I think fear might be the source of true “self-esteem” for children.  It’s a counter-intuitive idea, for sure and maybe a little counter-cultural as well.

Schools in the developing world, as well as the ones in my neighborhood, have adopted in various ways notions of child development that find their basis in psychology.  Many of these concepts are helpful as we consider ways to address children’s needs in a developmentally appropriate way.  I’ve seen inspirational phrases painted on the walls of classrooms and schools that promote a positive self-image.  As seen in the pictures here, these phrases are often right along-side a painting of Winney the Pooh or Fred Flintstone or a Bible verse.  It’s an amusing mixture!

Solomon was the wisest man to ever live and he had a lot to say about fear in the books of Proverbs and Ecclesiastes.  Proverbs 9:10 says, “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom, and knowledge of the Holy One is understanding.”  Solomon (the likely author of Ecclesiastes) sums up the entire book by saying, “Now all has been heard; here is the conclusion of the matter: Fear God and keep his commandments, for this is the duty of all mankind.”  (Ecc. 12:13)  Self-esteem is positioned often as an antidote to fear.  The logic goes, “If I believe in myself and have confidence in my potential then whom shall I fear?”  What if we looked at fear from these two worldvies: fear of the world/man, and fear of God?  Consider how these two perspectives are so different:

If we fear the world and man, then we… If we fear God, then we…
Are in awe of others Are in awe of God
Feel embarrassed and self-conscious Feel conviction and courage
Serve to seek the praise of others Serve freely, knowing God is our “audience”
Obey morals/laws when it feels right Obey fervently even in the face of opposition
Act timidly to earn approval Act boldly and take risks

With this comparison, isn’t it clear that real esteem is a product of the fear of the Lord?  Christian schools that Edify serves can point children to a healthy fear of the Lord.  Fear in this Biblical sense is a multi-faceted emotion.  In Mark 4, we see this when Jesus calmed the storm so that he and his disciples could comfortably sail across the Sea of Galilee.  Jesus alleviates the disciples’ anxiety about their physical safety but replaces it with the shock and awe of an encounter with the miraculous power of the Messiah!  May it be that authentic Christian schools encourage students to place their trust not in their own self-esteem but in the power of God to protect and restore.