Moving Away from Self Absorption

Essential Lesson Number One

American children are learning a new pledge of allegiance and it has nothing to do with our flag or country.  Instead the pledge states “I pledge allegiance to myself and to who I want to be…” The pledge was recently plastered all over the hallways of a local elementary school as part of a revised D.A.R.E program that is offered to children across our nation. (Drug Abuse Resistance Education)  The next line goes on to say “..cause I can make my dreams come true if I believe in ME.”

At first glance you may find these words innocuous.  After all, aren’t we supposed to believe in ourselves and in our dreams?  So what harm can possibly come from a promise of loyalty to myself?

This pledge takes the self-esteem movement of the 1980’s- which has already gone too far- even further.  I remember my kids all learning a song (to the tune of “Frere Jacques) “I am special, I am special, look at me, look at me”.  This self-esteem movement continues to have well meaning educators and parents inadvertently nurturing entitlement and narcissistic values by teaching children to feel good about- and put their faith in – themselves regardless of what they are doing.

Now I am all for confidence and the courage to go after one’s dreams.  The problem is that if ME is what I have to put my faith in and focus on, confidence and courage actually start to diminish and anxiety sets in.  Read the studies.

How ironic that we do anything to nurture a positive self-esteem in our children and then when they become adults, we are appalled at their self centered focus and pray that they learn how to purge themselves of the very SELF we sought to create.  We want so much for our children: to be successful, to find their potential, to make a difference, yet are we failing to nurture the very character essential for their lives to go well?

The majority of today’s teens see God as a compassionate creator who exists to help them with their problems – a “dial up as needed butler in the sky” (check out the studies by Christian Smith a noted sociologist).  A God who exists to solve my problems conveniently fits a ME- centered philosophy. And such a faith is bound to dissolve when He does not come through as demanded.

And what happens to a marriage when narcissism rules a heart or both hearts?  God’s design for family has absolutely no room for self absorption.  Instead a husband is to give himself up for his wife as Christ did for the church  and the wife is to submit to her own husband as to the Lord and children are to obey their parents and honor their mother and father. This is definitely NOT a picture of “pledging allegiance to myself.”  A God centered mindset is the path to peace and contentment because when we take our eyes off ourselves, He fills us with something far more powerful that allows us to become who He intends us to be.

We are supposed to acquire knowledge through education and knowledge is supposed to make us wise.  Let’s read what James says about wisdom in his epistle.

“Who is wise and understanding among you?  By his good conduct let him show his works in the meekness of wisdom.  But if you have bitter jealousy and selfish ambition in your hearts, do not boast and be false to the truth.  This is not the wisdom that comes down from above but is earthly, unspiritual, demonic.  For where jealously and selfish ambition exist, there will be disorder and every vile practice.  But the wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, open to reason, full of mercy and good fruits, impartial and sincere.  And a harvest of righteousness is sown in peace by those who make peace.  James 4:13

So be careful.    Education, in both secular and Christian settings is all too often reduced to a self centered perspective. If education does not include a broader focus than “what’s in it for me” children fail to gain the identities God designed for them –  to know Him and to glorify Him and to be servant loving leaders in their future families and in the culture at large.

We were not created to worship ourselves. We were not created to place our faith in ourselves.  God created us to be in loving, trusting relationship with Him, humbling ourselves at His feet. A meaningful fulfilled life comes by way of losing ourselves and living instead by the power of His spirit.   Only God’s real truth will set us free from ourselves.  The self-esteem-I-believe-in-ME stuff is rooted in a faulty worldview and serves to destroy the very life we seek after.

Jeremiah 17: 5-8

Thus says the Lord: cursed is the man who trusts in mankind and makes flesh his strength, and whose heart turns away from the Lord.  For he will be like a bush in the desert and will not see when prosperity comes, but will live in stony wastes in the wilderness, a land of salt without inhabitant.  Blessed is the man whose trust is in the Lord, for he will be like a tree planted by the water, that extends its roots by a stream and will not fear when heat comes; but its leaves will be green, and it will not be anxious in a year of drought nor cease to yield fruit.

