The Myth of “Self-Esteem”

Self-Esteem

THE MYTH OF “SELF-ESTEEM”

     Without self-esteem, we cannot have the kind of authentic self-confidence needed to drive our dreams and visions. But for all the talk about it, what really is “self-esteem” anyway? The dictionary defines it as “a liking and respect for oneself”. The problem is that achieving self-esteem seems to have been so over-emphasized in recent decades that, for many, it now qualifies as an end in itself. However, the fact is that self-esteem is a consequence of other actions, not a goal which can be realized independently.

Self-Esteem Is Owed—Or Not?

     Self-esteem is not something that anyone can provide for another person. And yet that’s what our society has been trying to do for a long time. Trophies for participation, grades no lower than a B, promotions based on criteria other than performance, and “freebies” doled out right and left are all giving many people a sense of superiority for accomplishing very little, if anything. Unfortunately, the consequence of this mentality has not fostered success for people, but rather a sense of being entitled to success simply because one exists.

     The tragedy is that when people take no opportunity to earn success, then they likewise have no opportunity to respect or esteem themselves.

     While it’s true that self-esteem is necessary to possess the self-confidence we need to pursue our goals and visions, that only happens when a person has three things which, together, are the true recipe for self-esteem.

Thing One: Accountability

     First of all, before any other thing, people need to learn that they are accountable for their own actions, and then they need to understand that if they are not, consequences will follow. Unfortunately, many in our society seem to feel that it’s “mean” to hold folks accountable for their behavior.

     I remember years ago when I was a know-nothing student teacher covering a study hall one day with a very large group of students who set out to take advantage of the know-nothing student teacher. (Talk about being thrown to the lions.) Two girls in particular went out of their way to be disruptive and rude and the more they were asked to stop, the more they laughed and cranked up the behavior. They didn’t think I could or would do anything about it. Unfortunately for them, I had been told by another teacher that if I had any problems with students, I could assign them a Saturday detention. Knowing this, I was nice enough even to warn the girls what their next Saturday might look like. Evidently, they didn’t believe me and pretty much dared me to go there. So I went there.

     It turns out that these two particular young ladies were members of the school’s ski club. And on Saturday that particular ski club was going skiing. None of my business. Until the school principal came to me with the girls in tow, explaining how sorry they were and that they would like very much to go on the ski trip. They even cried to prove the point.

     Now if their behavior hadn’t been so deliberately in-your-face, I’m sure I would’ve said some version of no harm, no foul; have a good time. However, that not being the case – at all – I said no, that they needed to serve their time. I was looking down the road at what they would learn if they were sent merrily up the ski slope: that their atrocious behavior held no consequence and that they would never be held accountable for it. Future consequences for bad behavior could, after all, be far more serious. Unfortunately for me, the principal did not see it my way. To the best of my recollection, he was not happy with me. He believed that it was more important that these girls have fun than that they learn accountability. The girls did serve their time and I’m pretty certain that, to this day, they have not forgotten the experience. I like to think that once they had children of their own (it happened that long ago), they would’ve seen the situation in a different light. At least I hope.

Thing Two: Responsibility 

     In order to foster a sense of self-esteem, a person needs sole responsibility for a job, a chore or an assignment of some kind. It is this kind of responsibility which gives a person a chance to earn success through hard work, problem-solving, right choices, overcoming challenges to motivation, and perseverance.

     It is that success that fosters self-esteem.  

     But what if a person is not able to achieve success? What if she fails? The fact is that sometimes – especially if a person is not particularly trying to succeed – she needs to be allowed to fail. Sometimes the success lies in the dusting off and beginning again. It’s these situations which teach us that we have what it takes to persevere, and it’s that discovery which breeds self-respect. However, if a person has someone continually rescuing them from failure or even from having to work hard, that discovery is never made.  A person who has no responsibility for anything cannot truly earn success, and it is that earned success which actually gives a person a sense of self-esteem.

