The destructive assortments of negative tensions that rob us of peace of mind are many and far-reaching like the branches of an oak tree. However, according to Dr. Robert Schuller, the tap root of that tree out of which all negative tensions spring is a lack of self-esteem or negative self-image.

If you denigrate yourself, belittle your God-given abilities, and negatively say to yourself, “I cannot do it.”; “I am no good”; then you have inadequate self-image and this will produce troubles for your mind as well as your body.

Modern medicine along with modern psychology agrees with modern theology, Schuller believes, that loving oneself rightly is an essential prelude to living a full, happy, and fruitful existence.

The truth is that every human being has problems with his self-image. We are all born with negative self-image. According to Rev Schuller, the “original sin” which drove Adam to hide in the “bushes” means that ever since, all human beings are “born in bushes.” “It means we are all born detached from a relationship with God, and consequently suffer from birth with a terribly weak and insecure ego.”

This alienation from God, brought about by the fall of Adam Rev Schuller reiterates, deprives us of the self-assurance, self-affirmation, self-confidence generating relationship with God, which leaves us so emotionally starved that we become vain, rebellious and self-serving, all because at the onset of our lives we are born with an inadequate self-love.

Erik Erikson’s studies of the stages of child development throw light on this concept. Dr. Erikson, “the father of child psychiatry,” tells us an infant is born untrusting. Agreeing, Dr. Schuller, of Crystal Cathedral, says that the point is profoundly theological – we are all born with a negative self-image. “Somehow we must be born again and emerge trusting and enthused about the kind of persons we can be with the help of God.”

What Self-Love Is Not

Some people upon hearing words of SELF-LOVE misinterpret its meaning. Self-love is not narcissism, vanity, or self-admiration. It is not being enamored or entranced with your personal appearance.

Self-love is not self-glorification. It is not the continuous attempt to impress others with your importance, with the position you occupy or the awards and accolades won.

Self-love is not being arrogant or snobbish. It is not the condescending attitude you have when you feel you are superior to other persons. It is loving others as yourself no matter what their origins are, background, race, or religion.

Self-love is not self-will. Self-will is actually the defensive, and even potentially dangerous and demonic behavior of an insecure, non-self-loving person. “Even as self-love is the tap root of peace of mind, so self-will is the polluting source of destructive tensions.”

Self-will is that raw, rough, inconsiderate selfishness that takes the attitude, “I want what I want when I want it.” Self-will is that rigid, unyielding, stubborn spirit of a person who, at his deepest level, is insecure to ever compromise; too lacking in self-love to generously share himself; too void of self-assurance to ever publicly admit he made a mistake.

A stubborn self-will is the tension-generating behavior of a deeply insecure person. What a tragic cycle of tensions is set in motion. A mental climate of antagonism, hostility, resentment, jealously, and frustration is produced. All this, of course, produces new tensions and troubles for the self-willed person, and each new tension only seeks to reinforce and harden his desperate, defensive, and insecure behavior. “He is caught in an ever-widening whirlpool of tensions!”

What Self-Love Is

Basically, self-love embodies respect for yourself; what the ancient Greek called, “reverence for the self.” This is expressed in a number of different ways: self-love is patient and kind; self-love is not jealous or boastful; self-love is not arrogant or rude; and it does not insist on its way.

Self-love is a healthy pride. It is being proud of who you are. Without self-love, many people are ashamed of their ancestry of humble beginnings. No matter where anybody’s predecessors came from, there is and was a culture unlike any other in the world. Something to be proud and humble about as a descendant of that culture.

The self-loving person also develops and expresses a very healthy self-confidence. The lack of self-confidence, Dr. Schuller believes, is one of the major roadblocks to peace of mind, happiness, and success in life. “For self-confidence is the belief in your own ability to come to grips with problems and solve them; to know that you can and will succeed at worthy tasks; all of which equips you emotionally to meet life’s challenges with equanimity and imperturbability.”

The self-confident person, in turn, dares to be an honest open person. He accepts himself as a unique individual. He reflects a basic integrity of character.

He becomes genuinely and infectiously enthusiastic. Only honest persons can be enthusiastic. Insecure persons keep their little dark secrets locked and hopefully hidden from public view. So they develop a tense, psychic, invisible emotional barrier that constantly restrains their inclination to be enthusiastic. This, psychologists believe, is an acquired mechanism designed to keep oneself from “talking too much” and virtually “letting the cat out of the bag,” and exposing one’s true and blacker self. Honest persons, by contrast, are truly free. They are naturally enthusiastic because they have nothing to hide.

The person who is enthusiastic about himself, in turn, is self-assured and relaxed. He finds it easy to give in, back down, admit his errors, and change his mind when new light is shed. Such a person creates a mental climate of trust respect, and affection. People start treating him beautifully. They really do help him with creative criticism which reduces his mistakes, boosts his achievements and strengthens his relationships, all of which reinforces his self-respect. “He starts a fantastic peace-of-mind cycle. For he relaxes tension around him producing peace in his life and in the lives of others.”

You can see, now, that self-love is indeed the core to a genuinely peace-centered mind. Consequently, as you build a strong self-love, you will, in the process, be strengthening other positive personality traits, such as: self-discovery, self-discipline, self-development, and self-dedication. All of which, Dr. Schuller assures, adds up to achieving responsible personhood – both the end and the means of peace of mind. You will also find vast areas of untapped resources within yourself when you start relaxing.

Ultimately, when you develop a positive self-image, you will know that God can live and move and have His being within you. When you experience God in your consciousness, you will believe even more strongly in His still small voice within you. This, then, will tremendously boost your growing self-confidence. “You are the salt of the earth. You are the light of the world.”

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