Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God (Matthew 5:8).
As discussed in an earlier post, “Self-Esteem: Handle with Care,” self-esteem is like nitroglycerine: It can heal your heart or blow up your house. It depends on how you handle it. Humility proves the secret to making it a source of strength rather than narcissistic neurosis.
Meanwhile, the last five posts focused on the true self and how seeking to know yourself sets you on the path to knowing God. Jesus’ blessing of the pure in heart speaks most directly to that quest. He promises you will see God if you purify your heart. If that excites you, you have the heart of a mystic. If you seek ways to open your eyes to God through your prayers and the mundane round of your days, you are a contemplative.
If seeing yourself as a mystic and contemplative makes you feel good about yourself, then you just got a self-esteem boost. But are the true self and positive self-esteem compatible? After all, Thomas Merton presents purification of the heart as the way to the true self, burning away the dross of self-esteem. He defined purity of heart as
an unconditional and totally humble surrender to God, a total acceptance of ourselves and our situation as willed by him. It means the renunciation of all deluded images of ourselves, all exaggerated estimates of our own capacities, in order to obey God’s will as it comes to us… “Finding our heart” and recovering this awareness of our inmost identity implies the recognition that our external, everyday self is to a great extent a mask and a fabrication. It is not our true self. And indeed our true self is not easy to find. It is hidden in obscurity and “nothingness,” at the center where we are in direct dependence on God.
Rather than opposing self-esteem, this way of self-surrender leads most surely to it. Driven by a desire for God that eclipses desire for self, this way puts aside preconceptions and ego. Ironically, abandoning the self on this road leads into the arms of a loving God. When you get yourself out of the way and open yourself patiently to God’s terms and timing, you finally know your beloved self.
After such an experience, an attractive self-concept becomes trivial. Yet, good self-esteem emerges spontaneously. For then you know the image of God within.
The Beatitudes portray the image of God that you bear. Prayer, worship, forgiveness, and other spiritual practices open your heart to God and your eyes to yourself as God sees you. God beholds your beauty through the smokescreen of social roles and status symbols. Let them go. Be yourself. Divine beauty will shine through whatever you do and whoever you are in the light of God’s love.
 Thomas Merton, Contemplative Prayer. (New York: Image, 1969), pp. 68, 70.