Good Self or Bad Self?

Christians sometimes say incredibly negative things about the human person. The line in the hymn “Amazing Grace” about ‘for such a worm as I’ is just the tip of a very large iceberg of resistance toward saying anything positive about our human condition. The God of the Bible seems to have a more nuanced view. After creating humans, God summarized his handiwork by saying “it was very good.”1 We are wonderfully made.2 Jesus pictures God has a father who longs for the return of his prodigal child, who scans the horizon hoping that he will return.3 Why would God be excited about the return of a ‘worm’?

So what’s the deal? Are humans depraved? Worms? Is ‘dying to self’ essential because the self is completely and totally bad? If your answer is ‘yes’, then you may be tempted to think that survivors of abuse who are full of self-loathing are really just good Christians who understand the truth about the self. However, if the self-loathing commonly experienced by people who have been abused is a problem. . . rather than a sign of spiritual maturity. . . then your response will probably be very different.

For my own thoughts on the matter you can watch this video

Good Self|Bad Self

Or read my article entitled “Anti-Self and Pro-Self Theology: An ethical analysis of self-esteem” available as a pdf file here

Other useful resources on this topic:

The Good Self: Some Theological Perspectives An Interview with Ray Anderson
Seeing Ourselves More Clearly by Juanita Ryan


  1. Gen. 1:31 []
  2. Psalm 139:14 []
  3. Luke 15:11-32 []