I came across something today that I thought was an interesting thing. It’s about how things have changed since the 70s and how our view about ourselves, and how these views have changed society as a whole. We often hear the words ‘self esteem’ which sounds all well and good, but is it? Greg Laurie wrote something that speaks against the tide of popular culture of today, and I would love to share this with you, and hear your thoughts about it. It’s NOT going to be popular as it’s so against the tide of our programmed thinking, and it’s most definitely NOT politically correct. I have personally been challenged by it, and all I want to understand is how do we understand ourselves in a biblical context.
Here’s what Greg Laurie has to say:
We are living in a culture that is completely self-absorbed. Millennials are the children of the Baby Boomers, and are also known as the “Me Generation.” This generation has now produced what experts are calling “The Me Me Generation.”
Consider these stats:
• The Incidence of Narcissistic Personality Disorder is nearly three times as high for people in their twenties as for the generation that’s now 65 or older.
• 58% more college students scored higher on a narcissism scale in 2009 than in 1982.
• Millennials got so many “participation trophies” growing up, that a recent study showed that 40% believe they should be promoted every two years, regardless of performance.
In the 1970s, people wanted to improve their kids’ chances, so the “self-esteem” movement was born. We were told that all of the social ills of the day were due to low self-esteem, and that we all needed to learn to love ourselves more.
As one expert said, “The problem is that when people tried to boost self-esteem, they boosted narcissism instead. All that self-esteem leads them to be disappointed when the world refuses to affirm how great they know they are.”
So, we enter into our marriages saying things like: “What’s in it for me?” and “What about my needs?” This leads to such inane statements as “I’m no longer happy in this marriage,” and “I need to find myself!”
A study found that between 1960 and 2008 individualistic words and phrases have increasingly overshadowed communal words and phrases. That is to say, over those 48 years, words and phrases like personalized, self, standout, unique, I can do it myself, and I come first have been used more often, while community, collective, share, united, band together, and common good receded.
Where does this selfishness come from?
What is the source of wars and fights among you? Don’t they come from the cravings that are at war within you? You desire and do not have. You murder and covet and cannot obtain. You fight and war. (James 4:1–2 HCSB).
This is something the Bible says would be a sign of the end times: But know this: Difficult times will come in the last days. For people will be lovers of self. . .” (2 Timothy 3:1–2 HCSB).
So,what is the antidote to selfishness?
It is selflessness!
The Bible tells us
If then there is any encouragement in Christ, if any consolation of love, if any fellowship with the Spirit, if any affection and mercy, fulfill my joy by thinking the same way, having the same love, sharing the same feelings, focusing on one goal. Do nothing out of rivalry or conceit, but in humility consider others as more important than yourselves. Everyone should look out not only for his own interests, but also for the interests of others.
Christ’s Humility and Exaltation
Make your own attitude that of Christ Jesus, who, existing in the form of God, did not consider equality with God as something to be used for His own advantage. Instead He emptied Himself by assuming the form of a slave, taking on the likeness of men. And when He had come as a man in His external form, He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death— (Phil.2:2-8 HCSB)
In the above article, Greg Laurie says how we enter into marriages/relationships with an attitude that says “What’s in it for me?” I would like to go one step further and ask the question, do we have that same attitude when it comes to God?. Do people come to Church and fellowship with other believers asking this question? Is this what we are seeing in the Western Church today?
C.S. Lewis, writing before the self-esteem fad took off, made this interesting observation, “The child who is patted on the back for doing a lesson well, the woman whose beauty is praised by her lover, the saved soul to whom Christ says, ‘well done,’ is pleased and ought to be. For here the pleasure lies not in what you are but in the fact that you have pleased someone you wanted (and rightly wanted) to please. The trouble begins when you pass from thinking, ‘I have pleased him; all is well,’ to thinking, ‘what a fine person I must be to have done it.’” If Lewis were to write such words today, would they be well received? I doubt it! [source]
If Lewis’ observations are correct and we have gone from ‘pleasing others’ (servant attitude) to ‘what a fine person I am’ then how can we ever know that we are in need of salvation from ourselves. If we think that we are just fine the way we are, how does this fit with trying to explain that we are all sinners and are need of salvation? Has the Western Church answered these questions successfully? How does the Western Church call people to salvation? Often I hear the message that God can fill your heart and make you into the person you were born to be. Is this the right message when we consider our pre-conditioned self worth? If Christ is there to just fill in the gaps and make us feel good about ourselves, even more than we do, then what about the flesh, and what about dying to the self and being a brand new creation. Is Christ just an add on? These are just few of the questions I have about all of this. I would love to know your thoughts on this.