Looking at ourselves with sober judgement demands a measure of integrity and honesty. It would be wrong to read Paul’s words as condemning a positive self-image—he is clearly stating that we should not think more highly of ourselves than we ought, or overly inflating our self-image beyond an honest assessment of our strengths and weaknesses. Dr Bloom describes a person with self-integrity as one who knows themselves with sober judgement, and when we are a child of God, that sober judgement should tell us that we are not junk—there is something about us that is good, and wholesome, and beneficial for not only ourselves but for others. Obviously, these things are a gift from God, either placed inherently in us as a unique human creature, or poured upon us by the Spirit as we enter into life with Jesus as our Lord. On the whole, self-integrity is knowing ourselves, our self-esteem and self-worth balanced in a sober understanding of who we are as God’s children, both good and bad.
Sometimes it may be confusing for us to sort through this idea of self-integrity. We may be under the mistaken impression that it would be wrong for us to feel good about ourselves, to identify and even celebrate our talents, abilities and strengths. We feel that this would not be “humble” and so we talk ourselves down a little more than we should. On the other hand, we may allow ourselves to—as Paul says—think a little too highly of ourselves. We inflate our abilities or the significance of our contributions. The fact that Paul talks more about the dangers of vanity than the dangers of being too humble may indicate that the first is the more prevalent problem. Either way, whether we are too “humble” or too “puffed up,” we are not thinking of ourselves with sober judgement, and as Dr Bloom observes, it takes a lot of energy to keep trying to be someone that we are not.
This should not become a source of vanity, but it’s a fact that God loves us a lot. And anything that God loves is pretty special, since God’s judgement is perfect. For all of our faults and failures, for all of our sin and brokenness, God loves us so much that He sent His Son to save us. And beyond that love God has for all humanity, God loves each of us personally—loves us enough to give us a whole range of special gifts and abilities. Some have the gift of nurturing, others the gift of vision, still others are especially compassionate. Some have the special talent to make peace in conflict, others the gifts to inspire and encourage. There’s not room here to list all the wonderful things that God gives to us, it’s enough to say that every human creature is pretty special, and worth so much to God. All this should, if we are using sober judgement, lead us to a positive identity. Bloom says, “Having a positive identity does not mean we think better of ourselves, but rather we think well of ourselves. We have a proper sense of self-worth and self-esteem.”
Ultimately, as Dr Bloom observes, self-integrity leads to authenticity. We are true to ourselves. There is no deceit, or falseness, about who we are, no false humility, no thinking more highly of ourselves than we ought. Dr Bloom says: “Authentic people are more comfortable in their own skin. They are confident, but not cocky, self-assured but not arrogant. Truly authentic people do not foist themselves on the world--authenticity does not mean saying or doing whatever we want whenever we want--but rather it means being able to act and behave in ways that are more consistent with our clear and positive identity.” Because we are not trying to be someone we are not, we are able to live with integrity, which I believe might have been Paul’s point to the Romans. Only by being truly ourselves, honest about our strengths and weaknesses, can we be a fully functioning member of the Body of Christ, and in that honest authenticity, we can find the abundant life—the flourishing life—that we are made for.
See you Sunday! John