Country western singer Johnny Lee recorded the song “Lookin’ For Love.” The lyrics go “Lookin’ for love in all the wrong places, lookin’ for love in too many faces.” The same is true for many of us as we go “lookin’ for esteem in all the wrong places.”
To esteem something is to set a high value on it, to regard it highly, and to prize it accordingly. So self-esteem is to set a high value on ourselves, to regard ourselves highly, and to prize ourselves. We see this focus on “self” all around us; the self-awareness books and seminars, and the self-improvement industry all teach us to get in touch with our “inner selves” to find happiness, confidence, and self-esteem.
The self-esteem crusade is rampant with its insidious tentacles reaching into the classrooms of our own children. In my daughter’s first grade class the school offered an hour long self-esteem class three times a week. Parents were told attendance was not mandatory, but no alternative was given for parents who didn’t want their 5-year old children to get “self-esteem” training. In a school of nearly 500 children, my daughter was the only one not in attendance. She spent this hour in the library reading her favorite books.
Why not let her attend you may ask? First, because on close examination the course material was thinly disguised Eastern religion complete with relaxation exercises, visualization, centering, developing spirit guides, etc. Of course, the material didn’t use those exact words but the techniques they were professing were unmistakably similar. Second, self-esteem is the wrong focus for our children, and for us.
The “me” generation of the 60’s spawned most of the self-esteem culture. There was “free love,” marijuana, incense, transactional analysis, and a host of cultural changes that encouraged people to focus on themselves; their needs and their wants. Perhaps the closest Biblical parallel would be life in Sodom or Gomorrah.
Our business culture is not immune to the “self-esteem” advocates. There are dozens of seminars and consultants who in the name of increasing employee morale, sensitivity, or improved productivity teach us to get in touch with our “inner selves.” They tell us that if “I’m OK, You’re OK.” They say that we can’t value others until we value ourselves. The key to self-esteem they say is to focus on liking yourself. The humanist psychologists made popular the concepts of personal identity, positive self-image, self-actualization, self-esteem, and self-worth.
What psychobabble! We would all be a lot better off if we valued ourselves less, and God more. Can you imagine Jesus saying that he was greater than the Father? Can you imagine Jesus trying to find value in others by liking himself more? Or can you imagine Jesus becoming “self-actualized” by visualizing himself dying on the cross? If you have a hard time bringing these pictures up in your mind then you know that “self-esteem” as proffered by the world is not the Biblical solution.
The one thing that humanistic psychology and Biblical Christianity agree on is that we need to get to know ourselves. Humanist psychologists say we need to get to know ourselves so that we can feel good about ourselves. Whereas Biblical Christianity teaches us to know ourselves so that we might turn away from ourselves, and towards Jesus Christ.
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