Questions and AnswersBible answers to your questions | Vol. 27 No. 5 | Jul-Aug 2017
What are the dangers, if any, of making comparisons between children?
The Bible has much to say about dying to self. Why, then, do we spend so much time and energy promoting our children’s self-esteem? Perhaps we have confused self-esteem with self-worth?
Self-worth is a cardinal principle of God’s kingdom. Christ values us so highly that He humbled Himself to die for us. Philippians 2:8. As heirs of His kingdom, we will walk as He walked. 1 John 2:6. We will work for the welfare of others, whether in the family, the community, or the world. There is poise and power in a person with true self-worth.
Self-esteem, on the other hand, is what originally got Satan in trouble. “I will exalt my throne,” he boasted, “I will be like the most High.” Isaiah 14:13,14. Instead of looking out for each other, self-esteem teaches us to look out for number one. Pride, boldness and egoism are the natural fruits of self-esteem. By precept and example, we can nurture either self-esteem or self-worth in our children.
Which will it be—selfishness, or selflessness?
I’m uncomfortable with the popular idea that we need to give our children good self-esteem. Can you point me to some biblical principles that would help me know how to foster a healthy self-respect in my children without fostering self-centered pride?
When I was a child, I often heard the words, “Why can’t you be more like Kathy?” This young lady was everything I was not: outgoing, vivacious, and happy-go-lucky. I was more cautious, studious, and conscientious. Needless to say, I was left with serious doubts about my worth as a human being. Years later, Kathy and I compared notes and discovered that she had regularly been exhorted to be more like Janet—with similar results!
Probably most parents are tempted to indulge in the game of comparisons. We naturally want our children to be the brightest, the most athletic, the best looking, even the most obedient! But sooner or later children will fall short in the comparison—and too often they must deal with shattered feelings of self-worth.
Many goals set before children are unattainable. The uncoordinated child may never excel on the tennis court; the child endowed with an average intellect will find it impossible to stay at the top of his class; the reserved child will probably never be a social butterfly. In trying to meet unreasonable expectations, children often believe that they are unworthy.
Can’t we, then, encourage them to do their best? Yes, but keep in mind that the only true standard of excellence is Jesus. We are told in Philippians 2:5, “Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus.” Here is the standard, which, despite our handicaps of heredity or environment, we can all reach because He has promised to help us: “A new heart [mind] also will I give you, and a new spirit will I put within you.” Ezekiel 36:26.
Janet Evert is the editor of Young Disciple magazine, a weekly publication dedicated to the preparation of young people for heaven and published by Young Disciple Ministries: www.youngdisciple.org.
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