Sunday, June 05, 2005

pride and the myth of self-reliance

Keith Plummer from The Christian Mind has a post linking to this opinion article from USA Today. It brings up some of the most extreme examples of ways to protect and boost a child's self-esteem including the Girl Scouts' "Uniquely ME!" program, a program that "asks girls to contemplate their own 'amazing' specialness." It's a bit disturbing, but also, perhaps, to be expected. When a culture has denied the possibility of a person's worth coming from God, what options are left? A person's worth may only come from his own abilities and characteristics, or simply from himself - a person defines his own worth.

But can anyone other than God truly define his own worth or give himself value? An object has worth because of the value placed on it from something outside itself. We know this from the saying, "One man's junk is another man's treasure." An object's attributes do not change, but its value changes based on the one who is contemplating the object. When a person attempts to define his own value as Girl Scouts is encouraging its members to do, that person is, in a sense, acting as God - the only being whose worth and value is contained wholly within himself. It is the first temptation, "you will be like gods," and if one makes this choice, he realizes that he is able to do whatever he chooses with no reference to anyone else; He has defined his own worth, so he is his own master. But this choice leads to insecurity, as each person knows that he may be able to convince himself of that worth, but he does not have the power to give himself that worth. It is an argument that he will have to convince himself of constantly.

The article in USA Today seems to set up this self-absorption in opposition to self-reliance, but the second option that I mentioned, a person finding his worth in his intelligence or some other attribute, can easily be disguised as self-reliance. This is an attitude that I think is prevalent in academia, where many people not only are very intelligent and very aware of that fact, but can easily fall into the trap of believing themselves to be better than others who are less intelligent. A person, in this case, would work hard to remain self-reliant, intelligent, and knowledgeable, but would as a result find less worth in those who do not have these characteristics.

Each side, the "self-esteem" side and the "self-reliance" side, is right to fight the other, but they are simply two sides of the same coin, while the best path is somewhere in between. When we realize that our worth comes from God, we can see that each person has that worth, regardless of his abilities or even his choices, but we also see that the abilities that we have come from God to be used according to His will.

I have found, however, that I so many times fall into the trap of the myth of self-reliance. It is so ingrained in our culture, so highly valued in the ideals of America and the self-made man that my natural tendency is always to attribute everything to myself. Over the past couple of weeks, by the grace of God, I have been able to let go of something, or more specifically someone, that has been on my mind lately. I came to realize that the fact that I was still chasing after him, convinced that if I tried hard enough I could make him fall in love with me, was only a sign of my own pride, not a sign of how much I cared for him. Somewhere along the line, my desire to be with him had stopped being about my regard for him and had turned into a question in my mind of whether I was good enough, pretty enough... simply a matter of pride. However, when someone asked me why I was no longer trying to pursue this guy, I turned my answer around; I said that if he was really interested, he would have noticed by now how I felt, and I wasn't going to waste my time with someone who wasn't "that into me." Instead of putting God where he belonged in the picture of changing my heart, I turned the issue into a matter of reaffirming my own self-reliance and pride.

Pride always has that tendency, though, to turn everything on its head and do whatever it takes to remove God from the picture so that we can be "like gods." It seeks to place us as gods so that our obligations are removed and we can rely on ourselves alone.


In other news, Wittingshire is one of my favorite blogs to read. (If you're wondering, my other favorite is Dawn Eden.) Amanda and Jonathan always have such wonderful and intelligent things to say. Yesterday Amanda said that I write "smart and insightful prose." What a compliment, coming from her! I'm *blushing*. Funny thing to read just as I start to write a post on pride =)


I just noticed the spellcheck that provides. It doesn't recognize the word "blogs."

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