Thing Three: Acceptance

     A person certainly needs the acceptance of others in order to have self-esteem; making him responsible for his own actions or for a job of some kind does not mean that he doesn’t need support. The challenge to others is for that support not to become enabling. But for a person to know that he is accepted for who he is and supported as he “tries his wings” is essential to a sense of self-esteem. If a person works his tail off and yet cannot find acceptance and support, he may come to believe that working longer and harder is the only path to acceptance. In the meantime, his developing sense of self-esteem becomes based on performance: he is only valuable for what he does and not for who he is. The good news to anyone suffering from a lack of acceptance and support is that we have a Father in heaven who is happy to provide those for us.

     If a person is continually rescued from disappointment and failure or simply allowed to quit when things get tough, he will develop a belief that that rescue or that “freebie” is owed to him. Furthermore, if he is not given a responsibility to hone his character, he will never experience true success. Finally, if he does not have the healthy support of those he respects, he will conclude that his worth is only based on what he can produce.

     True “self-esteem” does not have to be propped up with trophies, compliments or the approval of others. It’s evidence of self-respect.

     And that’s a gift only you can give yourself.  

 

 

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The Quest: to “Find Yourself”

Hippies

THE QUEST: TO “FIND YOURSELF”

Legend has it that during the renowned decades of the 60’s and 70’s, a cultural movement was birthed to “find” oneself. Now this being a noble quest, it was generally only embarked upon by those brave souls willing to cast aside the leaden anchors of “the establishment” for the vast poppy fields of some multi-dimensional utopia. And the fearless soldiers willing to pioneer this mission? They were known as “hippies”—those heroic spirits who faithfully preached the gospel of “free love,” mind-expanding substances, and marathon meditations at communes overseen by the latest guru-du-jour. Consequently, LSD provoked excursions into realms of “higher consciousness;” Jimi Hendrix supplied the psychedelic melodies to accompany those trips; and “love” and “peace” embraced all who engaged in the evolution of humankind to a higher spiritual dimension. And why again? All to answer the eons-old question: “Why am I here?” But—did it work?

No.

The Quest

This mission to find one’s purpose in life is nothing new. Since the dawn of time, cavemen have etched their artistic queries into the nearest rock wall while millions of years later, in a static-filled broadcast from the moon, astronauts would announce their solution to that intangible question: “One small step for man; one giant leap for mankind.” But a giant leap toward what? Toward the answer to that galling mystery: “What is my purpose in life?”

The ironic thing is that despite our advances in technology, medicine, psychology, and philosophy, many millions world-wide still, like hysterical ants, run amok chasing the elusive answer to that burning question in all its universal forms:

  • Who am I?
  • Why was I born?
  • Where am I going?
  • How do I “find myself”?
  • What is my purpose in life?
The Answer  

The solution to this grand cosmic riddle is not so mysterious after all. In fact, the answers to these questions have been around longer even than all of the cathedrals, temples, and mosques built to answer them. Our purposes have been staring us in the face for over two thousand years. Here are just a few:

  • “’Love the Lord your God with all of your heart, mind, and soul… and love your neighbor as yourself’” (Matt. 22:37-39)
  • “’Prepare the way for the Lord, make straight the paths for him’” (Luke 3:4)
  • Feed the hungry and thirsty, clothe the naked, include the stranger, care for the sick, and visit those in prison. (Matt. 25:35-40)
  • “’Go into all the world and preach the gospel to all creation’” (Mark 16:15).
  • “…always stand for the truth” (II Cor. 13:8)

These are just a miniscule portion of the instructions given in the Word of God regarding what we’re supposed to be doing. Of course, the objection is usually some form of “Not everyone is called to do ministry.” Correct. However, everyone is called to do any or all of the above at any given time during any given day. We don’t have to be prophesied over, Bible-school educated, ordained, or “in ministry” to love God and people, to care for those who need our help, to share the Gospel or to stand for truth. Still, the ways we do this will be unique to the calling the Lord has given to each of us.

