Our self-worth comes from God’s love for us

Paul Haring | CNS Photo

Paul Haring | CNS Photo

Recently, I was teaching a group of children about the fact that Jesus sees us as we are and knows us and loves us better than we know and love ourselves. As I finished saying this, one student said seriously, “But I don’t like myself.”

In some ways, I understood this student’s sentiments: there have been times in my own life when I felt similarly about myself. But then, I came to learn more deeply that it is actually the opposite of humility that sees myself as unlovable. Humility is truth, and if I truly look at myself honestly, I will be able to see the good that God has placed in me, the virtue that I have, not by my own merit, but by His generous lavishing of His grace upon me.

It can be easy for us to confuse our own worth with how good we are at what we do or how much we personally like ourselves. But my value, my worth, and my identity do not come from me or from my efforts. I cannot make myself worthy of anything, any more than I could make myself in the first place. Rather, I find my value in God Himself. You and I are worth the death of the Son of God!

I have found as a teacher that my students often benefit greatly from being reminded of where their true worth and identity lie. Their identity is not in being popular, being involved in extra-curricular activities, or being a straight-A student. While we might highly value these qualities, they are not what truly make us who we are or make us worthy of love.

As I have told several students this year, their identity, who they are, does not rest in their grades, even if those do prove to be important for them later in life. In reality, their identity lies in the wonderful and beautiful fact that they are a son or daughter of God. That is who they are, and that is why they have worth: because God the Father gave His Beloved Son so that they could each become His child. When I have reminded some of my students of this truth, I have seen it bring them great peace and calm to know that I recognize their worth coming from what God has done for them, rather than in how “good” or “smart” they are.

Once we realize that our identity comes from God and not from ourselves, we are able to live a more balanced life, based on responding to His love for us, rather than on our own perfectionism. When we are able to see that God loves us and that all the good that is in us is thanks to His grace, we no longer need to be afraid that we will not be good enough for ourselves or for others, or that we will give ourselves too much credit. We will recognize that we are lovable simply because God has loved us and poured out His grace upon us.

When we recognize our own worth and dignity, we acknowledge that God “has done great things for [us]” (Luke 1:49a). For, “In this is love, not that we have loved God, but that He has loved us …” (1 John 4:10a). May we seek to find our own worth not in ourselves and our efforts but in the God who died and rose that we might be His beloved children.

Sr. Mary Martha Becnel is a member of the Ann Arbor-based Dominican Sisters of Mary, Mother of the Eucharist.