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The Church Shouldn’t Promote Self-Esteem

Consider the difference between building confidence and fostering an unearned sense of self-worth.

by
Walter Hudson

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July 28, 2013 - 11:00 am
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mean-girls-cast

The First Baptist Church in Beckley, West Virgina, organized a conference to help young girls build self-esteem in defiance of a beauty culture which fixates upon superficial features. The Register-Herald reports:

Contemporary Christian musical artist Karen Spurlock will be leading worship at the event.

“Having three girls of my own, I am very aware of how early little girls begin to evaluate themselves and others in superficial ways,” said Carrico. “It occurred to me that so many women suffer daily by comparing themselves to others, and it all starts between the ages of five and 10.”

Part of the reason girls are so imprisoned by the beauty culture, Carrico said, is that they mistakenly equate being “pretty” with their self-worth.

One goal of the Christian-based conference is to assure girls that beauty is not in the eye of the beholder but in the “eye of the Creator,” Carrico said.

“The only way to help girls see past all this is to teach them that pretty is fine, that’s awesome, but it’s not beauty,” she said. “Their belly may not be completely flat today, or ever, and that’s OK, because God created us in His image, so…deal with it,  you’re perfect.”

Certainly, girls and young women ought to be encouraged to look beyond the superficial. That said, should any self-evaluation result in the conclusion that you are perfect?

Promoting self-esteem has become a primary goal of education and community activities involving children. The now cliché participation trophy stands as a hallmark example. Adults teach children to feel good about themselves not due to cited merit, but as a means to spite the evaluations of popular culture. However, unearned pride can be just as destructive as a lack of confidence. Rather than teach children to err on one side to spite the other, we ought to encourage honest evaluations based on objective criteria which help guide efforts at improvement.

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Top Rated Comments   
HERETIC! YOU WILL BURN FOR THIS! SELF ESTEEM IS THE HIGHEST VIRTUE! HOW DARE YOU QUESTION IT?!?!?


But that aside, thank you for telling a needed truth. It won't make you popular, but it's true, and therefore healthful.


I'm sure you'll be hearing from the Inquisition soon.

35 weeks ago
35 weeks ago Link To Comment
All Comments   (17)
All Comments   (17)
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Heck, this humanistic "promoting self-esteem" nonsense has been around since at least the 1980s when I was a kid in school, and my Christian convert parents recognized it for the self-serving scam it was even then. The question that occurs to me is why ANYONE, let alone churches, is still pushing this crap 30+ years later. That's what trying to be "trendy" will get a church, I guess: 30 years late and 30 pieces of silver short. Even the fools who still believe in the humanist myth of inherent human goodness have long since moved on from promoting self-esteem.
35 weeks ago
35 weeks ago Link To Comment
Two interesting points in your post, Riprake:


1. Your Christian convert parents have more discernment than the vast majority of generational "Christians". This is not uncommon.

2. Yes, the secular world has been slowly awakening and walking away from the cult of self-esteem, while many in the Church cling to it militantly.