The War for the Culture

Years ago—I don’t know when—Lance Wallnau released a teaching on what he called the “Seven Mountains of Culture”. His premise is that every culture, past or present, is comprised of seven components of culture and that whoever “owns” these mountains, essentially rules the culture. (Since then, I’ve taken the liberty of adding an eighth mountain.) The eight mountains are the Church, the government, the family, the business/marketplace realm, education (PK-college), the media, the world of arts/entertainment and, I might add, the field of technology. With the rapid growth of industries like AI (Artificial Intelligence), robotics, and human engineering, we desperately need Christians in this industry as well as in every other one of the seven components of culture.

The point is that every one of us has been assigned by God to at least one of these mountains to fulfill, in some shape or form, the purposes listed above. If we teach or preach, it’s for the sake of sharing and standing in the truth of the Gospel. If we minister—whether in a church, a hospital, or a home—it’s for the sake of caring for people and meeting their needs. If we work in the business realm, it’s for the sake of helping to fund the kingdom of God.

There is no work that cannot benefit the Kingdom of God.

Your “Calling”

It doesn’t matter what you’re called to do, you have been specifically assigned by God to do that particular thing on the individual mountain he’s called you to. Moreover, your desire to do that thing is not an accident or a random occurrence but a God-ordained purpose for you to fulfill.

  • “’You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you so that you might go and bear fruit—fruit that will last…’” (John 15:16).
  • “Lead a life worthy of your calling, for you have been called by God” (Eph. 4:1).
  • “’We must quickly carry out the tasks assigned to us by the one who sent us. The night is coming, and then no one can work’” (John 9:4).

These scriptures are just a few of many confirming our assignments. Moreover, each of us has a Book of Destiny in heaven which, according to King David, contains a page outlining God’s purpose for each day of our lives. “…all my days were written in Your book and ordained for me before one of them came to be” (Ps. 139:16). Nevertheless, this does not mean that we have no free will in determining what happens in our lives; rather, the books of destiny indicate God’s intended will for our lives but we are free to reject those plans and purposes if we choose. However, the good news is that if we’re willing to ask him, God is more than happy to reveal our God-given destinies, including the culture mountains on which we are to accomplish those purposes.

There’s nothing more fulfilling than finding the will of God for our lives and then accomplishing that will. And it doesn’t take mind-altering drugs, a visit to the village psychic, or a trip up a mountain peak to confer with the Dalai Lama to figure out what we were born to do. Just open the book—the Word of God.  

That’s where you’ll “find yourself.”

 

 

 

Meanwhile—What We Don’t See…

God's Eye in Space 2
God’s Eye in Space (NASA)

   On June 29th, my son in California broke his finger playing football (boys!). The problem was the health insurance at his new job didn’t kick in until July 1st—sixty days after his date of hire. Given that, he had one of two bad choices: either pay hundreds of dollars out-of-pocket at the Urgent Care or tough it out and wait two days to get treatment—which is where he was leaning.

   My son moved to California in January 2018 after graduation from college and got his first job which provided health coverage. Then last summer, I removed him from my health insurance because he didn’t need it anymore. Or, at least I thought I did. Turns out I hadn’t taken him off my insurance but I didn’t realize that until a month ago—four weeks before his new insurance kicked in. Seems he’d been on my insurance all this time. Of course, we decided there was no reason to take him off until July 1st when his own insurance became official, although the odds of him getting sick or having some unfortunate accident were very slim… But still—there was the football. And we’re not stupid.

   Enter the broken finger.

Coincidence?

   While some would say it was a lucky coincidence I’d forgotten to remove him from my health insurance, I’d say not. Moreover, the timing of the revelation of my mistake was no coincidence either: If I’d realized the error sooner when he still had coverage at his old job, I would’ve removed him. But if I’d never discovered it, he still would’ve paid for the Urgent Care since he wouldn’t have told them he had insurance—because he didn’t even know it. So what happened?

   God happened.

