Like most parents, I inadvertently drifted onto the "Dr. Spock" bandwagon of seeking to build self-esteem into my children. But later on, I understood that there was a downside to a child having the wrong kind of "self-esteem" -- in fact, I discovered that there was sort of a fine line between self-esteem and being full of self.
Years ago, my father was the manager of a church camp facility in east Texas. Years after he no longer held that post, my twins, Randi and Derek, went with our church group to that camp. One day during recreation time, Derek, a fifth grader, was sitting on a ping-pong table drinking a soda, when these high school boys approached the table, with ping pong paddles in hand, and told him they wanted to play a game.
His retort was, "Do you know who I am?" My granddaddy used to own this camp!"
The older boys were less than impressed. It was one of those instances when instilling self-esteem seemed to go a little haywire. Even though the incident was humorous, it sadly illustrates some of the results of a society, in which the children had an overload of self-esteem built into them. While this is, by no means true of all millennials, yet it has been observed that many of them, after a life of hearing how special they are, suddenly are thrown out into the real world, and are abruptly smacked in the face with the fact they are not quite as special anymore, and it is a bitter pill to swallow.
This tragic phenomenon is well illustrated when a child feels he or she was treated unjustly at school and after reporting the trumped-up charges of the teacher to mom, the teacher is met with hostility by her.
When I was growing up, the teacher was always right - furthermore, my parents sided with them. I was never afraid of the paddling at school -- it was that awful whipping with a Red Imp razor strap that awaited me at home.
Many millennials today, land in the real world with the reality they have to get up and make it to work on time. They have to give account to authorities - bosses, teachers, cops, IRS agents, prison guards -- you get the picture. They experience something they have known little about -- discipline and reprimand. Suddenly they are smitten with the notion the customer is always right. They find out that their college professor didn't have to ask them for permission to be rude and harsh. They were not so prepared to hear the coach bark the order, "fall down and give me 20 push-ups." The constant bombardment of "you are special" throughout their young lives is suddenly seems to be a moot issue.
Growing into young adulthood, feeling entitled and special has produced a society that must have safe spaces, stuffed teddy bears, warm cookies, and special counseling because of their fragile feelings. These people have panic attacks because they feel threatened by such mean talk as building a wall, beefing up military and law enforcement, or hearing someone spout off ideologies they don't believe in. That's why some authorities are banned from speaking on college campuses - because their message is "threatening."
Now we have a generation that, as a whole, finds that it's rather traumatic being thrust into the real world.
My folks gave me a lot of affirmation, but it wasn't so much that it caused me to landed in Navy boot camp expecting to be "carried on a silver platter." If there were any tendencies of "snowflake-ism" in me, it was swiftly driven out. That boot camp treatment was by design, because if a young sailor breaks from the stress of danger, they need to be broken in the safety of the confines of Camp Nimitz in San Diego, rather than to fall apart while 1200 nautical miles out in the middle of the Indian Ocean. We had to be prepared. The Navy motto should be, "We make sailors out of snowflakes." (or in the case of the Army and Marines, it's "soldiers")
Today a large number of young people go out to seek their fortunes, unprepared, feeling entitled, and demanding to be recognized as special. We parents are largely to blame for sending them without a healthy reality of how life really is.
In order to live victoriously, our self-concept must always be measured in light of the life of Christ living in us. On our own merit, we fall way short, but if our identity is in Christ, and Christ lives and moves in, and through our lives, we will have a realistic and healthy concept of who we are, and what life throws at us. We will function better in society -- and furthermore, we won't depend upon wrong sources in order to feed our "self-esteem."