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Self-Esteem versus Worth

  • Rebecca Hagelin Author, 30 Ways in 30 Days to Save Your Family
  • Updated Dec 18, 2009
Self-Esteem versus Worth

In an attempt to make our children feel as if their lives have meaning, many parents bustle them from countless sports, clubs, and social activities, and then back home for homework, quick dinners and weary evenings. We wake up the next morning and start the day with stress and mayhem…only to live the whole routine all over again.

In the "busyness" and good things we do in life, we often overlook that what our child craves is a sense of personal meaning - some signal that he is truly loved and valued just as he is.

The world often confuses "self esteem" with "worth." We know today's teenagers struggle with doubt and feelings of inadequacy, so we create special programs filled with "feel good" language and meaningless accolades. We hand out unearned trophies so that every child "feels like a winner." In so doing, instead of lifting them up, we reduce the accomplishments of others. Such empty praises actually teach our children to be selfish and self-centered. If we want them to understand that they have real value, we have to give them much more than a cheap trophy.

It is impossible to teach the true worth of human beings absent from teaching them about God.

The public schools are forbidden from teaching about the One that can truly provide our children with a sense of their ultimate value. Instead, they are taught that they exist only as a result of evolution - that they have the same worth as ancient apes; that they are the by-product of an accidental "Big Bang"; or that they are just some advanced form of primordial ooze. Sex education and the media teach our teens that they can't help but behave like animals in heat, that relationships are disposable, and that "love" is based on fleeting emotions. But, by golly, they should feel really, really good about themselves anyway!  

It's no wonder that so many young people don't know they are precious individuals with a sacred calling to help better the lives of others.

The most valuable gift you can give your child is to teach her that she is made in the image of God. Every child is fashioned by a loving Creator who knows him and calls him by name. What a powerful message of truth.

The value of human life is most beautifully stated in Psalms 139:13-15:

"For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother's womb. I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well. My frame was not hidden from you when I was made in the secret place."

I believe, as my pastor Steve King of Cherrydale Baptist in Arlington, Virginia says, that "Every human life has infinite value and limitless potential."

Our children need to be taught this basic truth - that they have infinite value and limitless potential - regardless of their IQ, physical abilities, successes, failures, popularity or emotional state at any given time.

They have value, not because they have a high sense of "self-esteem" - they have value because God said it is so. And, despite what the world thinks, God made them "wonderfully". This understanding is what opens the door for them to truly begin to love themselves as they are.

When a person understands that it is God who has given them value, guess what else happens? He begins to love, value and help others - just for who they are too. His view of community changes. He starts to realize that other people are treasures - not because he happens to respect them - but because the God of the Universe "knit them together" as unique individuals, and that all of God's works are wonderful.

Christ himself said that the greatest commandments are to "Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind." and to "Love Your neighbor as you love yourself." When we understand that we are formed by God in His likeness, it suddenly becomes possible to truly love God, our neighbors - and ourselves.

December 22, 2009

Rebecca Hagelin is a public speaker on the family and culture and the author of the new best seller, 30 Ways in 30 Days to Save Your Family. Visit her website at where you can sign up to receive her free e-newsletter containing the Culture Challenge of the Week and how to fight back. Hagelin is also senior communications fellow for The Heritage Foundation.