   Somehow—I don’t know how—Aaron remained on the insurance and his treatment was covered (which is a good thing because he might need surgery). But how many times, when we have absolutely zero idea, is God working invisibly behind the scenes to work out some situation or prevent some problem that isn’t even on our radar yet? Or that never even happens at all because he is working behind the scenes?

It’s Happened Before…

   Time after time, we see this scenario unfold in the Bible. Take, for example, the Old Testament story of Hannah who wanted so badly to have a child but couldn’t. Still, she never stopped praying for a son and, in her desperation, promised God that if he’d give her one, she’d dedicate the child to the Lord. As a result, she became pregnant with Samuel, raised him till he was weaned and then, when he was only three, took him to Jerusalem and left him with the priest Eli to raise. Three years old! I can’t even imagine the grief she suffered in fulfilling her vow.

   But—the story doesn’t end there. The Bible tells us that Eli’s sons, who were also priests, were very wicked. They took the best cuts of meat offered to God, “treating the Lord’s offerings with contempt,” and they seduced the young women assisting at the  Temple entrance. And Eli did nothing about it.

  Meanwhile, the boy Samuel continued to grow in stature and in favor with the Lord and with men” (I Sam. 2:26).

   Eventually, a prophet came to Eli with a word from the Lord that because of his sons’ sins and his own failure to correct or remove them, they would die on the same day. Furthermore, his family would never again serve as priests, and every member of his family would die a violent death before their time.

   The Bible says that in those days, the word of the Lord was rare and visions uncommon, but meanwhile, the boy Samuel was serving the Lord by assisting Eli” (3:1).

   “Meanwhile” indicates God’s silent work in Samuel behind the scenes to prepare a powerful prophet in the midst of an evil and godless culture. No one knew God was busy doing that but, for the first time in a very long time, a prophet was being raised up to bring the word of the Lord to a people who’d been in a spiritual drought for decades. In other words, when it looked like nothing was happening and God had abandoned his people, he was really quietly working the circumstances for their good.

The Prince of Egypt

   Joseph, the beloved son of Jacob, is another example of God’s invisible hand. After being sold by his brothers, he ended up a slave in Potipher’s house where it looked as though he would spend the rest of his life in lonely servitude. But meanwhile, in the middle of that tragic situation, he was learning the Egyptian language, culture, politics, and the protocols of the Egyptian noble class—that is, until he was thrown into prison, accused of a crime he didn’t even commit. Once there, he was thrust into the midst of a dungeon full of Class A felons but what did he do? The same thing he’d done in Potipher’s house: operated in his administrative and leadership skills until he was eventually put in charge of all of those reprobate prisoners. And meanwhile, as he was busy organizing them, he was learning how the other half lived: the ways of the Egyptian commoners, their dialects, and their ideals as well as their problems and concerns—all things which were pretty handy to know once he was promoted to the second-in-command of all of Egypt

We Don’t Know It Until We Know It.

   The thing about the “meanwhiles” of life is that we don’t know they’re in motion behind the scenes until one day when suddenly something happens and it all becomes clear: God was always at work, even when we couldn’t see it.

   I remember twenty years ago when, as a single mom, I began searching for a teaching job to support my two sons. I’d begun looking in February when it became clear that the private school I was at wouldn’t pay enough to support my kidlets, but summer came and still, nothing was happening. I had applied for positions and gone on interviews but it seemed there was always someone else with more experience or the job was temporary, et cetera. However, I didn’t have forever—time was running out; districts don’t usually hire year round so if you’re not snapped up by September, chances are you’ll wait another whole year. But I didn’t have another year and I was getting scared. How would I feed my children or keep the roof over their heads?

   One day in July, I cried out yet again to the Lord, desperately asking what the hold-up was. Suddenly, I saw a picture of a huge millstone turning, but very slowly. I wondered what on earth that meant and the Lord said to me, “The wheels are turning and the position you’re seeking is coming, but until then, I’m working on the other people involved.”

