It’s where we catch up on Jennifer Anniston’s social life.
It’s where we check in with Nostradamus on what awaits beyond the horizon.
It’s where we find out what Big Foot and Bat Boy have been up to lately.
But, unfortunately, it’s also where many people turn to find answers for their deepest personal problems.
It is the grocery store check out line.
And if, while waiting for the person in front of you to fumble through their two for one coupons, you have been paying attention to the messages we see on the front cover of Cosmo, Glamour and Oprah’s monthly update, you know the identity of the number one threat to the well being of the Republic –
Low self esteem.
Learn to think more highly (and even more exclusively) about your self and happiness and fulfillment are yours!
So popular and seductive is this “Let’s feel good about ourselves” message that religious television fixture Robert Schuller published a best seller called “Self Esteem: The New Reformation”.
So how is this exercise in personal self promotion working out?
Apparently not so well.
So much so, the counseling community is starting to have second thoughts.
In fact, Scott Lilenfield, professor of psychology at Emory University has just published a book with an intriguing title:
“50 Great Myths of Popular Psychology”.
Lilenfield and his collaborators take on such cherished and often unquestioned classics of pop psychology as:
“Opposites Attract” – (Perhaps initially, but sooner or later a lack of commonly held values will drive you crazy)
“We Use Only 10% of Our Brains” – (Studies show there are no dormant sections of our minds waiting to be jump started)
“Full Moons Trigger Wacky Behavior” – (We are all pretty wacky all the time, full moons offer a good excuse and/or a bench mark for remembering odd incidents)
But the most shocking myth to make Lilenfield’s list ?
Low self-esteem is a key to future psychological problems. “The self-help industry has probably persuaded people who don’t have the highest self-esteem [to believe] they can’t amount to much in life,” says Lilienfeld. It may hurt people whose confidence is at basement level, but in general, he says, the link between self-esteem and “mental adjustment” is modest at best. Nor is high self-esteem, the obvious flip side of the belief, always good. A subset of people brimming with self-esteem could be considered narcissistic and are at heightened risk, says Lilienfeld, of aggression if challenged or insulted.
I’ve got to admit all this is a bit confusing.
10 years ago, pumping up our egos was considered the healthiest form of mental exercise.
Today? Not so much.
It reminds me of back when I played football in high school when we were told “Water is for quitters!” and the best thing to do between hard work outs in stifling humidity was to wolf down 10 salt tablets.
Hey! These coaches were experts, right?
It’s a wonder they didn’t kill us all!
It makes me wonder what the experts will be saying 10 years from now – Sample headline in the check out line circa 2019: “Low Fat Diets: America’s Number One Killer!”
But I digress.
This constant swinging of the pendulum makes me so thankful that God has given us His unchanging perspective on the key issues of life in His timeless Word, the Bible.
For instance, what is the Biblical view of the self esteem debate?
For I say, through the grace given to me, to everyone who is among you, not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think, but to think soberly, as God has dealt to each one a measure of faith. (Romans 12:3)
I think we would be hard pressed to find a single Biblical command to promote or exalt ourselves, even within ourselves.
But neither does the Bible tell us to beat ourselves over the head and lament how worthless we are.
Either one of these extremes still keeps the unholy trinity of me, myself and I as the focal point of life.
The Romans passage seems to indicate that the biggest danger is to have a distorted view of ourselves as the center of the universe.
The cure? Sober thinking.
The word “sober” means to think with clarity and accuracy.
How can we see ourselves with the same view that God has of us?
We need to look at ourselves through the lens of faith in Who God is and what He is doing in our lives.
A faith based perspective tells us first of all that we are created in the image and likeness of God, and as such have an intrinsic value and dignity as His creation.
It also tells us that we are a part of a dearly loved, yet fallen and renegade race that is capable of great acts of destructive selfishness.
Further it tells us that God’s love is so great that He gave His Son to die on a cruel Roman cross to pay the just penalty for all our wrongs.
If we put our trust in what Jesus has done for us, we are reconciled to God, forgiven our sins and made a part of His forever family.
All we bring to this party is faith.
Not our talents.
Not our possessions.
Not our education.
Not what people think of us for good or for ill.
We are made glorious because we have simply trusted in what Jesus has done for us.
The strength and stability of this perspective is pretty easy to spot.
We can’t fall into self-depreciation, saying we are worthless or nothing, because God Himself knows us and loves us. That makes us special.
We can’t fall into ego inflated big headed-ness, because we can’t add a single thing to what God has done for us. All we can do is accept it and enjoy it.
What is the basis of your sense of self worth?
Self esteem will sooner or later leave us either deceived or in despair.
But Savior- esteem will keep our sense of worth in perfect balance.
Consider the impact this perspective had upon the life of the Apostle Paul.
For I am the least of the apostles, who am not worthy to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God. But by the grace of God I am what I am, and His grace toward me was not in vain; but I labored more abundantly than they all, yet not I, but the grace of God which was with me. (I Corinthians 15:9-10)
No self-exaltation, but no self-depreciation – Just heartfelt appreciation for what God has done.
That is a self concept that is worth having.
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