In my line of work I sometimes hear the refrain, “I have no self-esteem”, and, whilst I understand what is being said and have great sympathy where it is merited, it has often made me wonder. After all, we are only reconstituted earth, which lives in rebellion against its creator—what have we to be esteemed about? True esteem comes only when we realise our worthlessness, and guiltiness before God, and come to him seeking forgiveness.
“Never criticise” is the mantra that we are all told these days when it comes to working with young people.
I don’t know if it is still the case, but for a while teachers were told not to use red pens, nor to put an ‘X’ at incorrect answers, because it crushes the spirit. Instead of getting an ‘F’ for ‘fail’, you now get a ‘U’ for ‘ungraded’—as if that will make you feel better! Instead tell them they can do anything, be anything they want to be. All this because we want to wrap people in cotton wool, and shield them from the reality that there are some things they aren’t good at—in case we harm their self esteem.
Of course there is some truth in it—some have only known the harshest of voices and the sternest of criticism from those who should have been encouraging and loving.
But as often happens, we have swung to the opposite extreme, swallowing the whole sickly nonsense of self-esteem. We tell ourselves that it is more productive to shower ourselves and others with praise.