29 January 2010

When Self-Esteem Hurts

I wrote a paper once for one of my psychology classes. I attended a Christian college and the class was on the theories of personality. The paper was on self-esteem. It was a project done as a group. (Oh how I loathe group projects but that's a post for another time.) We were a group of three people so we divided our work into three distinct areas. One member wrote about about the benefits of having positive self-esteem. The other member wrote about how to recognize the differences between poor to positive self-esteem. I wrote my section of the paper arguing that self-esteem was neither biblical nor beneficial. I was not the favorite student in the class.

My research took me on a journey through studies on the penal system where it seems that the most violent offenders often had what seemed to be the highest self-esteem. It's logical if you think about it. If you love yourself more than others, it's much easier to hurt them or steal from them to satisfy your needs. If it's all about me why should I give a rip if I hurt you to get what I want?

Thankfully, I was also studying theology at the same time as I was getting my psychology degree. One of my favorite professors taught New Testament classes and one day he said that flattery was the worst type of abuse and cruelty because we all want to be told we are wonderful so we readily believe those who would flatter us for sinister reasons.

I read a great article about flattery and American Idol. I believe the author, Winston Smith, has definitively answered for me how it is that those people with terrible singing voices stand before music professionals and argue the merits of their abilities. If only I could have played some of the American Idol worst singer clips during my presentation on self-esteem being harmful, I am certain no one would have argued against my position. Read the article, click the button and see if you agree.

27 January 2010

Vanity and Parenting

Parents used to raise their children with the idea of getting them to adulthood having the tools they would need to survive. Good health, good education, (one that actually teaches you to think critically so you can determine right from wrong), and their best chance for a vocation that would see them through their lives. One day that began to change. I don't know where it started and why so many parents have succumbed but suddenly befriending your child and making them happy has become the aim of many parents. Little John and little Jane need great self-esteem and happiness more than the ability to think or have manners. They need to have their wants satisfied more than they need the discipline of waiting to grow up for their rights of passage.

Today I was watching Good Morning America and they had a segment of the show that absolutely astounded me. Should Little Girls Wear High Heels? There was a debate and folks on both sides of the issue sounded off. One mom let her 5 year old wear 2" heels on special occasions only, like going out to dinner or a family function. She said that her child needed to learn to be a young lady. What? WHAT??!! How about teaching her that adulthood has privileges not afforded to a 5 year old and let her wear some cute Mary Janes? Glitzy Mary Janes. Flat, Glitzy Mary Janes.

OK, I admit it. I am too old to even consider the idea of heels being appropriate footwear for young children. What happened to little girls playing dress up with mommy's heels? Purchasing and putting heels on 3 or 5 year old girls is ludicrous. Let's not even get into the fact that there is no reason for anyone and I mean anyone to wear high heeled shoes except for vanity. We'll put that issue aside for a moment and let's just talk safety. There aren't enough ways to get hurt when you're just learning to control your body that putting a young girl in heels seems like a good idea? Her bones are forming, her balance isn't great and because she wants to be fashionable you're going to satisfy her vanity by giving her a two inch lift to facilitate her desire to be diva as well as her potential need for stitches?

Now, before I am accused of being a Birkenstock wearing hippie, which is true to an extent, let me say that I DO have heeled shoes. I also have bad knees so I don't wear them anymore. I used to be all about shoes. Nice Italian heels and something with ankle straps were my favorites. Why? The right shoe can give any woman sexy legs. Sexy. That's what I want a 5 year old to look like? I think not. Even as a young adult you can make bad choices trying to be a slave to fashion. Anyone remember Famolares? These were the sensible heels I used to wear while waiting on tables. Which is, no doubt, why I have bad knees and feet. I was a young adult and made the choice to wear them. I regret it. Why would I want a 3 or 5 year old to wear them?

I know I have offended someone by saying that heels are only a vanity issue. Oh well. They are every bit as much a vanity issue as eyeshadow and mascara. None of us need to wear that stuff either. Do I think they are sinful? They can be, but they do not have to be sinful in and of themselves. The thing that gets me is that we all know our young women are suffering from not looking like the supermodels and actresses they see because they cannot attain the same looks and celebrity. So why would we want to start feeding their vanity issues earlier and earlier? Come on folks. Stop trying to be friends with your kids before they're say... 30. OK that's extreme, but at least wait until they are at close to approaching their age of majority.

