Self-esteem, right doing, and satisfaction

Helping children to have high self-esteem has been a goal in American education for the past twenty-five years. Recently, however, the concept of self-esteem training has become a topic of public controversy. Its advocates point to results in students' higher academic achievements and other contributions to the community. Some, however, say that this training can encourage children to feel good about themselves irresponsibly—without corresponding achievement—and that this egotism, when threatened, can lead them into trouble, even into violent behavior. The Boston Sunday Globe, March 31, 1996 . Robert Reasoner, president of the International Council for Self Esteem in Port Ludlow, Washington, says, "I think there's a great deal of confusion about self-esteem." He contends that it's not about giving children unwarranted praise, but about giving them respect and holding them accountable for their actions—for what they do. The Christian Science Monitor, April 4, 1996 .

Surely everyone can agree that self-esteem should result in right doing. Perhaps, then, the emphasis in education, both at home and in school, should be on nurturing in young people the kind of self-esteem that naturally leads to right doing and grows with right doing. What is this self-esteem? It's the self-esteem that comes from knowing God, our creator, and knowing the intrinsic worth of ourselves and others as His children.

The Bible teaches that God is infinite Spirit, the source of all intelligence and goodness, and that man is His spiritual image and likeness. By this we know that each one of us—every man, woman, and child—possesses unlimited intelligence and goodness. It's hard to think of anything that has greater potential for inspiring an individual toward noble effort and achievement than an inner sense of true worth. And such self-esteem comes with waking up to the fact of one's God-given identity, nature, and abilities as God's reflection. "As for me," said the Psalmist, "I will behold thy face in righteousness: I shall be satisfied, when I awake, with thy likeness" (Ps. 17:15). Genuine satisfaction comes not only in knowing we have goodness and ability from God; it comes in following through on that knowledge and actually doing God's will. As a verse from Mary Baker Eddy's poem "Satisfied" indicates: "Who doth His will—His likeness still—/ Is satisfied" (Poems, p. 79). And the more we do God's will, the more we grow in spiritually based self-esteem.

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Breaking the habit of fear
May 27, 1996

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