Anyone who has struggled with a behavioral, emotional or relational dysfunction eventually gets to the place where they ask the question, "Why do I keep doing this?". In my book Ten Life Choices, I approach the answer to this question from the premise that all of these problems stem from brokenness in the area of our identity. God created us with a positive identity that includes value, community, power and gender. When these four are healthy and right, we thrive, but when they are broken we suffer.
Recently I came across this quote in The Road Less Traveled by M. Scott Peck, a renowned psychiatrist and writer:
"The feeling of being valuable - "I am a valuable person" is essential to mental health and is a cornerstone of self-discipline. It is a direct product of parental love. Such a conviction must be gained in childhood; it is extremely difficult to acquire it during adulthood. Conversely, when children have learned through the love of their parents to feel valuable, it is almost impossible for the vicissitudes of adulthood to destroy their spirit."
God created mankind with inherent value. HIs first descriptive word about the man He created was "good" (Genesis 1:31). The fall of mankind into sin marred that goodness and left him prone to feelings of being 'less than'. M. Scott Peck's antidote for this feeling of worthlessness is love. Since love has its ultimate source in God, I am inclined to agree. A child who grows up knowing they are loved by their parents, not just because of words or gifts but because of time spent, personal investment and genuine care, they seem to possess a sense of value and have less struggle with deep behavioral, emotional and relational dysfunction. However a child who does not feel that deep parental love because of abandonment, neglect, abuse or a lack of genuine care are left with a broken the sense of value. This brokenness leads them to strive to find value (workaholism, perfectionism), find value in another (co-dependency), strike out at others who they sense don't value them (anger, contempt) or simply try to live with the feeling of being worthless (depression, self-medication, addiction).
Of course, parental love is flawed by virtue of the fact that all parents are flawed. Thus the ultimate remedy for feelings of worthlessness is to understand, accept and embrace the truth that you are deeply loved by God. The truth is Gods love is extended to us before we ever made any move toward Him (John 3:16), is everlasting (Jeremiah 31:3) and nothing can separate us from it (Romans 8:35-39). He wants to Father us, having put His Spirit in us so that we could cry after him, Abba (Galatians 4:6-7).
Here are a few appropriate responses to this article:
1). If you have a good sense of value that is due in part to loving parents, thank God for them, and, if they are still living thank them as well.
2). If you do not have a good sense of value that is due in part to parents who were unwilling or incapable of loving you deeply, go through the the cross and extend forgiveness to them, thus releasing you from the contempt and bitterness and frees you to address the ways you deal with your lack of value.
3) Let the Father love you. This will require spending time with Him. Bible reading, prayer, fasting, solitude, silence, etc are spiritual disciplines that make room for us to experience God. A.W. Tozer in his book The Pursuit of God says that the self-life is never removed by instruction but by spiritual experience. You can't study your way into a sense of value!