The problem is that I like for people to like me. Even more than that, I like for people to agree with me. When I say something that might be unpopular, I try excessively hard to say it in such a way that it is palatable even to people who disagree. It's that tact thing that I care (perhaps too much) about. I'm no Ann Coulter. Or Michael Moore. Or some other personality of your choosing who says shocking things to get people riled up. They are my exact opposites. Sometimes I wish I were a little more like them.
Maybe that's why I have this blog. It's a lot easier to write things than it is to say them. After all, you can't punch me on a blog. If you punch something, it'll be your own personal property, be it your keyboard, nearest wall, coffee cup, whatever. And, well, that's your problem.
Now what the heck was the point of this again? Hang on while I try to remember.
Oh yes. Egotism.
I think we can all agree that egotism is one of the most loath-able qualities in a person. No one likes to hang out with someone who thinks they are better than everyone else, whether the ego is warranted or not. Maybe they just climbed Mt. Everest and they are feeling pretty darn great. Sure they just accomplished something amazing and they should feel good about it, but they don't have to put lesser folks down in the process or inflate themselves to godly proportions. They are still just a man, after all. A cool one who accomplished something amazing, yes.
Look up egotistical in the thesaurus and you get this:
conceited, egocentric, egoistic, narcissistic, pompous, puffed up, self-absorbed, self-centered, self-important, self-involved, self-seeking, self-serving, selfish, smug, stuck-up, vain, vainglorious
A related search of boastful results in:
arrogant, big-headed, bombastic, cocky, crowing, exultant, full of hot air, hifalutin, hot stuff, know-it-all, loudmouth, on ego trip, pretentious, puffed-up, self-aggrandizing, self-applauding, smart-alecky, snooty, strutting, swaggering, swollen-headed, too big for one's britches, windbag
Do any of those synonyms give you the warm fuzzies? For me, each of them gives me a little pit in my stomach. They are the exact opposite of how I hope to be described by posterity.
Now - here's the (perhaps) more shocking part - looking up self-esteem results in:
Synonyms: amour propre, conceit, confidence, dignity, egotism, morale, narcissism, self-assurance, self-content, self-regard, self-respect, self-satisfaction, vanity, worth
Self. Self. Self.
See, I'm not so sure there's a huge difference between ego and self-esteem.
Society today tells us that "self-esteem" is one of the most important things to instill in our children. We need to build them up at all times, put them at the center of our universe, find the good in them even when they've done something wrong (no matter to what degree), give them stickers for doing things they should be doing anyway, give them a trophy for doing nothing more than showing up. Teachers should stop grading in the traditional manner because an "F" or a "D" or even a "C" might hurt my child's feelings and lower his/her self-esteem. Sports teams should stop keeping score because being on the losing team might deliver an incapacitating blow to my child's self-worth that will permanently scar him/her later in life.
Well let me tell you what I think about society today.
They've got it all wrong.
I'm not advocating calling kids stupid, locking them in a closet, telling them their dreams can't come true, and suggesting to them that they're not worthy of the food I provide.
What I am saying is that starting from birth, our children need to know that they are not the only person on this earth that matters. We are all important. We are all God's children. Individually, we are not more special than anyone else.
When my children grow up, I want them to think of others first. Before they think of themselves. I want them to have confidence that comes from years of hard work, failures, and learning experiences. I don't want them to have an inflated self-worth based solely on Sam and me constantly pumping their heads full of self-esteem-building propaganda. I do not want my adult children to be labeled as egotistical, self-serving, selfish, and certainly not too big for their britches. I want them to know that they hold an integral part in this life. That they are a part of the whole, not the whole themselves.
If they mess up, that's fine. There will be a consequence. And it might be a (gasp!) negative one. If they succeed, I will celebrate right alongside of them.
I love my children. More than I ever imagined possible. But to center our lives solely around them is a mistake that is not easily undone. Unfounded exaltation when they are children results in adults who exalt themselves. And while it might be cute [to some people] to hear a three year old brag about their beauty/brains/athletic ability, it's pretty much never cute to hear a thirty year old doing the same.
Children with excessive self-esteem grow up thinking that the world revolves around them, that they are to be served, not that they are to live a life of service. They grow to believe that the rules don't apply to them. That they are exempt from consequences. That life should be handed to them on a silver platter. And why shouldn't they? We, as parents, are not just tolerating this way of thinking, we are the source of it. We tell them they're better than everyone else, that they're the smartest, fastest, strongest, prettiest. We don't make them do chores because they're "too worn out" after running from extra-curricular activity to extra-curricular activity, which are all, by the way, centered on them. We go into debt to buy them the newest toys, the nicest clothes, this week's most-up-and-coming electronic gadget, and all the while they sit back and watch without so much as having to lift a finger.
And then we're shocked when, at age thirty, they expect the same things without...so much as lifting a finger.
Parents, I implore you, keep your children grounded. Support them, hug them, encourage them, but do not teach them to put themselves before others or to think that they are automatically superior to their peers. Let them learn lessons the hard way. Show them the value of hard work by living it yourselves. Praise good behavior and don't be afraid to show disdain towards bad behavior. Let them see the different roles you play, like husband/wife, brother/sister, son/daughter, employee/volunteer, only one of which is their parent. They can't be taught one thing throughout their childhood (that they are the earth's axis) and expected to act the exact opposite in their adulthood.
We owe it to them.
As the loving director of the daycare center where my children go so eloquently put it,
"God doesn't give us children. He lends them to us."
Let's try to do right in the limited time we have with them. So someday when they have their own children, they can propagate the "mean parenting techniques" we used on them, our oh-so-very-loved children.
Train up a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not depart from it. Proverbs 22:6
Thank you, Aneesa & Nick, for introducing me to Parenting by the Book, which has been the inspiration for this blog post.