Speaking of vanity. Someone sent me this email and I thought I would post it here. It seems appropriate.

Recently, in a large city in Australia ,
a poster featuring a young, thin and tan woman appeared in the window of a gym.
It said, "This summer,
do you want to be a mermaid or a whale?"
A middle-aged woman,
whose physical characteristics did not match those of the woman on the poster,
responded publicly to the question
posed by the gym.

To Whom It May Concern,
Whales are always surrounded by friends (dolphins, sea lions, curious humans.)
They have an active sex life,
get pregnant and have adorable baby whales..
They have a wonderful time with dolphins stuffing themselves with shrimp.
They play and swim in the seas,
seeing wonderful places like Patagonia ,
the Bering Sea
and the coral reefs of Polynesia .
Whales are wonderful singers
and have even recorded CDs.
They are incredible creatures
and virtually have no predators
other than humans.
They are loved, protected and admired
by almost everyone in the world.

Mermaids don't exist.
If they did exist,
they would be lining up outside the offices
of Argentinean psychoanalysts
due to identity crisis. Fish or human?
They don't have a sex life
because they kill men who get close to them, not to mention how could they have sex?
Just look at them ... where is IT?
Therefore, they don't have kids either.
Not to mention,
who wants to get close to a girl who smells
like a fish store?

The choice is perfectly clear to me:
I want to be a whale.

P..S.. We are in an age
when media puts into our heads
the idea that only skinny people are beautiful, but I prefer to enjoy an ice cream with my kids, a good dinner with a man who makes me shiver, and a piece of chocolate with my friends.

With time, we gain weight
because we accumulate so much information and wisdom in our heads
that when there is no more room,
it distributes out to the rest of our bodies.
So we aren't heavy,
we are enormously cultured,
educated and happy.
Beginning today,
when I look at my butt in the mirror I will think, ¨Good grief, look how smart I am!¨

13 January 2010

Procrastination- Propaganda- Profundity

When I am studying something that bothers me, I do just about anything I can to stall. In doing so I stumble upon a lot of odd information. I love history and any student of history will tell you that most everything we are familiar with has had an odd beginning. Sometimes there will be different odd stories regarding the genesis of a myth, folkway or idiom. Somewhere in the mix the truth can be found. You just have to look.

While I lived in Australia I went to a visit a little town on the Murray River called Echuca. Echuca has a wonderful history and boasts the largest collection of paddle steamers in the world. It also has a coach house and carriage museum. It was during my visit to the carriage museum that I was told the origin of the expression to 'drop off to sleep.' According the docent, the carriage cheap seats were the ones outside and on the back. You had a platform to sit on and a rope or rail to hang onto for dear life. During a long trip a poor unfortunate might fall asleep and fall off. Being at the rear of the coach, no one would be likely to hear anything above the carriage noise and horses. The missing passenger would only be discovered at the next stop and when they were not there it would be surmised that he or she dropped off asleep. It's a good story and there is probably truth to it.

Another story we have all heard is that eating carrots is good for your eyesight. I recently read that this was British propaganda from WWII. It seems the Brits didn't want the Germans to know that they were able to spot their plans with the help of radar and made up a story that it was all the carrots the pilots ate that gave them extraordinary eyesight. The Germans deny this of course. I had always assumed Bugs Bunny started the rumor.

I am studying Biblical Manhood and Womanhood with the ladies in my community. Truly, I would rather have my eyes poked out than study this as it takes work to delve through the popular opinions, get to the text and exegete it carefully- not to mention the sore spots it can touch for me. I have been down this road before and studied the complementarian and egalitarian positions. I am decidedly complementarian. So why does it bother me? If I am to be honest, and why lie about anything, it's because my life is not packaged nicely so as to fit in either group. I don't want to be a preacher. I don't want to an elder or a deacon. I don't want a woman pastor or elder or deacon. I also don't have a husband to submit to and I am all done raising kids. I am in submission to my pastors. I expect them to come yank me out of blatant sin and beg me to repent and return. Of course I expect the same of my Christian sisters and brothers, because that's what we do for one another. So, what's my issue?

