Tuesday, September 11, 2007

The myth of self-esteem

I mentioned that John Smith was as controversial as ever. The talk he did was fine; it was one of the asides that I would query. (Although it was just that - an aside - and maybe he meant something entirely different from how I interpreted it.)

He's writing, or has finished writing, a book called The Myth of Self-esteem. He said he's been working on it for years and wants to get it out soon as he fears there could soon be a band-wagon following the publication of some research.

This research showed that children upon whom praise was heaped didn't try as hard, or push themselves as much, as children who were less generously praised but encouraged to do better.

Now I think about it more that seems perfectly reasonable. A lot of us, by nature, are fairly lazy; if you can get by without much effort, why bother to do more than is necessary? But a little encouragemnet also works wonders.

I don't know what John Smith means by the myth of self-esteem but I'm sure he can't mean that good self-esteem is bad. He has spent his life working with bikers and outcasts of society; that in itself shows the value he places on them.

Jesus' ministry was all about showing people they mattered. Zaccheus, after whom Zac's place is named, climbed up a tree to watch Jesus pass by. Jesus spotted him and invited himself to tea with Zac. Jesus also invited himself to tea with Matthew, the despised and crooked tax-collector. I bet they felt good about themselves afterwards.

Jesus sums up the commandments saying, 'Love God and love others as you love yourself.' If we don't love ourselves, the world is going to be pretty screwed.

Okay, I should probably wait for John Smith's book to come out before I start disagreeing with him. I just wanted to get this out of my system. I can go and do some cleaning now.


Sir James Robison said...

Inviting Himself to dinner. Never thought about it that way.

Further on up the road said...

I have a different view... having read some books by Paul Hauck I sided with him on not liking self-esteem full stop. Esteem indicates estimation against some benchmark - this means measuring yourself against others. Not healthy in my view. I much prefer self-worth where I feel worthwhile in who I am and what I do with no need to compare myself to others or some arbitary benchmark. I'd love to see results from areas like Kent where we still have the 11plus system, at 11 kids are felt to feel failures and not up to the mark etc. It's a dreadful dreadful system.

Liz said...

Ah, Furtheron, I hadn't thought of it like that. I think of self-esteem as self-worth rather than - certainly not - as a comparison with others but maybe that's what John Smith also means.

My Chambers dictionary defines it as: a good opinion of oneself, self respect.

stillers said...

I think it depends on what you are basing the opinion of yourself on - John could be sending out a warning against the kind of plastic self esteem that celebrity culture tries to sell us - making yourself 'look good' and 'feel good' which mearly can serve as a veneer covering up who we really are, not really touching the issues that do make us feel crappy and what we can bring of ourselves to others. I used to feel pretty hopeless about myself - infact I still feel very inadequate in all sorts of areas often, but these days I measure all this up against a benchmark of what God reckons of me, rather than trying to keep up with everyone and everything else. I have come to be comfortable with being me at times of complete failure and of success because my place of value on this planet is not wholly dependant on the opinions of other fragile folk like me. I still like Philip Yancy's quote, 'There's nothing you can do to make God love you any more, there's nothing you can do to make him love you any less.'

I'll forward this blog to John and see if he'll clarify what he meant.....

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