Have you ever had a conversation descend into a shouting match? I appreciate strong opinions and enjoy calm (albeit intense) discussions as long as I am learning and the other person is open as well. The art of mature discussion is lost behind easily inflamed and “touched you last” word wars. Does this happen to you?
I have a friend Nick Katsouros, whose radio show recently came to a grinding halt over this very issue. He has strong views on which we do not always agree, yet I have been an invited guest on his show three times. He professes agnosticism yet has never tried to shut me up when I talk about the gospel. Nonetheless, people are attacking him because they read personal threat into his opinions. Nick’s aim is, and always has been, to help close this awful divide in our country through honest, civil communication. So few seem to want that.
A special moment happened this week when a dear friend willingly discussed the election although we have differing thoughts. What we do agree on is that God looks at the heart; how we vote is secondary to our clean conscience. What a relief to have this conversation and to agree to disagree without either of us coming away feeling attacked!
On Monday I ran across an article* on LinkedIn with “Do Not Care About Your Self-Esteem” in its title. Intrigued, and with an open yet cautious mind, I looked to understand this point of view. It was a good article which made some meaningful points. The author’s motive seems pure and kind. However, his interpretation of self-esteem seems too black and white. He uses the phrases, “Self-esteem is esteeming you more than others”, “Do not fall into the self-esteem trap”, and compared self-esteem to self-serving and self-focus.
I commented, which is rare for me, because I thought of all those wide-eyed scared women who have tried to leave abusive relationships. So often they feel worthless, helpless, and hopeless. Cognitively, in the moment it is difficult for some of them to hear new terminology and concepts. Truth has to be spoon-fed in some ways.
I also thought about all the women and teens who are presently trapped in abusive situations, especially abused Christian wives told to stick by their man no matter what. I think it is dangerous to use the term self-esteem in an “ooh, that’s baaaad” kind of way because so many people do not have a concept of worth. Coming down hard on terminology appears judgmental and condemning, in my opinion.
To me self-esteem is not exaggeration of one’s value, and is not conceit or self-focus. In fact, I suggest self-esteem is one foundation for humility because without it we are self-conscious and mindful of what others think. By understanding our spiritual place (sinful, in need of repentance and a Savior, yet deeply loved by God) we can grow a healthy and “sober” (reasonable) sense of self-esteem.
For example, I am a daughter of God. I stand with the only One who loves me unconditionally. He protects and rescues me because we love each other. I obey and surrender to him because he is God and I am not. Without this sense of relationship in God’s love, I was fearful, distrusting, and vulnerable to maltreatment. Now I acknowledge that God did not make a mistake in this creation. In fact, I am genuinely grateful for how he made me.
Yep. I tried to put this into calm, tactful words in my reply to this article. The author did not blast me – in fact he did not address me at all. A third-party, a Bible teacher, went off on me.
At first I thought it was going to be one of those learning experiences for both of us. He made solid points about the use of confusing language and how it disrupts the gospel message. I agree. He said psychological terms such as self-esteem, recovery, and addiction are confusing terms and should be abolished in Christian circles. I do not agree. He said part of repentance is thinking differently. I agree and appreciate his use of the original Greek to point that out. I believe changing how we think is a process that takes place over time whereas he seemed to imply thinking differently takes place in an instant do-or-die moment.
I expressed three concerns: (1) Using terms like “psycho-babble” promotes stigma (hence shame) that may keep some people from seeking help at all. (2) Some vulnerable people will remain trapped in self-loathing because they think it’s the holy way (3) Abuse victims serve and serve. Mothers serve and serve. Women suffer breakdowns because they do not know it is ok to say no. Telling them self-esteem is a no-no may actually deter them from godly boundaries.
At this point he started using capital letters and lots of exclamation points. An undeniable tone of sarcasm underlined his statement, “Again, I suppose you have wonderfully proven our point.” Clearly my meanings were disregarded as he reacted only to the words I chose. I was lumped in with the apostate church and not-so-subtly accused of being a false teacher in the worst sense of the phrase.
Our battle is not against words, but against falsehood. Against losing souls. Against not loving our neighbors because we won’t meet them where they are or speak their language (a social and spiritual issue). Vitriol and back-handed condemnation are why we look like blubbering fools when we try to present Christ as the Truth, Way, and Life.
When I fully realized he was shouting angrily at me, I addressed some of my meanings he had misinterpreted or twisted, and then backed out. I wrote, “I am not here to cause division in the Body.”**
His response? The ultimate character assassination: “I understand the cognitive dissonance of renouncing the unbiblical “recovery” teachings, due to the fact that it would affect one of your titles, ‘Recovery Advocate.'”
So, I guess I am too proud and filled with selfish ambition to care about Christ’s way. That’s reminiscent of an ex-pastor who claimed I would not try to protect my son from suicide because I “profit” from depression!
Good thing I know God loves me!
Today’s Helpful Word
1 Peter 3:15
“But in your hearts revere Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect…” –St. Paul
COMMENTS ARE ALWAYS WELCOME (see tab below)
NOTE: I am not a doctor or mental health professional. I speak only from personal experiences with and observations of mental illness. In no way is this website intended to substitute for professional mental health care.
If you are struggling emotionally today or feeling suicidal, or concerned about someone who is, please call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline 1-800-273-TALK (8255). Hope and help is yours.
*Rick Thomas, Christian Coach, Speaker, Author & Podcaster. Article: Teen Tip 3 – Do not care about your self-esteem. Published on LinkedIn October 17, 2016