Note: I’m bumping this up to the top because the topic keeps coming up. I first published this on February 22 of this year. You can scroll back in the archives to March 1 for the second post on self-esteem.)
Remember this little ditty?
I love myself. I think I’m grand.
When I go to movies, I hold my hand.
I put my arm around my waist,
And when I get fresh, I slap my face
Which of the four words in parentheses in the title would you choose as an attractive trait? An acceptable attitude toward life? As being biblically sound?
Let’s take a look. I can think of only one verse in the Bible in which the words self and esteem both appear, either in its hyphenated form (self-esteem) or separately. Philippians 2:3. “Let nothing be done through strife or vainglory; but in lowliness of mind let each esteem other better than themselves.” This directive is certainly the opposite of what we are taught by the purple dinosaur or even the very kindly Mr. Rodgers. The philosophy there is that we are wonderful just the way we are; that we don’t need to change a thing, and we deserve to be loved by one and all. The unavoidable outcome of self-esteem is that we have no concept of humility, of putting others before ourselves. Instead, we grow up believing we are the best and should always be first.
Talk to CEO’s of large companies; ask them what kinds of application letters they get from newly minted professional graduates. You will find that 21-year-old grads these days are letting their prospective employers know that the company would be privileged if the newbie condescended to come on board, and that they were waiting to negotiate with said company for the pay level, benefits, and corner office on the top floor that was their proper due.
No, self-esteem isn’t an especially good concept. Obviously, neither are self-aggrandizement nor self-centeredness. Self-aggrandizement? What is that? Simple. “It’s all about ME, all the time! I am the most important; everyone loves me and approves of me and I will make sure to tell you so; everything I do should make the front page of the New York Time and be reported on all the major news programs. I am the best, the greatest, the most wonderfully gifted person you’ll ever have the privilege to meet.”
Would you like to go do lunch with that person? No, I didn’t think so. He really just needs to get over himself.
We all know people who are self-centered. They usually aren’t very happy, because no one else seems to recognize how special they are.
We are left, then with self-confidence. Attractive? You bet. Good attitude toward life? Indeed. Biblically sound? Absolutely. But what’s the difference between that and self-esteem?
If you look at the words themselves, there really isn’t a lot of difference. But if you examine how self-esteem has been presented; if you look at the deterioration of morality, honesty, just plain godliness in our society, you will begin to understand how damaging it has been.
Along with the proliferation of self-esteem manuals, self-help books, classes, etc., there has also been a proliferation of a turning away from standards of moral behavior taught in the Bible. Why? Well, they go together. Self-esteem teaches us that we are wonderful and have no need of improvement. If that is so, then nothing is really forbidden to me if I want it. Because self-esteem creates an attitude of entitlement, nothing can be kept from me that I want. So if I want, for instance, to live with my boyfriend/girlfriend without benefit of marriage, there’s really nothing wrong with that because I want it, so it’s okay. People who think it’s wrong are just stuck in old-fashioned standards that don’t apply to me. They need to mind their own business.
If a grandfather wants to use his three-year-old granddaughter for his own sexual satisfaction, who is to say it’s sinful? Who is to say it’s wrong? He wants it, and he should have it. He’s wonderful just the way he is. And if, in the process, he creates appetites in the child that would not normally be there until much later in her life, well, that’s okay too.
I once read a case history in which a father stated that it was his right and his privilege to introduce his daughters to sex and sexuality.
That kind of thinking comes not only from a sinful heart, but from having way too much self-esteem , However, in a society that holds each person’s desires to be right for him, there really is no such thing as sin. Poor choices, maybe, if it hurts someone else, but not sin. After all, no one else has any right to judge me.
Okay. Ranting. Back to business.
Self-confidence is biblically acceptable? Sure. Let me give you some examples.
Philippian 4:13.”I can do all things through Christ, which strengtheneth me.”
Psalm 139:14. “I will praise Thee: for I am fearfully and wonderfully made: marvellous are Thy works; and that my soul knoweth right well.”
Ephesians 2:10. “For we are His workmanship (masterpiece, work of art; poema,in the Greek), created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them.”
I could go on and on, but you can see clearly here that we are not to think poorly of ourselves. In fact, when Jesus says that the second greatest commandment is to love others as we love ourselves, it is implicit that He knows it is our nature to take pretty good care of ourselves. In Ephesians 5, men are told to love their wives as they love their own bodies, nourishing and caring for their wives as tenderly as they care for themselves. No lack of self-esteem there!
Well. I just scrolled back up to the top and realized how long this has become. Can you tell that it’s a real soapbox issue with me?
More next week.