In the writings of the Desert Fathers, they often talked about what they called the demon self-esteem. No, they were not speaking against our current trend in childhood development in which children are taught to have a healthy and balanced sense of self-worth. Rather, they noted an interesting trend in which many personal sins come from a distorted self-love and desire to preserve one’s standing in the eyes of other.
It is important that we listen to others and modify our behavior to meet group expectations, but often this natural good gets elevated to a place of primary importance. In such a case, our self-esteem gets in the way of us admitting our weaknesses and seeking forgiveness. When such a distorted tendency truly takes root in the heart, it cuts us off from realizing that our true self-worth is found only in Jesus Christ.
In today’s celebration, King Herod is an excellent example of someone who had fallen prey to the demon of self-esteem. It has always struck me how anti-climatic the death of John the Baptist was. When all is said and done, the reality is that Herod killed John simply to preserve his reputation among his friends. It seems as though he really did not even want to do the act, but his self-love ruled the day.
And that is the ultimate danger when it comes to distorted patterns of thinking, feeling, and desiring. So often, these patterns of our interior life destroy our ability to make sound decisions and discover the will of God. The Desert Fathers taught that one must learn to see the attacks of the enemy so that we can learn to reject them. As we learn to identify, process, and reject the lies that accompany the disorders of the heart, we are able to cultivate an interior stillness which leads us to discover God’s voice operating within.
Today, let us learn to identify the demon of self-esteem and so learn to resist those disorders which lead us into sin. In this way, let us learn to embrace the freedom which comes in Christ, a freedom in which we are no longer ruled by attachments and sin.