Many years ago, my home state of California spent $735,000 to research the subject of self-esteem in preparation for promoting it in public schools throughout the state. The California Task Force on Self-Esteem hired eight professors from the University of California to research how self-esteem relates to the following six areas: crime and violence; alcohol and drug abuse; welfare dependency; teenage pregnancy; child and spousal abuse; children failing to learn.
The result of this very expensive effort was later published in a book titled, “The Social Importance of Self-Esteem.” One reviewer of that book said, “… every chapter revealed how low the associations between self-esteem and its consequences are ….” Another reviewer said, “Those expert social scientists … could detect essentially no cause-and-effect link between self-esteem and problematic behavior, whether it is teen pregnancy, drug use or child abuse.” Stanford University psychology professor, Albert Bandura, concluded that “self-esteem affects neither personal goals nor performance.”
Sadly, Christian clinical psychologist, Dr. James Dobson, was enthusiastically supportive of this study. Is it then any wonder why the vast majority of Christian bookstores regularly carry books with titles such as: “The Art of Learning to Love Yourself”; “Loving Yourselves, Celebrate Yourself, You’re Someone Special”; “Self Esteem: You’re Better than You Think”; “You Can Learn to Like Yourself”; “The Sensation of Being Somebody”; “Building an Adequate Self-Concept”; “Building a Child’s Self-Esteem”; “Your Better Self: Improving Your Self Image”; “Don’t Blame It All on Adam”; and “Self-Love: The Dynamic Force of Success.”
Of course, the reason why the results proved to be just the opposite of what the experts had hoped, is because it’s only when men learn [through Jesus Christ] to deny themselves (Luke 9:23), that they consider the interests of others as more important than their own (Philippians 2:3-4). Then, they soon realize that they are image-bearers of God (Genesis 1:26) and discover their true self-worth (1 John 3:1; 1 Peter 5:7). Even former “US News and World Report,” religion writer, John Leo, could see right through it all, when he said,
“The self-esteem movement is one of the marvels of our time. It goes on and on, even though its assumptions are wrong, and its basic premises have been discredited by a great deal of research … But it keeps stumbling on, seeming not to notice.”
Beloved, Paul warned us of the time in which we now live – “… in the last days … men will be lovers of self” (2 Timothy 3:1-2).
In conclusion, let us draw near to God — first, by taking heed to our heart preparation today for encountering the living God tomorrow, both through our praises and prayers offered to Him, with God’s people; and secondly, through our attending to the public reading and preaching of His Holy, inspired, infallible, and inerrant Word! Soli Deo Gloria!
Jerry Marcellino is pastor of Audubon Drive Bible Church in Laurel. He can be reached by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.