Ben Bennett and Josh McDowell continue the important discussion about shame, negative self-image, and the common lies we believe about ourselves. Learn practical ways to overcome shame, and experience the revolutionary truth about who God actually is.
Josh McDowell is the founder and president of Josh McDowell Ministry (A Cru Ministry). He has written or co-authored 152 books in 128 languages and has addressed more than 46 million people, giving over 37,000 talks in 140 countries.
Connect with Josh on Twitter @josh_mcdowell and on Instagram @joshdmcdowell.
Connect with Ben on Twitter and Instagram @benvbennett
Visit the Resolution Movement website: resolutionmovement.org
Follow us on Instagram @resolutionmovement
Ben: Welcome to Resolution, an initiative of Josh McDowell Ministry. Here, we equip you to help youth overcome hurts and struggles and start thriving in life with Christ and others. I’m your host, Ben Bennett. Welcome to Season 1.
Hey, welcome back to the Resolution podcast. Today, Josh McDowell and I are continuing the conversation about overcoming shame and how to see yourself the way God does, so let’s jump back in and continue the conversation.
Josh: Every one of us God creates unique, a unique creation. No other likeness or kind is how you would define uniqueness. In all the world, there’s no one else like me. Wow. And God loves me the way I am. I am unique. And the thing is so many people go through life wanting to be like someone else. There’s not one person I’ve ever met I’d rather be like. [Audio cuts out] [00:01:06] got gifts, talents, abilities, looks – anything. I am totally engulfed in the way God made me. God designed you to be you, Ben, and me to be me. And if you are not you, and I am not me, who will be us? Now, think of that.
I believe every one of us is a gift to the world. They’ll say, “Oh, that’s so obnoxious of Christians.” Well, I do. I believe you are, I believe I am, I believe ever person watching this is a gift to the world. And as we go through life, I believe it’s God unwrapping a gift. As we grow old, we mature, we learn how to love – everything – God is unwrapping a special gift to the world. And then, we know that it says that God is all-knowing, omniscient. He knows when we lie down, knows when we wake up, He knows us from afar. And you know what I concluded about that? He who loves me most knows me best, or he who loves me best knows me more. Wow.
God knows me, and He still loves me. Then, why can’t I accept my own blemishes and love myself? And so, very, very unique. And I learned God’s love for me is sacrificial. For God so loved the world He gave his only begotten son. And in Corinthians, it says about the price that God paid was Jesus. And then, God’s love took the initiative. He didn’t wait around for me to love Him. This, then, is love – not that we loved Him but that He loved us and sent His son. And then, His love is extensive. In John, it says, “As much as the Father loves me, I love you.” Whoa.
Ben: Incredible claim.
Josh: Did you get that? Jesus says as much as God the Father loves me, God the son, I love you. And later, it says as much as Jesus loves the Father, he loves me. Wow. That’s why you can sing the song “No Greater Love”. And then, God’s love is knowledgeable. He knows me and He loves me. He who knows me best loves me most, and I’m so thankful of that. And then, I realize He died to forgive me. He died to forgive me. What helped me grasp that was when Jesus said, “I’ll put your sins as far away as the east is from the west.”
For years, I don’t think most Christians really understand that, and I’ll never forget when I came to understand that. I thank God he didn’t say, “I’ll put your sins as far away as the north is from the south.” Why? You can measure north to south. There’s a north pole and there’s a south pole. You only go north so long, and then you’re going south. You only go south so long, and then you’re going north. But there’s no east and west pole. Do you ever get that? You go east, you go east your whole life. You never stop. It’s eternity. You go west, you can’t measure east to west. There’s no west pole and east pole.
And God didn’t say, “I’m gonna put your sins as far away as the north is from the south,” which you can measure it. He said, “I’m gonna put your sin as far away as the east is from the west for eternity.” Unlimited. Whoa.
Ben: So good.
Josh: That’s what He did. And then, a story that really affected me, I was reading this story about this young boy, made his own sailboat – a little toy sailboat. His father took him down to the Mississippi River to sail it, and he put it in the water, and it floated and everything, but it got caught up in the current and was carried downstream and was carried further out. And the little boy started running along the bank yelling for his boat, and finally, it disappeared. The kid was crushed.
