Well, even Psychology Today now says in their 2011 article, The Gift of Failure, "The self-esteem movement has done an entire generation a deep disservice."
If I may be allowed a moment of snark...well, duh.
The article recounts the movement's beginnings.
It started with the best intentions. In 1969, Nathaniel Brandon wrote a paper entitled "The Psychology of Self-Esteem" that suggested that "feelings of self-esteem were the key to success in life". Hearing this, many people started to find ways to confer confidence upon our children. This resulted in competitions where everyone gets a trophy and no one actually wins. "New games" attempted to engage children without any winners or losers. The parents who embraced these efforts did so out of love and with the most noble of intentions. The only problem is that these efforts simply do not work. Self-esteem is not something conferred, it is earned through taking risks and developing skills
It was the era of self-help and the above paragraph sums up nicely the feeling of the times. Harris's work extended Abraham Maslow's, a psychologist in the 1950s who published a seminal book outlining the human's hierarchy of needs. Maslow created a pyramid in which a hierarchy of needs was proposed. In Maslow's schema, once man meets his own needs, he can reach his full potential. You hear this a lot in today's self-esteem preachers: 'full potential'.
That feeling of everyone being OK, needing a self-esteem boost continued into the 90s and into 2000s when Joel Osteen, king of the Self-Esteem booster sermon, began preaching.
It seems Osteen's aim is to let everyone know they're OK. More than OK, a masterpiece!
"See Yourself as a Masterpiece"..." all those thoughts of insecurity, inferiority and low self-esteem won't have a chance!"
Now self-esteem had finally come to Christianity. We know that depraved man in the secular world has always sought ways to feel better, via mind-altering drugs, to pop psychology. There is no way to feel better apart from God. However for the Christian it's a different story. This feeling of needing to have an ego boost is a new aspect of false doctrine. Paul wrote the first chapters of Romans expounding on how depraved and lost we are. In other words, we're NOT OK.
Before we know Jesus, we are depraved, sinful, and unable to do anything worth anything that pleases God.
|Maslow's hierarchy of needs|
However it was very important for the secular world to cling to the self-esteem movement and there is a reason why this also very negatively impacts Christianity: As Abraham Maslow observes,
"any doctrine of the innate depravity of man or any maligning of his animal nature very easily leads to some extra-human interpretation of goodness, saintliness, virtue, self-sacrifice, altruism, etc. If they can't be explained from within human nature—and explained they must be—then they must be explained from outside of human nature. The worse man is, the poorer a thing he is conceived to be, the more necessary becomes a god."
So you see, if there is no innate goodness in man, any goodness that exists, and man intuitively knows there is (Ecclesiastes 3:11), then that goodness must come from deity. If man is not good, then the good must be God. Therefore, psychology says in its everlasting denial of God, man is good, therefore we don't need God. 'I'm OK, You're OK' really means we're all OK without God.
It's no wonder that men like Maslow and Harris knocked themselves out with trying to construct philosophies that deny man's innate depravity. It's why even preachers who call themselves Christians today like Osteen or Joyce Meyer etc cling to the self-esteem, full potential, we're all really OK mantra.
Seeing that the post-WWII world became more First World and wealth was abounding, especially in America, and people were reaching the top of Maslow's pyramid and self-actualizing, evil still existed. People were not OK. Later in life, Maslow was concerned with questions such as, "Why don't more people self-actualize if their basic needs are met? How can we humanistically understand the problem of evil?" He also wondered why evil existed in the majority of the people. Toward the end of his life, Maslow decided to study evil, so as 'to understand it'.
What got me started thinking about self-esteem is a verse that happened to pierce me deeply.
"For there was not left to Jehoahaz an army of more than fifty horsemen and ten chariots and ten
Do you know how small of a mote threshing dust is? Small. The LORD God had allowed the King of Syria to make His people into dust.
And not just the Israelites, but all people are in fact from dust and will return to dust.
"All go to one place. All are from the dust, and to dust all return." (Ecclesiastes 3:20)
Isaiah 40:15 says
"Behold, the nations are like a drop from a bucket, and are accounted as the dust on the scales; behold, he takes up the coastlands like fine dust."
DUST. Remember our former position and remember that even in Christ, He will grind the nations down like dust eventually. He is God. We are not, no matter how much self-esteem we try to load into our mind.
Our self esteem must always be tempered by the awareness of our own sinfulness, goes this good advice from a study of self-esteem from Romans 12:3 by Rev. Bruce Goettsche.
For by the grace given me I say to every one of you: Do not think of yourself more highly than you ought, but rather think of yourself with sober judgment, in accordance with the measure of faith God has given you. (Romans 12:3)
And if you start thinking more highly of yourself than you ought, remember the dust.
How should a Christian view self-esteem?
The Humility of Love (vs the self-esteem cult)