Narcissus was an unusual boy in Greek mythology. The son of Greek gods, he was endowed with a beauty that was beyond that of ordinary mortals. Women were enchanted by his beauty–even the other gods were mesmerized by him. The rest of Narcissus was all too ordinary. He was young, and like too many young men, he was flippant with his gift. The few who did not fall under his spell, he disliked, and the many who loved him upon sight–he disrespected for being shallow.
He played with the affections of others and was impassive when he caused hearts to break. When a young girl committed suicide after he rejected her love, he was unmoved.
One day, he walked through the woods and came upon a pond. Being thirsty, he bent down to take a drink and saw his own reflection in the still water. His unnatural beauty was too much even for him to resist. He was captivated by what he saw. He gazed at the beauty of the image in the pool and could not look away. He focused on himself to the exclusion of everyone and everything else. He did not turn away to eat, to drink, or to sleep. He looked at himself all day and into the night. The evening moon made his image even more mysterious, elusive, and compelling. Narcissus kneeled there on the bank of the pool in virtual worship of himself. He stayed there, thinking of nothing other than himself until he withered from thirst and starvation. The gifted and self-absorbed boy stared at his reflection with fascination until he died.
I will bet you do not want to live next door to a guy like Narcissus. It is bad to be a narcissist, and it may be argued that it is even worse to live with one. To see a description of a narcissist, follow this link to an article from the Mayo Clinic. It is possible that you have worked with one or for one, and I am sure it was a nightmare. With all of that preamble, I now beg you: please don’t raise up another narcissist. High self-esteem is the last thing you want your kid to have. