by Michael Lee
I remember (not too fondly) receiving my grades from Common Test 1 (CT1) back at Raffles Junior College (RJ) – abysmal would have been a good way to describe my performance. I remember going through a post-examination chemistry lectures where the teacher would release the results of the entire cohort. I would usually fall within the 10th to 20th percentile. Needless to say, I was never the brightest student around, and I would always be immensely discouraged when my peers started comparing their results. In this meritocratic society, I found myself measuring my self-worth based on my accomplishments – how good I looked, the grades that I received, and the awards that I achieved.
Failure was frowned upon – or perhaps after a while I believed that failure was not an option. I would look up in awe of the people who had it all – they were leaders in their respective fields, had stellar results, and were being recommended for scholarships by the school board. I subconsciously started comparing myself to them; my thoughts shifted from denial, to negativity, to inferiority. In response, I became even more determined to salvage my self-worth by throwing myself into my work and committing more heavily to my co-curricular activities (CCAs).
My relationship with God suffered as a result. I started demoting “Christian priorities” in favour of other activities. In an environment that places emphasis on the material and the present, God was seemingly irrelevant. Before long, the things of the world had successfully taken over my priorities. God was nothing more than church that I visited every Sunday, a quick prayer before a meal, and empty songs that I sang during worship. God had been relegated to nothing more than a chore – someone whom I could make it up to later.
While I drew temporary gratification from my co-curricular achievements in school, I was never completely satisfied because there was always someone “better.” It was then when I realized that if you base your entire worth as an individual on what you have done in comparison to others, you would never be content because you are constantly searching to attain an elusive, unattainable benchmark. It was then when I chanced upon this verse, which struck me:
“But God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” –Romans 5:8
Who would have thought that God loves us regardless of how good, smart, or accomplished we are? Even when we had turned away from Him, He still sent His son, Jesus Christ, to die on the cross for us. It is particularly unique to Christianity that salvation is conferred through His grace alone, rather than through our efforts to make ourselves somehow “worthy” of His love.
In hindsight, I find it particularly striking (and ironic) that the majority of low self-esteem and anorexia patients hail from premier schools in Singapore. Personally, I have had loved ones who struggled/struggle with similar issues of negative self-perception despite their considerable beauty, achievements in life, and wonderful character. I like to think that this void of self-worth and self-fulfillment cannot be satisfied with tangible, material things, but from another supernatural source. To my friends struggling with such issues, I would like to propose to you that God finds us all intrinsically beautiful. No matter how mediocre, how inferior, how horrible we think we are, we are his “heirs,” and like in the parable of the Prodigal Son, He is always waiting for us to come home to Him. If the Creator of the universe is so convinced of my self-worth that he would die for me, who am I to think otherwise?