(The 24-page sample PDF includes half the booklet.)
Why do people do the bad things they do?
- The traditional answer is that people do bad things because they have too high a view of themselves. That is, they are proud and need a lower view of themselves.
- The contemporary answer is that people do bad things because they have too low a view of themselves. That is, they lack self-esteem and need a higher view of themselves.
Keller argues that Paul’s “approach to self-regard” utterly differs from both the traditional and contemporary answers (p. 12).
Paul, Keller argues, refuses to play the self-esteem game. He has a “transformed view of self”:
- Paul “does not care what anybody thinks about him. In fact, his identity owes nothing to what people say. It is as if he is saying, ‘I don’t care what you think. I don’t care what anybody thinks.’ Paul’s self-worth, his self-regard, his identity is not tied in any way to their verdict and their evaluation of him” (pp. 24–25).
- “If someone has a problem with low self-esteem we, in our modern world, seem to have only one way of dealing with it. That is remedying it with high self-esteem. We tell someone that they need to see that they are a great person, they need to see how wonderful they are. . . . Paul’s approach could not be more different. He cares very little if he is judged by the Corinthians or by any human court. And then he goes one step further: he will not even judge himself. It is as if he says, ‘I don’t care what you think—but I don’t care what I think. I have a very low opinion of your opinion of me—but I have a very low opinion of my opinion of me’” (p. 26).
- “If we were to meet a truly humble person, Lewis says, we would never come away from meeting them thinking they were humble. They would not be always telling us they were a nobody (because a person who keeps saying they are a nobody is actually a self-obsessed person). The thing we would remember from meeting a truly gospel-humble person is how much they seemed to be totally interested in us. Because the essence of gospel-humility is not thinking more of myself or thinking less of myself, it is thinking of myself less. Gospel-humility is not needing to think about myself” (pp. 31–32).
- “Are we talking about high self-esteem? No. So is it low self-esteem? Certainly not. It is not about self-esteem. Paul simply refuses to play that game. He says ‘I don’t care about your opinion but, I don’t care that much about my opinion’—and that is the secret” (p. 33).
- “Here is one little test. The self-forgetful person would never be hurt particularly badly by criticism. It would not devastate them, it would not keep them up late, it would not bother them. Why? Because a person who is devastated by criticism is putting too much value on what other people think, on other people’s opinions” (p. 33).
How did Paul get that “transformed view of self”?
- “The trial is over for him. He is out of the courtroom. It is gone. It is over. Because the ultimate verdict is in. . . . [I]t is the Lord who judges him. It is only His opinion that counts” (pp. 38–39).
- “Do you realize that it is only in the gospel of Jesus Christ that you get the verdict before the performance?” (p. 39).
- “[T]he verdict is in. And now I perform on the basis of the verdict. Because He loves me and He accepts me, I do not have to do things just to build up my résumé. I do not have to do things to make me look good. I can do things for the joy of doing them” (p. 40).
- “But maybe . . . . every day you find yourself being sucked back into the courtroom. . . . All I can tell you is that we have to re-live the gospel every time we pray. We have to re-live it every time we go to church. We have to relive the gospel on the spot and ask ourselves what we are doing in the courtroom. We should not be there. The court is adjourned” (pp. 43–44).