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Tim Keller on an Inferiority Complex

I’m reading through Tim Keller’s sermon in book format titled The Freedom of Self-Forgetfulness, and came across this helpful insight:

… the ego is fragile. That is because anything that is overinflated is in imminent danger of of being deflated – like an overinflated balloon. … A superiority complex and an inferiority complex are basically the same. They are both results of being overinflated. The person with the superiority complex is overinflated and in danger of being deflated; the person with an inferiority complex is deflated already. Someone with an inferiority complex [like me!] will tell you they hate themselves and they will tell themselves they hate themselves. They are deflated. To be deflated means you were previously inflated. Deflated or in imminent danger of being deflated – it is all the same thing. And it makes the ego fragile.

This struck me as a particularly helpful insight because for numerous reasons, I’ve found myself with an inferiority complex and/or tended to throw (private and public) “pity parties.”  At the heart of it, Keller’s insight means that my problem is ultimately not that I don’t think highly enough of myself, but that I, in fact, suffer from pride.  Defeated, unaffirmed pride, perhaps — but pride nevertheless.  Pride that puffs up my ego — or has attempted to — and has been deflated since (but still tries to puff itself up).

It’s amazing how the same simple sin – pride – continues to be a downfall in my life. Just when I think (proudly!) that I’ve overcome it to some extent, I realize that it’s simply manifested itself in other ways. And as I am freshly awakened again to the sneaky presence of pride in my heart, I know that once again I must renew my efforts to be a person shaped by the cross of Christ – that incomparable display of God’s love, justice, mercy and kindness – where there is no room for pride or “high self-esteem” but only gratitude, faith and repentance.

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