Self-esteem is rightly secured by its foundation to character and the core understanding of our identity in God.
Achievement is not the righteous fodder that develops self-esteem. Neither is achievement a measure of success in itself.
As I write, Steve Smith, the Australian Cricketer, has just scored two centuries in consecutive innings of the first Ashes Test in Edgbaston. English commentator Nasser Hussain claimed, “Redemption complete”. The score of 144 in the first innings and 142 in the second do not confirm Smith’s capability as a batsman. That had already been secured by his previous career.
These two most recent innings are the very evidence of his character, of his courage, diligence, and determination. A young cricketer might wish to emulate Smith’s most recent feat. A more proper and even virtuous result is to desire to emulate his character and renewed sense of judgement. The axiom holds true — your character is the basket that carries your giftings — the determinant of success is your character.
Smith’s sandpaper moment in South Africa was not a failing of skill or capacity. Integrity was lost when ambition was severed from character. Rightly reframed, character propels and secures achievement. Character requires challenge to develop. The natural state of wellbeing for humans is striving to achieve. Boredom and lack of ambition are both corrosive of self-esteem.
“Through him we have also obtained access by faith into his grace in which we stand, and we rejoice in hope of the Glory of God. Not only that , but we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character hope and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.”
Challenges create the context for developing endurance and character, and without them we lose hope and slip into the likelihood of shame. Let us never underestimate the power of hope. We are defined by the way we handle problems. Steve Smith is an example.
The spirit of the age would lure us to treasure happiness. Humanist pop psychology installs emotions over choice and victimhood over self-government. Children become convinced that their feelings are their identity. This creates the preoccupations with self and a hyper-awareness of feelings. The standard by which we measure life is then internal without reference to external norms. Children who swallow this lie now believe that emotions should remain constant and positive. The equation becomes, “If I feel good life is as it should be.”
Emotions are by definition reactive; they are instinctive. They are never even-tempered. Emotions are primitive. They are tied to our fight or flight responses. Emotions are predominately about self. As a result of this orientation, children become emotionally fixated. If the goal is to remain constantly happy, then emotions defy this level of control. The thinking goes something like this: “If I cannot maintain this state of perpetual happiness then something must be wrong with me”, or “The person who disrupted my happiness must be at fault!” Our children are then positioned to adopt personal failure and victimhood as their predominant outlook on life. The rhetorical protests of the current age are:
“What’s wrong with me?” and “How dare you!”
The character-centred alternative is to create a dependable attitude approach to life. We will surely experience emotions, and these are acknowledged and managed. Installing choice as the expression of maturity restores the power of free will, and personal responsibility. If character becomes the focus then the conversation becomes how I deal with my feelings; the focus is on my response, not my feelings.
In a character-focused school, like Calvin, we don’t rescue students from their problems. Our purpose is to shepherd them carefully through accepting responsibility for their actions and to hold them accountable for building their character. Steve Smith’s actions are an example of this. Let us not get lost in his failure in South Africa, or his triumph at Edgbaston; the real victory is found in his daily routine for the 12 months between those events. During this period Steve Smith shaped and refined his character.
Iain Belôt – Principal