Then Jesus said to them, ‘All of you will be made to stumble because of me this night…’ Peter answered and said to him, ‘Even if all are made to stumble because of you, I will never be made to stumble.” (Mt 26: 31, 33-34)

In the final hours leading up to our Lord’s arrest and passion, Peter is full of self-confidence, proclaiming that he will “never” be made to stumble. Just a few verses later Christ Himself displays a very different attitude in the face of His imminent suffering, throwing Himself on the ground in Gethsemane and praying, “My Father, if it is possible, let this cup pass from me; yet not what I want but what you want” (Mt 26: 39). The God-Man seeks strength in prayer, while Peter seeks strength in himself.

High self-esteem is often thought to lead to high performance and success. Don’t focus on your human weaknesses, I am told; focus on your “awesomeness.” But such a focus actually leads to fear; to a quiet terror of making mistakes, as I defensively assert my “awesomeness” to protect it.

When I take a good look at my weaknesses, on the other hand, I actually find strength and motivation. Because self-examination leads me both to understand my deficiencies and to seek help from God and other people. This doesn’t mean “letting myself off the hook” or “lowering the bar.” An understanding of my particular sinful patterns helps me see them for what they are, and that is, changeable. I do change and grow as I seek and receive help, in prayer and humble openness to myself and others.

Today let me choose the path of self-compassionate change over the dead-end of self-esteem. God does not abandon me on the transformational journey of His cross, when I recognize and ask for the help that I need.

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