I’m not the biggest fan of New York Times columnist David Brooks, but I wanted to call attention to a recent piece of his that highlights a pretty serious problem we have here in the U.S.
Brooks points to several markers that show Americans to have high levels of “self-esteem” even as they get worse in several areas of accomplishment, such as mathematical skills. We all think we live in Lake Woebegone, where everyone is above average. And because we are all so wonderful, we believe we deserve the very best of everything and have this message constantly reinforced through advertising.
Near the end of the column, Brooks does some interesting connecting of the dots and speculates about how many of our current social and political problems can be traced in part to our inflated egos. Political partisanship? Increased levels of consumption and debt? Decline in civic virtue? It’s all food for thought.
Pride goeth before the fall. If Brooks is right, we may be setting ourselves up for a nasty plunge.
I’ve often thought our efforts to build self-esteem were not very good. It’s a struggle, though, to know how to encourage the right kind of self-attitude when the culture has rejected Christian values. When you read the Bible, you find that we are sinful and rebellious, but that God values us, has given us abilities and opportunities, and expects things from us. Without the Christian perspective, we’re left with a hollow “I’m important because I exist” that has no foundation and demands nothing from us.
Rachel, I have always refrained from praising my kids abilities for fear that they will acquire the same silly “I’m great” attitude that seems to pervade America’s youth. Then I went to a ladies retreat, where the speaker gave me the most amazing idea. I would have never come up with it on my own, which is a shame because it is exactly what my boys need to hear. I’m not very good at remembering details, but the one thing she said that stuck with me was that she told her sons on a regular basis that they are mighty warriors of God. The first time I said this to Edward, his eyes got as big as saucers; he was much more excited than he would have been to hear any praise about himself. Putting their actions and thoughts to the test of whether a mighty warrior for God would do such a thing has changed their attitudes, and I hope it will continue to shape who they are, knowing that everything they do should be done for His glory. I’m not sure how you would go about encouraging girls in this way, as I don’t yet have any 🙂 But boys are enthralled by the idea that they can be mighty warriors!