Self-Respect vs Dying to Self: Are they mutually exclusive?

Would appreciate resources and scripture regarding the difference between “dying to self” and self-respect.
The two seem mutually exclusive; how is one to be obedient in “turning the other cheek” while also setting healthy boundaries? Did Jesus have boundaries? Did Jesus allow others to slander him and disrespect him prior to the crucifixion?
How are we as believers called to avoid the Enemy’s trap of allowing people to walk all over us, yet also avoid entitlement to preferable circumstances?

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Welcome back, @megrey! Wow, that is an excellent question! Thank you for posting it.

I think I would start by trying to define dying to self. You might find the following posts helpful. I know I did.:blush:

https://connect.rzim.org/t/suggestions-for-books-on-surrender/502/2?u=tpauls8

I think that dying to self involves the process of choosing to do God’s will when we are tempted to follow our own will. This can look like the areas that are outlined in Colossians 3:5.

But it might also seem more benign like wanting to yell at someone who is irritating you. I believe that dying to self involves choosing to replace these temptations with what is outlined in Colossians 3:12-14

Self respect, I think, refers to the healthy love one has for oneself as God’s unique creation. I interpret Mark 12:30-31 to mean that in order to love our neighbor well we must first love ourselves.

Mark 12:30-31 New International Version (NIV)

30 Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’[a] 31 The second is this: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’[b] There is no commandment greater than these.”

I think that this self love and love for God are closely linked and that self-respect is part of this self love/God love.

In answer to your question, I believe that self respect and dying to self can and should co-exist. I believe that Jesus had a perfect self love/God love while at the same time dying to self. Literally. In asking for “this cup” to be “taken away” from Him, then following this up with “not my will but thy will be done”, Jesus was demonstrating his desire not to die on the cross and then submitting His will to God (dying to self). While submitting His will to the Father, He was mocked, spat on and disrespected in the worst possible way by many of those around Him. However, I do not believe He was letting these people walk all over Him. He was knowingly and intentionally allowing this mistreatment of himself. He was making a sacrifice by forgiving them…forgiving us. The difference between letting people walk all over Him and turning the other cheek, I believe, is a highly developed love of self (not to be separated from love of God). To turn the other cheek requires a sacrifice (i.e. forgiveness). Allowing someone to walk all over us requires no such sacrifice; it is actually the more cowardly option because we don’t have to do the hard work of setting and knowing our boundaries and then forgiving the breech of those boundaries.

In this latter part of your post, am I understanding correctly that you are juxtaposing avoidance of letting people walk all over us with avoidance of deserving something better? If so, I think that this is the ongoing challenge for us believers. It takes hard work to choose forgiveness. But if we make the effort (over and over again) I believe God will honour that choice and do a work in our heart such that we truly will no longer feel the resentment that leads us to feel we deserve better.

I hope that this helps you process this challenging topic.

In Christ,

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@megrey Great question :slight_smile: I appreciate @tpauls8’s response - I think it is important to understand what it means to die to self as we answer this question. When Paul talked about dying to self, he talked about dying to our sinful passions that ruled over us and dying to an “it’s all about me” attitude. When we die to self, we live for God’s Kingdom and His purposes - to love God and to love others. Our value no longer comes from the idea of self-respect, but rather from the reality that we belong to Christ and that we are made in God’s image.

Having healthy boundaries is not about “getting what I deserve”, but rather about bringing God’s Kingdom into the world and about not letting another person think it is okay to keep acting in a way that is unjust. When we set healthy boundaries in our own lives, we communicate to others the right way to live and that injustice is not something that can be tolerated. I think what sets us apart from the way the world goes about setting boundaries is that we both pray for and love those who have trespassed our boundaries - we sincerely desire their healing and their restoration.

All of that said - there is a time when we choose, for the sake of Christ, to suffer unjustly. Like when Bonhoeffer went back to Germany knowing he would die out of love for his people. Or when we choose to turn the other cheek to someone who mistreats us. God’s Kingdom is not of this world - so there are times when we - for His Kingdom and out of His love - make a real sacrifice. But it takes wisdom to know when it is appropriate to do so.

Staying in an unhealthy or abusive relationship is not furthering God’s Kingdom - it is simply empowering the other individual to continue doing wrong. This book is generally considered helpful when discussing boundaries…

Scripture

I think this excerpt from 1 Peter 2 is a humbling challenge. I do not think it means we stay in bad business or work relationships, but rather that no matter what situation we are in we do what is honorable before God and do all things in love.

Slaves, in reverent fear of God submit yourselves to your masters, not only to those who are good and considerate, but also to those who are harsh. For it is commendable if someone bears up under the pain of unjust suffering because they are conscious of God. But how is it to your credit if you receive a beating for doing wrong and endure it? But if you suffer for doing good and you endure it, this is commendable before God. To this you were called, because Christ suffered for you, leaving you an example, that you should follow in his steps.

“He committed no sin,
and no deceit was found in his mouth.”

