Deeply rooted self-doubt and self-criticism will often emerge and strengthen during a depression. Depressed people often feel useless and worthless. They have low self-esteem. What should we do to address this?Some Christians are reluctant to give people any praise or encouragement because of the risk of making a person proud. However, it is safe to say that pride is one of the least risky vices for someone who is depressed. Pride results from having an overinflated view of oneself. Depression usually results in the opposite. Other Christians misconstrue the doctrine of original sin and total depravity to mean that there is no kind of good in anyone and fail to say anything positive to the depressed person. However, without minimizing the wickedness of the human heart and without denying our inability to do anything pleasing to God apart from faith in Christ, we should feel free to encourage depressed people to have a more realistic view of themselves by highlighting their God-given gifts, their contributions to the lives of others, their usefulness in society, and, if they are Christians, their value to the church. For example, a depressed young mother may feel like a total failure in every area of her life because she doesn’t have a perfect home or perfect children. We can help such a person see that she achieves a lot in a day, even though she might not manage to do everything she would like. We might remind her of all the meals she makes, clothes she washes and irons, and the shopping she manages, helping her see herself and her life in a more accurate and realistic light. Arie Elshout comments:
It is wrong to pat ourselves on the back when something has been accomplished as a result of our initiative. It is equally wrong, however, to focus on what we have not accomplished. In 1 Corinthians 15:10 we have a clear example of humility accompanied with a healthy opinion of one’s accomplishments: “But by the grace of God I am what I am: and his grace which was bestowed upon me was not in vain; but I labored more abundantly than they all: yet not I, but the grace of God which was with me.”
Paul knew very well that he daily offended in many things (James 3:2; cf. Rom. 7; Phil. 3:12), and yet he did not go so far as to cast out all his accomplishments. I do not believe that this is God’s will. In contrast to sinful forms of self-confidence and self-respect, there are also those that are good, necessary, and useful.
Without a healthy sense of these, human beings cannot function well. We may pray for an appropriate sense of self-confidence and self-respect, clothed in true humility, and we must oppose everything that impedes a healthy development of these things (be it in ourselves or others) with the Word of God (Overcoming Spiritual Depression, 32–33).