“Just believe in yourself.”
Just believe in yourself, and you can do anything you set your mind to do.
Geez. We spend a lot of time trying to build up our kids self-esteem. I’m pretty sure we worship childhood. The last thing we want to do is let a kid go disappointed, or let their self esteem get dinged.
But that phrase, “Just believe in yourself,” it suddenly seems…well, wrong. Like it’s the last thing, especially as Christians that we ought to be teaching our kids.
Drunk on Self Esteem
This whole thought occurred to me Sunday morning…while I was in the middle of giving my message at church. Somehow, it seemed, even I was daydreaming while I was talking.
It suddenly struck me that believing in myself, something I had been told to do my whole life, now sounded completely ridiculous.
So at an appropriate point while I was talking, I blurted it out. “You need to stop believing in yourselves.”
It sounds absurd, un-American, sacrilegious! We’ve been so indoctrinated that self-esteem is the ticket to success and happiness. How could I say we should not believe in ourselves.
There is a place for it. Kids need to know that they are talented (in a few ways), and they are loved unconditionally.
But there comes a point where it’s just too much. We’ve gotten drunk on self-esteem, and we’ve got a huge hangover on believing in ourselves.
Belief in Yourself Doesn’t Work
The thing is, deep down, we know self esteem doesn’t work.
Most adults who are willing to be honest have realized that believing in yourself is not enough to accomplish much. It can drive us to accomplish things. But just self esteem doesn’t make us doctors, inventors or athletes. The funny thing is so many people accuse Christians of blind faith in a dead rabbi, while they hand onto a blind faith in themselves.
Blind faith in ourselves can drive us to failure just as often as success, for anyone.
Maybe you’ve experienced it. You believed in yourself, but you still didn’t succeed. You’d think that was breaking a law of nature the way we think of self esteem. You may call me a pessimist. I call myself a realist.
Most adults fail at many things, despite how much we believe in ourselves. We flunked classes, were cut from teams, lost businesses, got divorces, and made all kinds of other mistakes we never believed would happen to us.
I know myself well enough that I don’t want to believe in myself anymore. I’m too unreliable.
You Can’t Do Anything
What Christians rarely stop to think about is that self esteem is mentioned nowhere in the Bible. Jesus never told anyone to believe in themselves. But somehow, Christians have drunk the self-esteem kool-aid too. We justify why we go to church by saying, “I just have to believe in something bigger than myself,” but in practical matters, we’re often not much different from atheists. We go home and wonder how we are going to solve this or do that or pull ourselves up by our bootstraps.
Jesus said that without him, we can do nothing.
Paul said that he is dead, and it is only Jesus who lives in him. Does that sound like a guy who nursed his ego on deluded self confidence.
You’ve got to stop believing in yourself. If you’re anything like me, you’ve failed a lot. And given the chance, you’ll fail a lot more. In fact, you’ll probably make the same failures again. Old habits die hard.
But here’s the great part. As soon as we give up self esteem, we also give up many of our limitations. As soon as we stop having faith in ourselves and start having faith in what God can do through us, our faith is no longer restrained by things we’re no good at. Now, God’s not going to make you a star athlete. But you never know what God will do with someone whose faith is too big to just believe in themselves.
Not believing in yourself is really pretty…empowering.
What do you think? Is self esteem killing us and our children? Should we be preparing kids for life by being realists, or let them believe that they can do anything and everything?