TIPS

  1. Don’t praise kids for their intelligence as it undermines the importance of effort. Kids who are constantly told how smart they are, falter when they encounter academic difficulties and are prone to cheating because they have not figured out how to cope with failure.
  2. Kids who are constantly told how smart or talented they are become risk averse because they fear not measuring up to who they are supposed to be.
  3. Praise effort instead as it is a variable kids can control. Effort is far more vital to success than talent.
  4. Don’t’ get used to using big words for little matters. Kids do not need continual praise for doing ordinary expected things.
  5. Use words that are appropriate for the work.  Are they really the BEST?  And are they truly AWESOME like our God?
  6. Excessive flattery or praise raises doubts in children about their self worth because they begin to see through it and then consider the adult a poor source of support because they don’t sound very believable.

Answering Your Questions

“How do we go about determining the world view of our children’s teachers in public schools?”

  1. Make sure that you allow time for daily discussion with your kids about their school day.  Listen and listen and listen.
  2. Determining alternate worldviews is not as important as discerning whether or not the teacher holds a biblical worldview.  All other views are false and tend to promote SELF.
  3. Invest in resources that equip you to fully understand a biblical world view. Total Truth by Nancy Pearcey is a great resource, as is The Universe Next Door by James Sire. The Truth Project DVDs by Focus on the Family is terrific as well.  You the parent need to be equipped to lead your children in the development of their worldview.
  4. Get involved or start a Moms In Touch Group at your school.  It takes only two parents to start a chapter.  This will connect you with other Christian parents and join you in prayer for your school.  Their website, www.momsintouch.org includes a group locator.
  5. Establish a relationship with your child’s teachers. While teachers are busy, they appreciate parents who take the time to care about them as people. Go with a loving attitude of getting to know them so you can support them and let them know about your family in the process. Most teachers really care about kids or they would not be in the profession.  Remember that public school teachers are expected to teach in a way that shields students from a biblical world view.  Thankfully not all agree with this approach!
  6. You have a right as a parent to know about who is shepherding your children!  Don’t be timid in this endeavor. Discerning whether a teacher holds a biblical worldview is not difficult if you listen and have a relationship with them.

Note: Going Public by David and Kelli Pritchard is an excellent resource for Christian parents of students in public schools.  They offer a “field guide” for parents on what it takes for children to succeed in the public system.  I applaud them for painting a realistic picture of a school choice that requires major commitment, initiative and involvement on the part of the parent.

7 Comments

  1. Wow. Plenty of “green light” food for thought here in an environment where I’m needing to make sure my son is getting the proper nourishment to grow his soul, and love for God. It’s an excellent tool for me to pass to friends of mine who truly desire to be intentional with their children in ways that honor God . I am the weaker sister. So, on behalf of me and my friends, thank you for offering us and helping us with some of your wisdom and strength.

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  2. Dear Leticia,

    I am working on your second question in last week’s blog and will address it next week. I always look forward to your comments on this blog.

    Ellen

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  3. I think it’s interesting that the whole “self-esteem” movement actually produced a generation with high rates of depression and LOW self-esteem. This is good…

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  4. It is difficult for me to not get carried away in praising my children. I do think they are AWESOME. As I read your tips I was so surprised by how many of them described by own feelings as a “smart, gifted” child. I certainly was fearful of not measuring up. Thank you for this reminder of guarding our enthusiam and flattery with our kiddos. It is something I need to work on.

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  5. I am in complete agreement with your tips for praising based on effort, not ability. I have a great article that I give out to parents at the beginning of the year that really highlights the importance of this.

    I also appreciate the section that you wrote about parents who have kids in public schools. As a Christian teacher in a public school, I have to be very careful about what I say/don’t say when it comes to my own worldview. However, I make the most of my opportunities when teaching Biblical principles. It saddens me that many Christians’ perception of public schools is so negative. It may surprise people how many Christian teachers there actually are in public schools! Your point #5 is dead on. While I work with many non-Christians, I have a high respect for the self-sacrifice that many of them give for their students. Any kid can benefit from someone who cares, even if they are not a Christian. Sometimes the best lessons we learn are from others who are different.

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    • Dear Rachael,

      Appreciate your comments and value any tips you may have to share for Christian families in public schools!

      Ellen

      Reply
  6. I’m really going to have to make an effort to praise my daughter in appropriate ways. It’s so easy to flatter her, thinking I’m growing her confidence. I really want her confidence to be rooted in Christ and not her own self-effort!

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