Monday, August 14, 2006

Self-Esteem Or Self Control?

I have just returned from spending nine days in Marietta, Georgia with my 16-year-old son that included a week-long baseball tournament with some thirty different teams from around the country. Jeremy's team was able to make it to the semi-final game before losing in extra innings to the Puerto Rican team. It was fun father-son time as well as an enjoyable experience of watching him play lots of baseball.

Within the first day of the trip my Macintosh laptop computer froze up after I had jostled it around a little bit (okay, full disclosure here, I dropped it) while entering the hotel. For those of you who have had this happen to you where you find you need to send off your hard drive to a recovery specialist, you know the pain. And for those of you have found your hard drive "unrecoverable," as I found out, you REALLY know the pain.

What did I learn from this? One thing, I was reminded that my beautiful wife of 32 years does not have the spiritual gift of mercy, as she exclaimed, "You didn’t back it up!" I also learned that a laptop computer needs to be treated with much more tender loving care than I had provided for it. But beyond the major frustration this experience caused, I found that this wasn't the end of the world. The sun actually came up the next morning. I was also able to spend that lost computer time doing extra reading on my trip (of course along with the "weeping and gnashing of teeth" caused by thinking about the unrecoverable data).

There are two books that I read that I think have some strong implications for me (and maybe for you) as I walk on my fathering journey. The first book I would like to discuss is entitled, "Generation Me," by Jean M. Twenge. The author, in this solidly researched book, seeks to characterize the attitudes of children and adults who have been born during the 70's, 80's and 90's.

The most significant I think I gleaned from her book is how this generation has been immersed with the "self esteem" message, that members of this generation, from childhood have been told how "special" they are and that the most important value for them to learn is to love themselves. A CBS News poll in 2000 asked high school students, "What makes you feel special about yourself?" By far the most popular answer at 33 percent was "self-esteem," outpacing school performance, which scored a distant second at 18 percent.

"Since we were small children, we were taught to put ourselves first. That's just the way the world works-why dwell on it? Let's go to the mall." That seems to characterize the attitude of "Generation Me." The author laments about this generation, "Building up self-esteem and importance of kids who are already egocentric can bring trouble, can lead to narcissism-and maybe it already has! They see everyone and everything in terms of fulfilling their needs and (they) become very angry and aggressive when things don't go exactly their way... Self esteem crosses over into entitlement: the idea that we deserve more. And why shouldn't we? We’ve been told all our lives that we are special."

Okay, so what? As a Christ-following husband and father, how does this impact me? I believe that my attitude and behavior in my home needs to cut directly against the grain of this self-esteem obsession. But what is to take its place is self-control! Even non-Christian psychologists recognize that when a child learns self-control rather than concentrating on building self-esteem, he is much better prepared to face the inevitable challenges awaiting him in this often cold and unforgiving world.

And how will they learn this? By my lifting up of Christ and the attitude He modeled and taught. When I do this I will teach my kids true Christian humility. This isn't some wimpy lack of self-confidence that makes me think less of myself, BUT thinking of myself, less, because I am thinking of Christ more. And when He dominates my thoughts, I will adopt His concern for others-starting with my own family members. "Do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit, but with humility of mind consider others as more important than yourselves. And do not merely look out for your own personal interests but also those of Christ Jesus. Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus." (Philippians 2:3-5)

What is at stake if I don't learn this? When I just "go with the flow" of the obsession focused on the "Almighty Self," that is taught in our schools and reinforced throughout every segment of the media, I am applying a "grace repellant" to my life and my children's lives. "God resists the proud but gives grace to the humble." (I Peter 5:5-6) So self-control rather than self esteem needs to be what my home is all about. This is not self-control for its own sake but so that I can tune into the needs of my family members and be a servant to them on behalf of Christ, to the glory of the Father.


Anonymous said...

Jamie: You have hit on a big problem in today's society. Everything needs to be about "someone" it seems nothing can be done just to be doing something nice for someone else without alterior motives. I am just returning from a memorial service for a former hs teacher of mine, one of the things brought out in the service was that this man would always give to someone else without expecting anything back but respect.

Jon Detweiler said...

Thanks for everything you do, Jaimie. Keep up the good work and may the Lord bless you with godly sons who love Jesus and follow Him with all of their hearts.


Jon Detweiler

Anonymous said...

It is so true that most of us think only about ourselves and how can I get my needs met, when as fathers we are to be more concerned about launching our children into the future where they will make the decisions and do the thing that we perhaps never got around to doing. If we do not prepare them adequately, how will they survive and how will they raise their families?

Anonymous said...

We are so concerned about about giving our kids the positive self esteem message, that we don't emphasize that you also have to help others and not just think of yourself.