ridicule and rejection in our public ministry. We need to remember that such opposition is really directed, not against us personally, but against Jehovah, the Source of our message. However, a distorted view of our own importance can lead to serious consequences. Years ago, a brother took a householder’s verbal attack personally and spoke abusively in return. (Ephesians 4:29) After that, the brother never again shared in the door-to-door ministry. Yes, pride might prompt us to lose our temper when preaching. Let us strive never to allow that to happen. Instead, let us humbly seek Jehovah’s help to maintain proper appreciation for the privilege of engaging in the Christian ministry.—2 Corinthians 4:1, 7; 10:4, 5.
Having a self-important attitude could also prevent us from accepting much-needed counsel. In a Central American country some years ago, a teenage boy gave a talk in the Theocratic Ministry School in the Christian congregation. When the school overseer gave him some rather blunt counsel, the irate youngster hurled his Bible to the floor and stomped out of the Kingdom Hall with the intention of never returning. But after a few days, he swallowed his pride, reconciled with the school overseer, and humbly accepted his counsel. In time, this young man grew to Christian maturity.
Being immodest and taking ourselves too seriously can lead to the damaging of our relationship with God. Proverbs 16:5 warns: “Everyone that is proud in heart is something detestable to Jehovah.”
A Balanced View of Ourselves
Clearly, we should not take ourselves too seriously. Of course, this is not to say that we should not be serious about what we do or say. The Bible indicates that overseers, ministerial servants—in fact, all in the congregation—should be serious. (1 Timothy 3:4, 8, 11; Titus 2:2) So how can Christians develop and maintain a modest, balanced, and serious view of themselves?
The Bible provides many encouraging examples of individuals who maintained a balanced view of themselves. Outstanding is Jesus Christ’s example of humility. To do his Father’s will and to bring salvation to mankind, God’s Son willingly left his glorious heavenly position and became a lowly human on earth. Despite insults, abuse, and an ignominious death, he maintained self-control and dignity. (Matthew 20:28; Philippians 2:5-8; 1 Peter 2:23, 24) How was Jesus able to do this? He relied completely on Jehovah and was determined to do the divine will. Jesus studied God’s Word diligently, prayed fervently, and exerted himself vigorously in the ministry. (Matthew 4:1-10; 26:36-44; Luke 8:1; John 4:34; 8:28; Hebrews 5:7) Following Jesus’ example can help us to develop and maintain a balanced view of ourselves.—1 Peter 2:21.
Consider also the fine example of King Saul’s son Jonathan. Because of his father’s disobedience, Jonathan lost the opportunity to succeed Saul as king. (1 Samuel 15:10-29) Was Jonathan bitter over his loss? Did he become jealous of David, the young man who was to rule in his place? Although Jonathan was much older and probably more experienced than David, he modestly and humbly complied with Jehovah’s arrangement and loyally supported David. (1 Samuel 23:16-18) Having a clear perspective of God’s will and a willingness to submit to it will help us ‘not to think more of ourselves than it is necessary to think.’—Romans 12:3.
Jesus taught the value of displaying modesty and humility. He illustrated this by saying that when his disciples were at a marriage feast, they should not take “the most prominent place” because someone more distinguished might come and they might suffer the humiliation of having to go to the lowest place. Making the lesson quite clear, Jesus added: “For everyone that exalts himself will be humbled and he that humbles himself will be exalted.” (Luke 14:7-11) We are wise to heed Jesus’ counsel and to ‘clothe ourselves with lowliness of mind.’—Colossians 3:12; 1 Corinthians 1:31.
Blessings of a Balanced View
Having a modest and humble spirit enables Jehovah’s servants to find true joy in their ministry. Elders are more approachable when they humbly “treat the flock with tenderness.” (Acts 20:28, 29) Then all in the congregation feel more comfortable talking to them and seeking their help. The congregation may thereby be drawn closer together in a spirit of love, warmth, and trust.
Not taking ourselves too seriously enables us to make good friends. Modesty and humility will keep us from developing a competitive spirit and trying to outshine others in deeds or in material things. These godly qualities will help to make us more considerate, and thus we will be in a better position to comfort and support those in need. (Philippians 2:3, 4) When people are touched by love and kindness, they usually respond well. And does not such an unselfish relationship become the foundation on which strong friendships are built? What a blessing for not immodestly taking ourselves too seriously!—Romans 12:10.
A balanced view of ourselves also makes it easier to admit our mistake when we have offended someone. (Matthew 5:23, 24) This results in better relationships, allowing for reconciliation and mutual respect. If they are humble and modest, those in positions of oversight, such as Christian elders, have the opportunity to do much good for others. (Proverbs 3:27; Matthew 11:29) A humble person will also find it easier to forgive others who sin against him. (Matthew 6:12-15) He will not overreact to perceived slights, and he will trust in Jehovah to rectify matters that cannot be corrected in any other way.—Psalm 37:5; Proverbs 3:5, 6.
The greatest blessing gained by having a modest and humble view of ourselves is that of enjoying Jehovah’s favor and approval. “God opposes the haughty ones, but he gives undeserved kindness to the humble ones.” (1 Peter 5:5) May we never fall into the snare of thinking that we are better than we actually are. Instead, let us humbly recognize our position in Jehovah’s arrangement of things. Grand blessings are in store for all who meet his requirement ‘to be modest in walking with God.’
[Picture on page 22]
Jonathan humbly supported David