   Meanwhile.

   It turns out that someone who was eligible to retire had delayed turning in his paperwork but the Lord knew the position was going to open up in that district and that’s where he wanted me. However, the former teacher had needed a little nudging and God was behind the scenes doing it.  

   We never know…

   When it looks bleakest and it seems there’s nothing remotely on the horizon, what we don’t see is God all around us, doing what only he can do—working it all out. And he’s doing the same for you. Just believe.

   Your “meanwhile” is happening right now.

  

You Have the Right to Remain Silent—and to Speak Freely

The Constitution

YOU HAVE THE RIGHT TO REMAIN SILENT—OR TO SPEAK FREELY.

   Every year some students come to my classroom with the idea that the United States is a horrific nation, that it is unfair, unjust, and essentially, that it’s the worst place on the planet to live. Other students have no idea whatsoever what this nation stands for, the rights and liberties that we have by virtue of The Constitution of the United States and, in fact, they barely know what The Constitution is. As for The Bill of Rights, that’s not even on their radar. So—we have some frank and honest discussions about what this nation stands for, the rights that we have, and the importance of defending and protecting those rights because if they are taken away, we won’t get them back. Virtually none of the students know these rights. Consequently, because the language of The Bill of Rights is so archaic, we spend some time breaking it down.

The United States of America is the only nation in the world that guarantees these rights to its citizens.

The Purpose of The Bill of Rights

   The Bill of Rights contains the first 10 Amendments to The Constitution. It spells out Americans’ rights in relation to their government. It guarantees civil rights and liberties to the individual—like freedom of speech, press, and religion. It sets rules for due process of law and reserves all powers not delegated to the Federal Government to the people or the States. According to the National Archives, here is the breakdown of the rights that we have in this great nation:

The First Amendment
  • Contains the right to express ideas through speech and the press,
  • To assemble or gather with a group to protest or for other reasons,
  • To ask the government to fix problems,
  • To protect the right to religious beliefs and practices, and
  • To prevent the government from creating or favoring a religion.
The Second Amendment
  • Protects the right to keep (own) and bear arms (carry weapons).
The Third Amendment 
  • Prevents government from forcing homeowners to allow soldiers to use their homes. (Before the Revolutionary War, laws gave British soldiers the right to take over private homes.)
The Fourth Amendment 
  • Bars the government from unreasonable search and seizure of an individual or their private property. (The government must have a search warrant or grounds for arrest.)
The Fifth Amendment 
  • Provides several protections for people accused of crimes:
  • Serious criminal charges must be started by a grand jury,  
  • A person cannot be tried twice for the same offense (double jeopardy),
  • Property may not taken away without just compensation (fair payment),
  • People have the right against self-incrimination (testifying against themselves) and
  • People cannot be imprisoned without due process of law (fair procedures and trials).
The Sixth Amendment 
  • Provides additional protections to people accused of crimes:
  • The right to a speedy and public trial, trial by an impartial jury in criminal cases,
  • To be informed of criminal charges,
  • To be represented by a lawyer,
  • Witnesses must face the accused, and
  • The accused is allowed his or her own witnesses.
The Seventh Amendment 
  • Extends the right to a jury trial in Federal civil cases.
The Eighth Amendment 
  • Bars excessive bail and fines and cruel and unusual punishment.
The Ninth Amendment 
  • Specific rights in The Constitution do not mean that people do not have other rights that have not been spelled out.
The Tenth Amendment 
  • The Federal Government only has those powers delegated in The Constitution. If a right is not listed, it belongs to the states or to the people.
The Truth

   I’m happy to report that by the time we finish decoding The Bill of Rights, students have a new appreciation for the United States. The fact is that America is the only nation in the world to guarantee these rights to its citizens. Millions of us will be forever grateful for the sacrifices made by our forefathers to give us this great document, but more than anything, I am grateful to the Lord for birthing this great nation 243 years ago today. So may I say—

Happy Birthday, America—and many, many more!!