Responsibility is a self-esteem steroid. When we give someone a responsibility, whether that person is a child, coworker, friend, or spouse, we’re communicating trust in that person. And trust is a major catalyst in moving people toward self-confidence.

Proverbs 11:13 says, "You can put confidence in someone who is trustworthy" (GNT). And people can only prove trustworthy by taking on responsibility. At home, it’s allowing our kids to borrow the car, to use Dad’s tools, to help in the kitchen, or to go to summer camp. In the marketplace, it’s letting employees put together the sales presentation without us, run a staff meeting on their own, or write the report for the company president. Among peers, it’s trusting someone enough to share our deepest hurts and our greatest hopes.

After graduating from seminary, I went to work in a large church. In fact, it was and still is one of the ten largest churches in America. I remember the first time my boss walked into my office and said, "Ed, we want you to give the opening prayer this Sunday." That may not seem like a huge task. But for me, a 20-something fledgling pastor, even praying in front of thousands of people was a little intimidating. I can still remember anxiously stepping up to that imposing wooden podium as several thousand eyes locked on to me, waiting for me to speak.

As weak-kneed and nervous as I was, that opportunity gave me a self-esteem boost. By giving me a greater level of responsibility, my supervisor communicated that he trusted me. And I jumped at the chance to display my trustworthiness. My self-esteem as a pastor and public speaker improved exponentially. Now, as I speak every week in front of thousands of people at Fellowship Church, I can see how God used that simple opening prayer many years ago to give me a jump-start of confidence for the plans he had in store.

Are we doing that for people in our place of employment? Are we inspiring them with responsibility? Or are we hovering, always looking over their shoulders, never trusting them to make a greater personal contribution? That kind of leadership is over protective, and overprotection is a form of rejection—at work and at home.

The damage to people’s self-esteem from an overbearingly watchful eye can be long-lasting and deep. Instead of smothering others and suffocating their sense of worth, we need to let them take responsibility—with the risk of failure, yes, but also with the marvelous opportunity for self-affirming success.

Jesus was the master at inspiring others this way. In John 20:21, just before he ascended to heaven, Christ gave his disciples this mandate: "As the Father has sent me, I am sending you."

Jesus entrusted the worldwide gospel ministry to a group of ordinary people. He gave them the ball. Imagine their soaring sense of worth as the Son of God handed off this immense responsibility—to them.

Give criticism carefully

The right manner of criticism can actually build a person’s confidence and sense of worth.

I’ll never forget the summer I joined about seven hundred young people on a beach retreat to Padre Island in the Gulf of Mexico. One night I had the opportunity to have a one-on-one conversation with a young man about his life.