Where do inferiority and superiority complexes come from?
Overcoming inferiority and superiority complexes is no small feat. But, as always, God’s word shows us the way.
Inferiority and superiority complexes have been the cause of all kinds of evil in this world since the beginning of time. (James 3:16.) Overcoming an inferiority or superiority complex may not be easy, but in God’s word we find solutions!
Why is an inferiority complex so dangerous? Because you become bound by what people think. You have no freedom to be yourself, never mind any boldness to do the things that God has given you to do. You come out of the freedom that is in Christ. And superiority complexes make you treat others with contempt or utter disregard, because in your eyes they at some level have less worth than yourself.
Clearly this is not how God wants it to be.
Overcoming an inferiority complex or a superiority complex
To get to the bottom of overcoming an inferiority complex or a superiority complex, it’s very interesting to think about where they stem from.
Tielman Slabbert has recently spoken a lot about this topic. Both inferiority and superiority complexes come from looking up to something that appears “great.” Either you feel that you lack something great or you think you are better because you have something great. This may sound overly simplified, but it makes a lot of sense.
Why would you feel inferior to someone? Because you feel like they are smarter or more charismatic, that their wealth gives them an edge, or that their gifts and talents somehow set them above you, etc. Or vice versa. If you believe that you are more successful or come from a better background, that your way of doing things is more correct, etc., then you will feel superior to another. It can be hard to acknowledge that, but if you examine yourself carefully, you may find it’s the truth.
But the truth is that these things are only “great” in the eyes of people. They actually mean nothing in the eyes of God – things you will never find in the Bible. Society and culture have fooled us into highly esteeming things, and we have been trained to believe that more than we believe the word of God.
The world looks up to things like money, beauty, intelligence, style, charisma, charm, influence, you name it. But Jesus said, “… what is highly esteemed among men is an abomination in the sight of God.” Luke 16:15. That really puts things into perspective. These things give a person no extra value from God’s point of view; on the contrary, he hates it when you “esteem” these things by looking up to or down on others or letting yourself be looked up to or down on because of them! God has an entirely different way of measuring worth.
What does have value for God?
You only have to look at His word to find out what He regards highly. In Galatians 5, for example, Paul writes about the fruit of the Spirit. “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control. Against such there is no law.” Galatians 5:22-23. And in 1 Corinthians 13:13: “And now abide faith, hope, love, these three; but the greatest of these is love.” And: “He has shown you, O man, what is good; and what does the Lord require of you but to do justly, to love mercy, and to walk humbly with your God?” Micah 6:8. Spending time in the Scriptures opens your eyes to the things that have true, eternal value.
Then you also see very quickly where your lacks are. Truthfully, human nature is quite the opposite of God’s word. But it is also written there that “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me,” and that “He who has begun a good work in you will complete it,” among other things. So if your desire is for these virtues, then God will show you the way to gain them. (Philippians 4:13; Philippians 1:6.)
When you start to see where your human nature doesn’t line up with God’s word, this is the Spirit working in you, prompting you to. Then you, in humility, must acknowledge the truth and agree with His judgment. This humility is not based in low self-esteem or discouragement, but rather in the willingness to be obedient to His leading and deny your own will so that His will can be done through you! When you deny envy, for example, you learn to be thankful instead. It works the same in all areas. You can be transformed from worry and unbelief to faith and confidence in God. From pride and boasting to meekness and humility. This is a transforming work that God does in you when you are willing and obedient. (Philippians 2:13.)
Seeing people through God’s eyes
Then you will learn to see people through God’s eyes. No more looking down on them from imagined superiority or up at them from imagined lacks. You learn to look at them with love, patience, kindness, etc. God made everyone in His own image, not least yourself! You can’t despise what God has created in His own image! What is more, you begin to look at yourself from God’s perspective, as well! You begin to see your true value.
“If then you were raised with Christ, seek those things which are above, where Christ is, sitting at the right hand of God. Set your mind on things above, not on things on the earth.” Colossians 3:1-2.
These verses are actually the key. If your thoughts are in heavenly places, then all those things that used to seem “great” are revealed as useless compared to the glory of attaining what has eternal value. Then you’re not envious of or intimidated by others, nor do you look down on anyone. Because you know that God has put you in this life with just exactly the right situations, abilities, and circumstances that will lead you to become a new creation. And you don’t need more than that.
“But God forbid that I should boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world. For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision avails anything, but a new creation.” Galatians 6:14-15.
You may be interested in reading more on our topic page about self-image or in these selected articles:
Scripture taken from the New King James Version®, unless otherwise specified. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson. Used by permission. All rights reserved.