Several weeks later, they were in a town further down the river, and he was with his father, and they walked by a pawn shop. And in the window of the pawn shop was his boat. He got so excited, he ran into the store, ran up, and took the boat from the window. And the owner said, “You can’t do that. That’s my boat.” He said, “No, I made it.” He said, “Then you’re gonna have to buy it.” When he left the store, his father heard him say, “I made you once, and I bought you once.” Whoa. Jesus made us once – he created us – and he bought us once with his death on the cross. Wow.
That little boy now is probably grown up into 30-35 years old, but I wish to God I could meet that kid now. As he walked out, he said to his boat, “I made you once, and I bought you once,” and Jesus says to me, “Josh, you’re special. I made you once, and I bought you once.” Whew.
Josh: That’s something to get excited about.
Ben: And especially in our day where a lot of people will say things like “know your worth”, “know your value”, or “believe in yourself” – this kind of mentality of “you’re loved, you’re worthy, pull yourself up by your bootstraps and believe it”, but I think that falls short of our actual worth because who’s defining it? Am I defining my worth in saying I’m valuable? Is culture?
Josh: It starts with the scriptures. The truest thing about you is what God says about you, but where God intended, then, wants parents to reinforce that. With my children, I was to reinforce their value, their worth, their gifts, their talents, everything in their lives. And that’s the way God intended for us to go from here in the mind in the word of God down to our life and our experience is through our parents reinforcing what God says is true about their child. And it hurts me when I know so many children – what, 62% is it? – grew up in a fatherless home. Or maybe it’s not quite that high, but half those that grow up in a fathered home, the father doesn’t reinforce these things.
Ben: And what you’re saying, that value, that worth is derived from who God says we are being made in His image. Not what friends say, not what culture says, but they have the opportunity to back that up.
Josh: You see, this is where when I speak on self-image, and I’m doing it in a week at a family camp, I really emphasize what you just said that my value is not a created value. I didn’t create this value in my life. It’s a derived value. It’s derived from my creator, and that keeps you humble, and it keeps you from leading to pride where people think, “Well, I’ve created all this worth and value.” No. For who you are as a person, God created that and embedded you with that value. Like you said, Ben, it’s a derived value.
Ben: Which is so powerful because it’s objective. It’s an objective truth that regardless of what you say, what people say, the person who hurt me, what they said, God says this about me, and that can’t be taken away. Love it. So encouraging.
Josh: I caught you off guard, didn’t I? I didn’t say anything.
Ben: Yeah, normally, you always have something to say.
Josh: I was so thinking about it. I was so thinking about it.
Ben: But that’s been a big thing that I’ve had to learn in my life. And as you shared those things, I continued to think about – there’s just a difference between – how do I say this? There’s a difference between our identity in Christ and our identity as people made in the image of God. So often, I think what we hear is your identity is in Christ, He loves you because of the cross, all of this, but we forget that in Genesis 1 and 2, people – humans – were made in God’s image, and John 3:16, for God so loved the world that He gave – elsewhere, it says while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.
He showed his love to us before accepting us through the cross. And of course, how awesome it is when we’re forgiven and saved and adopted into God’s family and our identity becomes in Christ, but –
Josh: You know, I probably in my life, I don’t make that dichotomy. When I say my identity’s in Christ, that goes into who He created me to be, everything. I don’t say, “Well, this comes from this, and this comes –” Ultimately, it all comes from Christ, and so I don’t draw that big of a dichotomy in my life, Ben. I look at my identity is in Christ.
Ben: I think throughout –
Josh: I know who I am, why I’m here, and where I’m going. Boy, when you can answer those three questions, you’re on your road to happiness.
Ben: So good. I think the reason why I’ve started to make that distinction is because if somebody’s not a Christian, they’re still made in the image of God, they still have inherent worth and value and God loves them, and He wants a relationship with them. He doesn’t –
Josh: Yeah, they just don’t know it. It’s the same identity, but they don’t know it.
Ben: Right, so we can help them know –
Josh: And this is why when you become a Christian, part of discipleship needs to be confirming your identity in Christ is part of discipleship, I think. What’s your next question?
Ben: Next question, what are some practical ways you would encourage parents, youth leaders, pastors to help young people see themself as God sees them and really believe it at a core level?