I don't like these studies because I am resentful of being all the things that the bible that the bible disdains about women. While I was once independent because I thought it was my right to be, my independence now is born of necessity. There is no one else to share the burden. I know now that being single at nearly 53 ain't all it's cracked up to be. It sounded like a great idea in my 20s, 30s, and 40s but as I get older I have to tell you it wasn't such a brilliant life strategy. I know that of my three or four readers, there is at least one who is dying to remind me that Christ is my husband. I know. I am sinful enough to want to retort- but He doesn't take the garbage out or open the jars that I cannot. Nor does he hold my hand while watching TV with me at night." Furthermore, I can't make him my lasagna or bake him his favorite cookies. You see, the fundamental problem with making selfish decisions at the beginning is that they spawn selfish regrets at the end.

Whoa... let me repeat that for myself... the fundamental problem with making selfish decisions at the beginning is that they spawn selfish regrets at the end. Yeah I hate it when I accidentily say something profound and it convicts me.

Philippians 2:1-4
1 If therefore there is any encouragement in Christ, if there is any consolation of love, if there is any fellowship of the Spirit, if any affection and compassion,
2 make my joy complete by being of the same mind, maintaining the same love, united in spirit, intent on one purpose.
3 Do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit, but with humility of mind let each of you regard one another as more important than himself;
4 do not {merely} look out for your own personal interests, but also for the interests of others.

12 January 2010

Eras and Pearls

When you were young was there ever a song that played on the radio that had a catchy tune and whose lyrics you thought you knew but you weren't quite hearing them correctly? One of those infamous tunes was Bad Moon Rising by CCR in which my friend Mark clearly heard, "There's a bathroom on the right!" Mark was also certain Dobie Gray was singing, "Give me the Beach Boys to free my soul." Beach Boys? Are you serious? With so many wonderful songs out there why on earth would he be referring to the Beach Boys? I had a lot of laughs at Mark's expense.

Mark wasn't the only person I knew who had trouble with the lyrics. Here are some of the classics I remember. "Hold me closer, Tony Danza." "On a dark desert highway, cool whip in my hair." There were songs with lyrics that weren't really meant to be understood. Good Morning Starshine comes to mind and of course, Louie Louie. I dare not speculate what the Kingsman were really singing let alone how they were misheard.

Moving from California to Kentucky has made mishearing things a bit of a challenge or an art form I can't decide which. My friend Barbara who is also from California moved to Kentucky and took a class to become an insurance agent. Imagine her surprise to hear the teacher of her insurance class talk a lot about insuring against pearls. Pearls? When did pearls become risky? The light turned on for her as she began to think with a southern accent.... not pearls..... perils!

Just to prove that I am not above mishearing things, yesterday my pastor was preaching about what I heard as eras. He has a lovely Alabama accent and as my friend Barbara would say, I have California ears. It took me a while to figure out he wasn't talking about the eras of the Judaizers but the errors of the Judaizers, which makes much more sense.

Speaking of my pastor, if you want your socks blessed off and to be excited about studying the book of Hebrews please listen to this sermon. He is just beginning the study and I am looking forward to more.

06 January 2010

General Revelation and Frogs

A young scientist wanted to help people with disabilities and decided to do some research on the effects of various disabilities by engineering some experiments with frogs. Randomly a frog of average size and good health was selected and placed on an X painted on the floor. The scientist stood behind the frog and used persuasive means to get the frog to jump. "Jump! Frog, Jump!" The frog jumped, the scientist measured and then recorded the distance the frog jumped. The initial jump was 25 feet.

Next the scientist took the frog and surgically amputated his right front leg and following the exact same formula compelled the frog to jump. "Jump! Frog, Jump!" The frog jumped and the distance once again was recorded. "Right front leg amputated, frog jumped 20 feet. And again the experiment was repeated. This time the frog's left front leg was surgically removed and the distance he jumped was 15 feet. And thus the experiment continued until all four of the frog's legs had been surgically removed. The scientist once again tried to persuade the frog to jump.

