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"I'm Not Worth Anything"

Women often end up in bondage to a lie they believe about themselves.

by Nancy Leigh DeMoss Several months ago, one of my eyes became extremely irritated and I began to have problems wearing my contact lens. At first, I assumed I was having an allergy attack, which I tried to treat with allergy medication. However, the problem with my eye persisted. Because of the irritation, I could not see through the lens clearly; my vision was distorted. The irritation became so great that I had to remove the lens for a few days until I could get an appointment with my eye doctor.

When he examined my eye, he explained that I was not having a problem with allergies; further, the problem was not with my eye itself but with the contact lens. Somehow, the lens had been damaged—the curve had been flattened and the misshapen lens was rubbing against my eye and creating an irritation. In order to restore my vision, the damaged lens had to be replaced with a new one.

What we believe about God is crucial because it affects what we believe about everything else. A distorted or damaged view of God will distort the way we see everything and everyone around us. Frequently we fail to realize that what is causing the irritation and turmoil within our souls is not the people or the circumstances we are annoying us; rather, the problem is that we are seeing things through a damaged lens.

One of the areas that is particularly impacted by our view God is our view of ourselves. If we do not see Him as He really is we believe things about Him that are not true—invariably, we have a distorted view of ourselves. If we have an impoverished view of God, we will become impoverished ourselves.

If we have constructed in our minds a god who is weak and impotent and not in control of every detail of the universe, we will see ourselves as being helpless and will be overwhelmed by the storms and circumstances around us. If our god is worthless, we will see ourselves as being worthless. If we have believed lies about God, we will also believe lies about ourselves.

Feeling Worthless

For example, more than 42 percent of the women we surveyed indicated that they have believed the lie that says, "I'm not worth anything." It is a powerful lie, as you can see from some of their testimonies:

Feeling inferior has been a lifelong struggle. Many times it has caused me to withdraw from relationships, even though I am a people person and outgoing.

I feel the need to have constant reassurance from those around me of my value because I feel worthless! If people knew me, they would agree.

Because of the hurt in my marriage, I felt that I was useless and that nobody, not even God, could love me. I just didn't measure up, and since I have always felt that I had to be perfect to be loved, then obviously God would not love me either.

In many cases, these feelings of worthlessness are the result of believing things we have heard from others, especially in childhood:

I was told as a child that I was worthless. I soon believed that I was. I still have trouble with this at times.

I believed that I would never be anybody in this world because that is what I heard when I was growing up. People saw me as a retarded person who didn't know anything. At that time I believed it. I used to lock myself up and wouldn't want to do anything with anybody. I have believed all of my life that I would never have any good friends or family and that I would rot away with the suffering and pain that I went through most of my life.

A False, Broken Mirror

The problem is that our view of ourselves and our sense of worth are often determined by the input and opinions of others. Sometimes the input of others is accurate and helpful. But not always. If, for some reason, the person we are listening to is looking through a defective "lens," his or her vision will be distorted. Some of us have lived all our lives in an emotional prison because we have accepted what a false, "broken" mirror said to us about ourselves.

Even when the input is, in and of itself, true, the Deceiver can use that data to put us in bondage. For example, a playmate may accurately observe to a six-year-old girl, "You're fat!" That little girl will one day find herself in bondage if she grows up drawing false conclusions based on that comment: "I'm fat. Therefore,...

  • I'll always be fat";
  • nobody could ever like me or want me to be my friend";
  • I'm worthless";
  • I have to be the life of the party in order to be liked or accepted by others."
Sometimes, a single sentence heard as a child can haunt and plague a person for years. That is what happened to "Mindy":

I have a memory of being about six and being told I had no right to live and I should have never been born. I don't remember who said it, but I do remember my mother just standing there and not doing anything about it. I became very withdrawn, and it was extremely difficult to talk to people.

By the time I was to start seventh grade, it was decided I belonged in special education. I was accepted into the classes, but there wasn't room, so I went to the normal junior high school. I never believed I belonged there.

Until this weekend, I have believed I was stupid, not normal, and I should be locked away somewhere. In junior high, I had no friends, and people went out of their way to hurt me. As a result, I withdrew even more, became very depressed, and wanted to go to sleep and never wake up.

This story poignantly illustrates the progression we have seen that leads to bondage. First, as a child, this woman was told a terrible, destructive lie. She listened to the lie; then, rather than countering the lie with the Truth, she dwelt on the lie until she believed it was actually true. Ultimately, she acted on the lie ("I withdrew . . ."), until she found herself in bondage to the lie: "[I] became very depressed, and wanted to go to sleep and never wake up."

Ending Up in Bondage

What we believe about ourselves determines how we live. If we believe and act on lies, we will end up in bondage, as illustrated by these two testimonies:

For the longest time I thought I was not worth anything. Even after I was saved, I thought I was equal to pond scum. This threw me into depression. I began to isolate myself, and as a result, was not living the life of joy that God had intended for me.

"I am not worth anything" is a lie I believed. I have always struggled with this lie and with a constant "need" for the approval of others. It got to the point of being maddening—trying to please everyone, trying to have the appearance of what I thought I should look like.

These testimonies are not unique. I find that many women today are desperately seeking for affirmation; they are driven to gain approval of others. It's as if they were trying to balance the scales of the negative input they have received from others. But, in most cases no number of positive "strokes" can outweigh those negative, hurtful expressions that have led them to believe they are worthless. No amount of affirmation is enough. They can get one hundred compliments about how they look or what they have done, but let one family member offer a criticism, and they are devastated. Why? Because they are letting others determine their worth.

Jesus' Sense of Worth

There is a wonderful verse in 1 Peter that shows us how Jesus' sense of worth was determined, not by what others thought of Him—good or bad—but by the Truth as expressed by His heavenly Father: He was "rejected by men but chosen by God and precious to him" (2:4). Jesus was rejected by men—those He had created for Himself, those He loved and for whom He laid down His life. But that is not what determined His value. He was chosen by God; that is what made Him precious; that is what determined His worth.

It is conceivable that someone who did not recognize or appreciate fine art would toss a masterpiece into the trash. Would that make the painting any less valuable? Not at all. The true worth of the art would be seen when an art collector spotted the painting and said, "That is a priceless piece, and I am willing to pay any amount to acquire it."

When God sent His only Son, Jesus, to this earth to bear your sin and mine on the cross, He put a price tag on us—He declared the value of our soul to be greater than the value of the whole world. Whose opinion are you going to accept? Believing a lie will put you in bondage. Believing the Truth will set you free.

Excerpted from Lies Women Believe by Nancy Leigh DeMoss. Copyright 2001 by Nancy Leigh DeMoss. Published by Moody Press. Used with permission.

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