Josh: Well, first you need to model in your own life. You need to model. They need to be able to see the identity of Christ in your life second in your marriage with the mom and dad together. If they don’t see that, they’re not gonna listen to you.
Here’s something I thought of: if they don’t see it in your life, but you preach it to your kids and teach it, then why should a kid do what you say when they don’t like who you are? Because if I do what you say, I’ll become who you are, and I don’t like who you are. So, I’m gonna reject what you say. You said it was Jesus. Well, I don’t like the way you fight, everything else, the way you treat each other, the way you treat me, and you say you came to Christ, then I don’t wanna come to Christ because if I come to Christ, the same thing’s gonna happen to me. That’s why one of the biggest barriers to someone coming to Christ is the image of their parents, especially their father.
Josh: Especially their father. People used to say to me in Battle Creek, Michigan, Union City – where I was born in Union City – and they knew my home life and all and my struggles, much of it. And they would say – Christians meaningfully would say, “You know, there’s a father in heaven who loves you.” That didn’t bring me joy. That brought me fear and sadness because I grew up believing fathers hurt. My father hurt me. And I could not discern the difference between a heavenly father and an earthly father. I simply grew up “fathers hurt”.
And I would say one of my biggest barriers to coming to Christ was not intellectual like most people think and what my books write, it was my image of my earthly father, I believe, was the greatest barrier to me coming to Christ because I could not trust a father. And so, modeling it. Next, we need to teach our children the scriptures. And not in a preachy way. We hardly ever had what people would refer to as family devotions – sitting around the table, reading God’s word, and then praying. Hardly ever. We sat around the table and discussed the day, and Christ always came up. What happened today? What’d we learn today?
My devotion with my kids was on a way to a ballgame, taking them to school, going for a walk with them, going to a movie. Why? In the car, I always had planned one thing I wanted to teach my child from the time I left home and we arrived at their school. I had it all planned out. And so, I would ask some questions. They didn’t realize we were having family devotions. And in a very normal, go-about-life way, I taught my children the scriptures, and I don’t even think they realized that’s what I was doing, but it became part of their lives. And so, we need to teach it.
And then, we need to let our kids experience things. One of my greatest struggles as a father, how far do I let my children go to where they might hurt themselves? But they’ve gotta have experience, but I don’t want them to hurt themselves, that for years it'll pay off in their life. And for me, it was a struggle. How far do I let Katie, Kelly, Heather, Sean go that they won’t hurt themselves, but they’ll learn a personal lesson? And I needed to allow my children to fail, to not step in and rescue them because life is full of failures. And if you don’t learn as a child to handle failures, you’re gonna be a disaster as an adult.
I think the worst phrase is – your child wants to do something, gymnastics or something, and then after a couple months, they don’t wanna do it, and the parent says, “Well, look, you need to finish it. You started it, you finish it.” I never said that to my children. To me, I needed to let my children try everything they wanted to so they could see what they like, what they don’t like, what was meaningful to them, what was not. And so, my one daughter got into horseback riding and renaissance fairs, and then she just stopped it. And I could easily have said, “Look, you started it, you need to finish it, the whole training and everything.”
No. She learned that she really didn’t enjoy it. That’s a great lesson to learn. And then, she learned, oh, I really like this, and she finished the course. And so, I never said to my kid, “Well, you started it, you finish it.” No, let them stop. Let them go into other things. Try other things.
And like my one daughter got into 4-H, animals, and she wanted to get a sheep, train a sheep, and show it at the fair. So, she saved up some of her money, I matched it, and we bought a little lamb. She raised it, and then she just quit spending time with it or anything. Just lost interest. And so many parents will say, “Look, you started this, you need to finish it.” No. I said, “Honey, what’d you learn from the lamb?” We talked about it and everything, and then we sold the lamb. What was wrong with that? She learned a lesson in life.
Ben: I love that.
Josh: She learned she didn’t wanna show animals at 4-H. She had other things she wanted to do with her life. And then, when your children do find something they like, find ways to do it with them. Find ways to do it with them. For example, my one daughter got into – Katie – into running – long-distance running. But she started out with a 100-yard dash, and boy was she fast. In fact, I think she held the record for a while in a little school. I’m not sure. But we were in Mexico on vacation, and I said, “Honey, you’re not doing much running,” and she said, “Well, I don’t know where to.” I said, “Hey, I’ll look around, and I’ll find a place.”