"Jump! Frog, Jump!" The frog remained in place. The scientist tried harder to compel the frog and shouted as loudly as he could, "JUMP, FROG! JUMP! " "JUMP, FROG! JUMP! " The frog remained still as stone. The scientist, knowing the experiment was over wrote a detailed report and summarized by saying:

"After the surgical amputation of all four limbs the frog was rendered deaf."

The world we live in is full of people who make observations on what they see. Their observations are based on general revelation and can be meticulously gathered and documented but their conclusions can and will be just as wrong and absurd as our friend the scientist's. The problem is that too many Christians expect those people working with just general revelation to guide them and to have wisdom in matters where special revelation is required, like how to live a godly life and what our priorities as Christians should be.

Just a thought.

Psalm 25:8-9
8 Good and upright is the LORD; therefore He instructs sinners in the way.
9 He leads the humble in justice, and He teaches the humble His way.

05 January 2010

A Reflection on Reflections and Christian Parenting

My friend writes a great blog. She wrote today about a letter she read that was written by Susanna Wesley, to her son, John Wesley. Carla asked me to read it and give her my input. I love the discussions Carla and I have regarding just about anything so I jumped at the chance. I tried to comment on her blog but I am too wordy and after cutting tons of points out of my response, my comment was still too long. In desperation I have decided simply to link to Carla's article and post my opinion here. I am lazy and verbose, a bad combination I admit. Carla's article is here. And the Susanna Wesley letter which Carla has painstakingly typed out can be found on her blog or here.

And now for my opinion....

I love this letter and I think this woman was brilliant. Absolutely brilliant and spot on with what we now know about how people learn best. The first thing she did was set her children into a routine. Studies show children do far better and are more confident when they know what is expected of them and when they have regular sleep and meals.

Perhaps our initial reaction to reading that her children were taught to fear the rod at one or before is because the word rod makes us certain that the children were beaten into submission with an instrument of torture. Perhaps we ourselves have had a ruler cracked over our hands or something similarly painful and assume that this is what she meant. I am not convinced that she wasn't using a phrase or idiom that simply meant discipline. Should a child of one be disciplined? Yes. It's done all the time. So what about teaching them to cry softly? What is wrong with that? Are we assuming that inhumane methods were used? What's wrong with teaching a child to suffer the consequences of not having whatever it is they want or whatever punishment was meted out to them without allowing them to make others in the household miserable?

It seems to me that she is loving mother concerned with her children's overall welfare. The children are rocked while sleeping, not confined to three meals until their bodies are strong enough to bear it and taught everything to keep them from future misery. Kmart and Walmart were not available, why would you allow a child to select what they wanted to eat? I think this freedom is one of the reasons I am fat like most of Western culture. Food is not life sustaining, it is enjoyment. How many children would make wise nutritional choices when left to their own devices?

As for conquering a child's will and leaving room for the Holy Spirit to change them, the two are not the same thing. It is perfectly acceptable to break a child's will so that their behavior meets a godly standard while allowing the Holy Spirit to change their heart. Behaviorism and a changed heart are not the same thing. She said her children were DISPOSED to piety, not that they were pious. She did all she could to mould their behaviors, teach them manners and incline them to piety.

Desire often follows habit. I think it is common to be prone to legalism prior to being saved. I don't think there is anything she's said that says she raised her children under this formula to assure their salvation but rather to give them every opportunity to see piety and discipline as a good and reasonable thing. She seems to have treated her children according to their abilities with some receiving their training earlier because of their ability or need.

I was raised by a tyrant and so I can fully understand a natural aversion to the language and the early age of her children's training. However, given the culture, times and resources available I am not distressed by her words. I am in awe that she had the wisdom to see that the lack of discipline was injurious and abusive. As is discipline that is too harsh and capricious. We ask entirely too little of our children given the ease with which we survive. The numbers of children we have in trouble with the law, on drugs or suicidal reflects how little they respect or value God, their parents and themselves. They are victims of their appetites and parents who want to befriend them with permissiveness and understanding and what they need is a little more shock and awe, starting with their parents. Parents need to be held in check when they are too harsh and exasperate children. Sin effects both roles, parent and child. Parenting is the hardest thing I have ever done and wouldn't want to be starting again. Of course Mrs Wesley had different challenges in raising her children than we currently have but she had the same God. Our Lord's standards don't change with the times and may He be forever praised for that!