And to the angel [or pastor/bishop] of the church of the Laodiceans write, “These things says the Amen, the Faithful and True Witness, the Beginning of the creation of God: ‘I know your works, that you are neither cold nor hot. I could wish that your were [either] cold or hot. So then, because you are lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I will vomit you out of my mouth. Because you say, “I am rich, have become wealthy, and have need of nothing’—and do not know that you are wretched, miserable, poor, blind, and naked”’.
We live in a culture in which self-esteem is considered a good thing and to have low self esteem is to be in need of psychological help. While low self-esteem is not an issue addressed by the Fathers or Mothers of the Church (at least not that I know of), I do concede that it is nonetheless a genuine malady suffered by some—especially by those who have been psychologically damaged by severe physical and emotional abuse. However, genuine low self-esteem is very uncommon in my experience (and I have been around a lot of abused people—I myself was raised in foster homes and institutions). In my experience, anger expressed in passive-aggressive behaviour is a much more common malady among those who have been abused than is genuine low self-esteem.
This, I think, was the problem of the Laodiceans, this is what I think made them lukewarm: they had (too much) self-esteem. They were full (of themselves). They were rich (on their own—the same problem St. Paul points to in his letter to the Corinthians [4:8] “You have reigned as kings without us”). In fact, this is the same problem revealed in the Garden of Eden. Adam and Eve wanted to become gods apart from God.
How do we know the difference? St. Isaac suggests some guideposts. On the one hand, if you find yourself falling into lustful temptations, it may be because your discipline is too lax. On the other hand, if you find yourself falling into despondency, then it may be that your rule is too strict. But who can diagnose herself? We need spiritual fathers and mothers, wise physicians of the soul to help us discern these things. And for those of us who don’t think we need a spiritual guide, perhaps our Lord’s words to the Laodiceans apply. We are all sick, blind, naked and wretched. It is only the lukewarm who don’t think they are.