So, I found this dirt road, I went back, and you know what it was like? A gravel runway way out in the jungle, and it was right on the bay. And so, I said, “Honey, grab lunch, and let’s go workout.” And so, I took her down there, I brought my stopwatch, I timed – I didn’t run with her, but I timed her, everything. I bet we were there for an hour and a half to two hours. And that helped to build her self-image, to develop a talent, a gift, to find victory, success, and all that. My son got into baseball, and he had a big game coming up and really needed some batting practice, and it started to rain. So, I’ll never forget –
Ben: The worst.
Josh: – we went out to – we had two barns. One was a fairly new barn, and the other one was an old rickety barn. Eventually, it literally fell down. The whole barn went down. And we stood at the end of the barn outside in the rain, and I pitched to my son for about 45 minutes to an hour. I was soaked but pitched. And what’d that say to my son? My dad loves you. What I care about, my dad cares about. And I helped him to develop one of his gifts, and he’s an outstanding athlete.
And I’ll never forget when he came to me in baseball – now, Sean was just about the shortest kid in his class, and he said, “Dad, I’m gonna pitch.” Oh, my gosh. I mean, what would – “Oh, son, you’re too short.” I wanted to say, “Son, this is baseball. You should play shortstop. I thank God I didn’t say that. I said, “Well, son, then let’s work on it.” And I would catch him pitching and everything else. His mother would catch him. He became an incredible pitcher. The shortest kid in the team. And I thank God I didn’t say, “Oh, son, you’re too short. You need to be shortstop or second base. Not third base, not first base, not outfield,” but I didn’t, and I thank God I didn’t because Sean, one, is very gifted athletically.
He was academic all-American in basketball and the shortest kid in the team, and that was at Biola University. But allow our kids to try things and let them quit things. And so, you don’t criticize them when they quit. You brag about them when they continue. Anyway, that’s some of the ways that I tried to pass some of this value, worth, ability and on to my children.
Ben: Such powerful examples. And I think kinda what you got at was that these examples, these actions, these behaviors help young people believe who God actually says they are, that they matter, that their opinions matter, that they are capable, and it helps them experience and believe what is actually true of them – not just intellectually but at a deep, core level and –
Josh: And young.
Ben: And how healing that can be even if people are in their teenage years or get older, if they’ve got a mentor or a youth pastor or something like that who cares for them that way. One more question for you today, what would you say are some practical ways that other people maybe who aren’t young, who aren’t kids, maybe a little bit older could find healing, and overcome shame, and develop healthy biblical self-image?
Josh: I often say, “Don’t go it alone.” Especially if you’re a young lady and if you have a really good relationship with your mom, share it with your mom. Your mom will have some wisdom to share with you. You might go to the youth pastor or the pastor of the church. Sometimes, you might even go to professional counseling. I went to professional counseling.
Dr. Henry Cloud. Oh, my gosh, I never knew anyone could know so much. And for two years, every time I arrived home from a speaking tour, I drove up to Newport Beach, and I sat in a chair with Henry Cloud. And of course, he had this big German Shepherd that was always with him in his counseling, and I said, “Henry, I’ve learned more from your dog than I have you.” But Henry Cloud helped me so much to understand myself. And so, get counseling. Get my book. You can go to – I think it’s probably on Amazon or you can go to Josh.org. What’s the name? His Image, My Image. His Image, My Image.
Ben: And the updated one is See Yourself as God Sees You. Is that right?
Josh: You know, I was just gonna say, I think it was changed to See Yourself as God Sees You.
Ben: Incredible book.
Josh: That book can really help you. I don’t know how many people have written me all over the world because it’s in so many languages saying, “Next to the Bible, it’s the greatest book I ever read.” And the reason is it met needs in their life dealing with self-image. So, get the book, See Yourself as God Sees You. You can go to my website, Josh.org, or Amazon probably has it.