35 weeks ago
35 weeks ago Link To Comment
caring more what God thinks of us than what mere humans think, and doing those things (e.g. practicing random acts of kindness and senseless beauty, aka: lifting others) we believe will please God - will give true self-worth.
35 weeks ago
35 weeks ago Link To Comment
There is another name for self-esteem - pride, and pride is a dangerous sin because it's one of the hardest for you to recognize in yourself. We ought not be promoting empty self-esteem for its own sake. Take these girls and give them the opportunity to achieve something which can be at least an excuse for some self-worth with a foundation.
35 weeks ago
35 weeks ago Link To Comment
I have three sisters and raised three daughters so I feel I have some abiility to comment on this article. I agree completely that high self esteem in and of itself is a trap and a negative thing to have in large amounts. I am also a Christian woman and one of our family's principles was that there were 5 sinners in our family, things were going to get interesesting because of it and Jesus was the only solution. But there is a balance to be had here and girls are subject to more girl-on-girl cruelty than any male can imagine. The result of that is pretty devastating. I wanted my girls to believe that their bodies were beautiful despite the images presented to them in media and by other girls. I wanted them to know that they were bright and intelligent but it was more important to be hard workers who didn't give up and that they could do anything they set their mind to if they were willing to dedicate themselves to the task. I would not mind if they wanted to attend a seminar like the one described above because at various times especially in junior and senior high school they were bullied and trampled on by girls with mean-girl syndrome. I suspect that some of that bullying was done by girls with very low self esteem trying to make themselves feel better. If this seminar was designed to help them deal with that - fine. If it was designed to give false self esteem that demeans hard work and accomplishment, I'd run as far and fast as I could the other direction. I totally agree that 4 year olds have a plethora of self-esteem that needs to be tempered but rarely have I seen a pre-teen girl who has retained it after any time around other pre-teen girls. All of my girls are now highly educated with work ethics that have taken them to the top of thier respective fields with a medical doctor and Ph.D candidate in the mix. They are raising their daughters to work hard and know they can do anything if they are willing to sacrifice to accomplish it. They have also dealt with pre-teen daughters who have come home feeling worthless after a bullying session from other girls. It is a vicious world and a balance between the knowledge that one is a sinner and one is made in the image of God is necessary to navigate the teenage years as a female and a male too I suspect. I can't speak to the same issue in boys as my only grandson is male, 4-years old and we are now remediating his high self esteem to an acceptable level.
35 weeks ago
35 weeks ago Link To Comment
Unrequited self-esteem produces narcissism. Humility is a virtue that is based upon an honest assessment of self-worth. Humility should be everyone's goal.
35 weeks ago
35 weeks ago Link To Comment
Christians should stick to preaching that we are all wicked, fallen sinners, whom God has doomed to an eternity of burning in hell unless we accept Christ as our savior. This doctrine is clearly incompatible with promoting self-esteem. One reason why I'm not a Christian.
35 weeks ago
35 weeks ago Link To Comment
Ah, the irony. You, not a Christian, are completely correct, and Christians, who should know better, are in the forefront of promoting "self-esteem", even as the tide has turned against it in secular psychological circles.
35 weeks ago
35 weeks ago Link To Comment
Yeah, at least this guy knows what he's rejecting. Kind of reminds me of P.J. O'Rourke's "Seven New Deadly Sins" in which he suggested "Authenticity" (the contemporary euphemism for narcissism) as one of the candidates:

http://www.weeklystandard.com/Content/Public/Articles/000/000/014/949beepp.asp?nopager=1

"4.  Authenticity. Please do your best to be someone better than who you truly are. Deep down inside we're ravening beasts. This is the meaning of original sin. Everyone's authentic self is horrid. God's message to man has always been, 'You can't really be good, but you can fake it. Really.'"
35 weeks ago
35 weeks ago Link To Comment
The Pilgrims Formula To Save America! Kirk Cameron in Monumental

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nwrXHUsNC6E&feature=youtu.be
35 weeks ago
35 weeks ago Link To Comment
HERETIC! YOU WILL BURN FOR THIS! SELF ESTEEM IS THE HIGHEST VIRTUE! HOW DARE YOU QUESTION IT?!?!?


But that aside, thank you for telling a needed truth. It won't make you popular, but it's true, and therefore healthful.


I'm sure you'll be hearing from the Inquisition soon.

35 weeks ago
35 weeks ago Link To Comment
To my observation, the pretty, thin girls have no problem with flaunting their looks and flashy boyfriends over their not-so-pretty peers, to the point where it's almost bullying (hence the photo that leads this article). Their need to feed their insatiable egos and vanity are the source of these "self-esteem" problems we hear so much about.

Typical of our ruined culture, we avoid addressing the source of the problem and go for silly, superficial solutions that only create a new set of problems. Sel-esteem will always be a problem, but the more society reigns in the runaway egotism and vanity the less a problem "self-esteem" will be.
35 weeks ago
35 weeks ago Link To Comment
At first I thought, "sheesh". But it is a valid point!
35 weeks ago
35 weeks ago Link To Comment
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