When they hurled their insults at him, he did not retaliate; when he suffered, he made no threats. Instead, he entrusted himself to him who judges justly. “He himself bore our sins” in his body on the cross, so that we might die to sins and live for righteousness; “by his wounds you have been healed.” For “you were like sheep going astray,” but now you have returned to the Shepherd and Overseer of your souls.

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Such a great and important question and one that needs to be taken very seriously, as it really does at first glance appear to be a contradiction to die to self while simultaneously trying to respect/love yourself. Seeing from scripture that there really is only two ultimate states of self-hood, being the state of the unredeemed self seperated from God, and the state of the redeemed self restored to God, we can conclude that the highest respect that can be paid to the self is the divine respect granted to the self once it has been “rescued from the dominion of darkness and brought into the kingdom of the Son he loves” Colossians 1:13. This respect doesnt come from anything weve done, but from the regenerating and life-giving power of Gods Spirit as He brings to life that which was dead. There can be no true ‘self-respect’ to be had for the unredeemed self. God makes the self respectable, and we walk worthy of that respectability by dying daily to the old self. We respect the new self, the self ‘which is being renewed in knowledge in the image of its Creator’
Colossians 3:10- by dying to the old self,
‘which is being corrupted by its deceitful desires;’ Ephesians 4:22.
So to decide to turn the other cheek, or not to carry out personal vengeance on a person whose wronged you in some way, is to in a very real and important sense live out this command to die to the old self, ‘which is being corrupted by its decietful desires,’ one of which would be the ultimately counterproductive desire to return evil for evil. Being slandered and even abused for taking a stance for the eternal truths of Christ and His gospel is to pay an immeasurable respect to your true self, while simultaneously securing the everlasting benifit and treasures that comes to it as a result of such a sacrafice. We accept the persecution of the world because we know the promise of Christ, and what essentially happens when we die to self in this uniquely Christian sense, is we die to something unrespectable, and live to something gloriously respectable

Your last question is especially thought provoking. ‘How are we to avoid the enemies trap of allowing people to walk all over us, yet also avoid entitlement to preferable circumstances’

In truth I believe that there is a profound subversiveness in suffering unjustly for the sake of Christ and his righteousness. This subversiveness has a long and patient view of what persecution for Christ actually does to overthrow certain practices and systems common to the societies that believers, like ourselves, find ourselves in. The key thing is knowing that there is an eternal plan and power that attends the intentional suffering of the individual for the furtherance of the gospel, and this eternal plan and power has the last and final triumph, and those who faithfully suffer for it rise in victory with it. One Micro-example of this power is Martin luther King and the subversiveness of his non-retaliatory but still morally aggressive approach to the civil rights he was fighting for. We can can say that he was allowing people to walk all over him, and indeed he did allow this and people did this to him and much worst they would do, but he took no revenge. Instead of revenge he took the redemptive path of suffering unjustly for a just cause, and as we know, such a tactic would eventually effect a great political change for the black community, helping to end segregation in the states. And it’s no surprise that he used Christian principles to bring this change about.

If you are engaging the world with the hard truths of Christ and taking a stand for the gospel with your whole life, you will make enemies, and you will get trampled on, but they only stomp on you in a desperate effort to try and silence you, because what your saying is to hard for them to hear…but you’ve heard it, and now you live by it and defend it, and by doing so, true strength and self-respect are eternally on your side.

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This is really helpful- thank you.

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@megrey Glad it helped :slight_smile: Christ grant you wisdom as you navigate setting healthy boundaries and help others to do so.

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These are all very helpful and very interesting responses- thank you all. I think it is challenging to think about when suffering unjustly is honoring God and bringing His Kingdom into view and also when it is not. I find it very hard to discern. Especially when recalling Jesus overturning the tables in the temple courts in John 2. He did not flinch in his aggressive response to that injustice. He also justified his actions by referring to his own body as a temple. If we, then, are also referred to as “temples” (1Cor. 6), how do we respond to blatant injustice against our own “temples” in light of how Jesus responded in John 2?

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@megrey Great question :slight_smile: I don’t think that Jesus was using the fact that His body was a temple to justify His actions. Rather, Jesus, as predicted in the Old Testament, was showing zeal for the house of God, which should be open to Gentiles and should not be used to make a profit, but should be a house of prayer.

I think we can know it is right to set strong boundaries if:

  1. Shame or humiliation is being used as a prison
  2. We are in an abusive relationship, whether physical or emotional
  3. We are in a one way relationship, where the other person always takes and never gives

Generally we sacrifice ourselves in acts of selfless love - giving a large portion of our income to the poor, giving someone more vulnerable than us a jacket and going cold for a few hours until we get home, or even sharing the Gospel with people who may be hostile to God (if doing so wisely…) There are rare situations where, like Joseph in Egypt, we honor a master who is unkind because we cannot escape the situation, so we honor God in that situation. But generally we should not stay in abusive situations.