It’s dangerous to disagree with the prevailing belief of a culture. That’s partly what got Jesus killed. If he walked among us now, I wonder if he would fare any better. Or whether, even with a majority of Americans claiming to follow him, he might still be rejected.
Take our attitude toward self esteem for example. For a child to succeed, we say that we must boost his self-esteem. That, we are told, is the panacea to solve all problems – crime, underachievement, high-school drop-outs, drug abuse, etc.
However, Roy F. Baumeister, Ph.D., professor at Florida State University, suggests just the opposite may be true. He writes of a study of people rated as having high-self esteem:
the long-term outcomes of these people's lives found above-average rates of interpersonal and psychological problems . . . showed these people to be rather obnoxious. They were more likely than others to interrupt when someone else was speaking. They were more prone to disrupt the conversation with angry and hostile remarks. They tended to talk at people instead of talking to or with them. In general, they irritated the other people present. Does any of this sound familiar? This is what comes of inflated self-esteem. (“Should Schools Boost Self-Esteem?” American Educator, v20 n2 p14-19)
God tried to tell us that long ago. In Philippians 2:3-4 he says, “Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves. Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others.”
Imagine if every husband forgot about getting what he wanted and starting treating his wife as if she were better, more important than he, and if he put her interests before his own. Just think what it would be like if every wife did the same. Do you suppose that the number of happy marriages would increase dramatically, and the number of squabbles would decrease exponentially?
Jesus really believed that this approach to interpersonal relationships works best and modeled it for us. As Paul reminds us: Jesus, who was equal to God, humbled himself to become a servant to the people he had created.
People loved him for his humility. Still do. They will love you for it, too. Jesus taught: “whoever humbles himself will be exalted” (Matthew 23:12). Do we have the courage to defy our culture and imitate him in that?