Many psychologists suggest that a poor self-image is the result of a gap between two lines.
The top line represents the standard that we think we ought to live up to. The lower line represents our perception of how closely we actually do live up to that standard (top line).
The gap between the top line and the lower line can influence how good we feel about ourselves. The smaller the gap, the better we feel about ourselves. The larger the gap, the worse we feel about ourselves.
Consider your diet. If there is a gap between the standard of what you should eat (top line) and what you actually do eat (bottom line) then you may not feel as good about your self.
In marriage, if you are less patience, loving, affectionate and respectful (bottom line) than you believe you should be (top line) then you may not feel as good about your self.
The secular solution to a better self-image is to try and narrow the gap (get the two lines closer together) by either lowering the standard (top line) or raising your perception of how close you are to the top line.
Lowering the standard may sound like: "Come on, no one is perfect . . . You are being too hard on yourself . . . You are just a red blooded man . . . Who do you think you are, Jesus?"
Raising our perception (the bottom line) may sound like: "Well, I don't think you are all that bad . . . if you think you are all that bad look at 'so and so' they are ten times worse than you are . . .
Can't we always find someone worse than we are? That is the wrong standard! We should compare ourselves to the standard God holds us to -- the standard of Jesus Christ:
2 Corinthians 10:12 (NASB95) 12 For we are not bold to class or compare ourselves with some of those who commend themselves; but when they measure themselves by themselves and compare themselves with themselves, they are without understanding.
Ephesians 4:13 (NASB95) 13 until we all attain to the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to a mature man, to the measure of the stature which belongs to the fullness of Christ.
Rather than narrow the gap between these two lines, God wants us to see how broad the gap really is! How many sins did it take Adam and Eve to lose complete fellowship with God? Just one! Disobedience, rebellion, lack of faith, self-reliance - in their diet. The sin that cast humanity into separation from God involved their diet.
Doesn't it seem to be an overkill to send the entire human race to hell because they disobeyed God's diet plan? This shows the incredible high standard of God.
Now if God's standard is this high (top line), what happens to my perception of how close I am to that high standard of God (bottom line)? Does it go up or down? Down, way down! I now realize that I am a lot further from God's standard (top line) then I ever thought I was.
The sin gap was a major theme in the Sermon on the Mount. Jesus clearly 'raised' the standard in many areas:
He raised the standard on adultery.
Matthew 5:27-28 (NASB95)
27 You have heard that it was said, 'You shall not commit adultery';28 but I say to you that everyone who looks at a woman with lust for her has already committed adultery with her in his heart.
He raised the standard on murder.
Matthew 5:21-22 (NASB95)
21 You have heard that the ancients were told, 'You shall not commit murder' and 'Whoever commits murder shall be liable to the court.'22 "But I say to you that everyone who is angry with his brother shall be guilty before the court; and whoever says to his brother, 'You good-for-nothing,' shall be guilty before the supreme court; and whoever says, 'You fool,' shall be guilty enough to go into the fiery hell.
When I realize how high God's standard actually is, then the gap actually becomes bigger as I realize how far away I really am from God's perfect standard. When I consider that the moral standard is the perfect standard of Jesus Christ, then I realize that I may have not ever lived five minutes of my life like Christ.
I conclude that I am a sinner and without any hope of achieving the perfect standard by my own efforts. Indeed "for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God" (Rom. 3:23).
That's the bad news. The good news is that Jesus Christ perfectly bridges the gap for us. There is nothing good that we can do to merit forgiveness or salvation. It is all about trusting Christ completely to bridge the gap between God's holy standard and our sinful state.
I believe the Sin Gap principle is essential for producing humility, which is essential for relational intimacy.
Humility is that attitude we have when we see the contrast between God's holiness and our sinfulness. Reesolving past hurts requires a great deal of humility. We must be able to see and acknowledge ways we fail to show perfect Christ-like love.
Using Christ as our standard enables us to quickly own our flaws and not so quickly focus on our partner's flaws. It ends the blame game and is the key to resolving conflict quickly.
Next time your partner addresses your flaws ask yourself this question "In this incident have I failed to show perfect Christ-like love? The answer is probably a resounding yes. So own the flaw and resolve the conflict -- immediately.