02 February 2010

Speaking of Self-Esteem Nonsense

I read an article in our local paper about a scholarship program that is being offered to the young people "in the foothills of Appalachia." The program is called Tandava. Tandava is the dance of the Hindu god, Shiva. Shiva dances a rigorous dance that results in both the creation and the destruction of the world. My grandmother was right. This world is going to hell in a hand basket. What she didn't tell me was that Shiva was going to dance to make it happen.

The program's objective is to build greater confidence and self-esteem in area youth. The founders of the program say this is necessary to help our students compete with other students from bigger schools in the state and across the nation. The article defines tandava as a Sanskrit word meaning 'entering the great dance of life with skill and poise.' Skill and poise are good things and have absolutely nothing to do with self-esteem. Confidence comes with mastery and clear understanding. Poise, as it is being used here, is a freedom from affectation and having composure. Composure means having full command and control of ones faculties, emotions, and abilities. Being self-possessed or having composure does not equal having positive self-esteem. Being able to achieve is not the same as thinking you are great. The willingness to try has to come with the willingness to fail and try again. Being successful has to come with a realistic look at your ability to master something.

I am pro education. I am definitely all for helping students and young adults obtain mastery, skill and composure. Can anyone tell me what in the world self-esteem has to do with helping our young people acquire these things? If they are afraid to compete with other students then they do lack confidence and that lack of confidence may or may not be justified. Esteeming yourself is no substitute for diligent and disciplined study. Having the ability to excel and not doing so because of fear is not going to be conquered by liking who you are, especially if who you are is an undisciplined coward. No, I am not advocating a program to call young people cowardly. Our young folks need encouragement. They need adults who will tell them like it is and what they need to do to improve.

The ability to think critically, obtain viable skills and the willingness to fail forward come more often from setting aside your self-love and self-indulgence and then pressing yourself into areas that are uncomfortable. Changing. Change after an evaluation of where you are failing. Understanding your short-comings and working through them is what builds character. Great character is a noble thing and is in juxtaposition with esteeming yourself as good enough and valuable enough already.

Self-discipline. That's what we should be teaching our young folks. Oh that God would raise up someone in the community with the opportunity and resources to really mentor some students and that there would be students willing to live out the convictions of a biblical worldview. That would be an incredible boon for our area and something I could rejoice over. You'll know it's happened when you hear me shout, "Praise God! Now stick that on your dance card, Shiva!!"

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