The Overworked Philosophy of Self-esteem

The wholesale club flyer came today and there it was right on the front cover. A picture of a young boy with a Superman T–shirt and cape, and in big red letters were the words, "Empowering your kids: Help them soar with self–esteem."

For several decades we have been bombarded with the philosophy of "Self-esteem." Christian psychologists and public school systems have promoted the self-centered philosophy in a great variety of ways.

In many elementary schools, young people spend a great deal of their time reminding themselves how wonderful they are. They sing songs and play games all with the objective of getting the child to think highly of himself or herself.

Parents and society have been told that it is the lack of self-esteem that has caused many young people to go astray. Often the blame is placed on the parents for any problems that develop in the child. If the child uses drugs or becomes violent to the point of shooting other students, the finger often is pointed at the parents for not building up the child’s self-esteem.

It seems, however, the tide is turning. A number of secular educators and many parents are now beginning to question the "self-esteem" philosophy. They are finding out that many children who spend most of their day building up their self-esteem are not learning anything else. They do poorly in such basic skills as math and reading. No wonder, since teachers have told them all along it does not matter what you know or achieve just so you think highly of yourself.

Society is also finding out that violent acts, such as that which took place earlier this year in Colorado, are not committed solely by those with low self-esteem. In many cases, they are committed by those who have been indoctrinated with the self-esteem psychology. They think so highly of themselves that, when informed of their faults or rejected for some reason, they become violent. Their self-esteem leaves them with no esteem for others. (Phil. 2:3)

While it is true that there is much child abuse today, the pendulum has swung to the other extreme. In many households, the children are now in charge. They dictate where the family goes on vacation. They tell the parents what clothes they will wear. In some cases no area of the parents’ personal affairs are considered off limits to the children. Children may even be privy to such information as the parents’ income, the amount of the mortgage payment, and the savings account balance. We are bringing up children to believe that the world and the family revolves around them. In far too many cases when the children say, "Jump," the parents respond, "How high?"

As such, they are often at the helm of the family ship. The children’s sports schedule dictates the family schedule. Even Christian families miss assembly gatherings because of their children’s schedules. The child comes first and everything else comes second. At times the marriage itself may even come second. It is no wonder that we have a generation of young people who have difficulty being committed to anything. They are so accustomed to being given the chief place that anything less is unacceptable.

It is not an accident that this comes on the heels of the Bible and prayer being put out of public places in society. The Scriptures give us the balanced teaching concerning both man’s true condition and value. The heart of man is desperately wicked, and yet, man has the unique value of being wonderfully created by the living God of heaven and earth. (Jer. 17:9; Psa. 139:14)

In the Scriptures, parents are taught to love their children and to "bring them up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord." (Tit. 2:4; Eph. 6:4) They are also taught the importance of discipline in the life of the child, and to ignore it is an evidence of a lack of love, and a proven formula for disaster. (Heb. 12:6; Prov. 13:24; 29:15)

At no time does the Bible present the children as the driving force in the family. They are to be obedient to their parents and to honor them. (Eph. 6:1-2) Parents in turn are to love them and bring them up in accordance with the Word of God.

In our abusive world, our children need loving care and encouragement, but in a world which is also self–centered, our children need to learn to "esteem other(s) better (more important) than themselves"! (Phil. 2:3) May the Lord give us the wisdom to maintain the proper balance.