Wednesday, May 6, 2009


At one time I was an education major at Arizona State University. Ah yes, those were the days, the glory days where my higher education time was spent covering the importance of self-esteem in the lives of our future students. Far too much time [Master Kenobi], if you ask me. To add pain to my misery, just when I imagined we had exhausted all possible tangential approaches to the subject, my professors would find another creative means by which to tackle the issue. Quite frankly, it was draining, and you can bet this was one of the reasons why I later changed to a different major.

Was it really such a bad thing for us to spend time preparing future educators to instruct America’s children to have greater self-esteem? I believe it was the most significant waste of my education thus far, and in fact, was harmful – or will be harmful – to America’s children.

Why do I say this? Because I’m not a believer in self-esteem. If you check up on a current definition of the term you will likely find at least one that includes something involving a “realistic” view of oneself. Yet, this is not how the term is practically used an applied. In each of my college textbooks, and in my years on this planet, it seems to me that the common understanding of this term means that folks have a greater appreciation of themselves, whether this is realistic or not.

How this practically works out in the education system looks something like this: little Johnny is upset. Why is Johnny upset? Because he is failing in P.E. due to misbehavior … that’s right, Physical Education. What would our educators recommend to Johnny and Johnny’s parents? Why, Johnny simply needs an improved view of himself, and he will certainly start to behave in P.E.! If he learns to value himself even more he will start to do better in class!

While this story is lacking in development, diagnosis and application, this is a fair representation of the situation or one analogous to it. Is Johnny’s problem that he is lacking self-esteem? Is the solution that he needs an even higher view of himself? I would suggest that were Johnny to have an even higher view of himself he might then defend his misbehavior in class. Why shouldn’t he if his view of the self only improves?

The concept of self-esteem has always bothered me, though I couldn’t quite put my finger on it until I began to understand the Doctrines of Grace (Calvinism), especially that first point which says that the whole of human beings are totally depraved. As mentioned earlier, some definitions explain self-esteem as having a realistic view of oneself, but I believe that the understanding and application winds up being a very unrealistic view of oneself and of human beings in general. Promoters of self-esteem tend to believe that human beings are basically good and have capabilities to make true positive advancements. Another presupposition held by self-esteem advocates is functional atheism. Why? Because you better leave God out of the equation with regards to your mental health.

Does this not resound well with the wisdom of the world? It sounds like wisdom to say that the answer to all of our problems begin and end with man … precisely what sinners want to hear. No wonder this sort of terminology has exploded with popularity in recent decades! It is as if we’ve discovered the answer to all of our ails! … US!

Such audacity belongs to humankind to even begin to believe such notions. Who do we think we are to be able to diagnose our problems without the Creator? Yet, here we are, clay in the hands of the Potter, pretending there is no Potter, and somehow we’ve reached the conclusion that we have all the answers.

Have I still not convinced you that self-esteem is the completely wrong approach towards identifying and solving mankind’s mental health issues? Think back to any time you’ve been upset about something. Anything at all.

Now think on why you were upset or unhappy? Isn’t the root cause of your upset-ed-ness or unhappiness because you believe you deserve better circumstances? Were we to apply self-esteem to your situation, you would think even more highly of yourself, and would be prone to increase in your anger. On the contrary, were you to consider a Biblical perspective, you would thank God you didn’t receive what you deserve – death and Hell that very moment – and you would increase in humility and thankfulness towards God.

Every moment of life is a moment undeserved. Every happy experience is one undeserved. Each joyous pleasure is one undeserved. It is only from a Christian worldview that properly solves our mental health issues, and not the worldly wisdom that suggests that we have higher mountains to climb in our pride and arrogance.

Thanks for reading,


  1. Steve B,

    I deleted your comment due to the swear word that you included. But I copied and pasted an appropriate version of your comment:

    "It has been my experience, working with youth in a variety of venues from Civil Air Patrol, youth sports, and "boot camps" that children achieve strong self esteem through accomplishment...not the other way around. It is often the kids who think the most of themselves that tend to gold-brick and half-hearted things because they are too "cool".

    Perhaps a strong self identity might be a slightly better term, but that still doesn't work. I agree that the best way to build strong, confident high achievers is to bring about an udnerstanding of who they are in Christ, not in themselves. Christ-esteem, not self-eseem."

  2. Steve,

    Very well put. I like that ... "Christ-esteem"

    I will use that in the future =)

  3. My apologies. Won't happen again!

  4. This was a wonderful and marvelous read, thank you for writing it.

    May the Lord Bless you,