The other is do some good, positive self-talk. I like to talk to myself because I’m guaranteed two things: an intelligent audience and an interesting speaker. So, I talk to myself all the time. And it’s good to have positive conversations with yourself and just ask yourself, “Am I looking at myself the way I really am? Am I looking at myself the way God sees me?”
Ben: Love it.
Josh: Those are some things that can help.
Ben: Yeah, on that –
Josh: Get help. Get help.
Ben: And on that last note, what are we saying to ourselves –
Josh: Well, you know, Ben, I keep looking at myself with these earbuds in my ear, and when I look straight up, it looks like I got earrings.
Ben: Yeah, they look great on you. White earrings.
Josh: Oh, boy. Anyway, go ahead.
Ben: On that last note of what are we telling ourselves, one thing that has been transformational in my life is cutting the trash-talking voice of shame out of my life. That’s what I call it, the trash-talking voice of shame, because for years growing up, I not only had people saying things like, “You’re annoying,” “You’re fat,” “Go away, Ben,” from my friends, from my family, and I believed those messages, but at a certain time, Josh, I started telling them to myself. But it was about five years ago I made a conscious decision that every time those negative thoughts come up, I’m not gonna tell them to myself anymore. I’m gonna remind myself of who God says that I am. And another thing I realized –
Josh: That’s what I was just saying.
Ben: Yeah, exactly.
Josh: You turn the negative into positive talk.
Ben: Yeah, and –
Josh: Positive conversations with yourself.
Ben: And like you were saying, that changed everything in my life five years ago, and I realized that we are our own most important preachers. All day long, we have these thoughts going on, we’re preaching to ourself, but are we preaching what is actually true, who God says that we are? And another thing that was so fascinating was realizing that self-rejection, these negative thoughts were a pay of protecting myself. If I rejected myself first, I wouldn’t fear as much other people’s rejection, and that was just one more way that shame was coming out.
Josh: If you don’t like yourself, how can you trust somebody else when they say, “I like you”? If you don’t love yourself, which is biblical, how can you trust someone else that says, “I love you”? Most people get married. I truly believe so many, they marry a façade. They marry the front the person has put on, not who they really are deep down inside. And so, if you don’t think you’re loveable, how can you trust somebody else to think you’re loveable? You can’t. That’s where it becomes a spiral downwards. I wanna close with this, I was reading a thing about – oh, come on. The guy from Wichita, the very wealthy, wealthy – starts with a B, billionaire.
He was saying that the greatest lessons he learned in life was from his father. Not his education or anything else, from his father. And he said, “The greatest lesson I learned from my father is unconditional love.” And he said, “That’s probably the greatest factor in my life.” I thought, “Wow, what a testimony for somebody who’s made –” I mean, he’s a billionaire. It’s not Bunker Hunt. And he attributed it to his father because he said, “My father truly loved me unconditionally.” He said, “I always knew it didn’t matter what I did, my father would still love me. Might not like what I did, but he would still love me.”
Ben: Josh, we appreciate you once again joining us on the podcast, discussing this topic with us today. And for those tuning in, listening, watching, we wanna hear from you. We wanna hear how God has used this podcast in your life or those He ministered to. You can message us on Instagram, on Facebook, @ResolutionMovement, or head over to ResolutionMovement.org and check out some of the articles we have on shame and self-image.
And we wanna encourage you and the young people in your life to think about what we shared on this episode, on the last episode, and like we talked about, to begin taking inventory of the thoughts going on in your mind. Are they from God? Are they true? Are they who God says you are? And then, to begin renewing your mind, meditating on and experiencing what is true. And as we’ve talked about, the more and more we make the same decisions, think the same thoughts, the neurons that fire together in our brains wire together, making it easier and easier to believe what is true and to overcome hurts and struggles in our lives. So, thanks so much for joining us today. Josh, thanks so much for being with us.
Josh: The thing I like about being with you, we always discuss critical, relevant issues.
Ben: Thanks, Josh.
Thanks for listening to the Resolution podcast. If you enjoyed this episode, it would mean so much to us if you rate it, share it, and subscribe. To be part of the global Resolution Movement, connect with us on social media and YouTube, @ResolutionMovement. That’s @ResolutionMovement. And check out ResolutionMovement.org for more information and resources. See you soon.
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Duration: 33 minutes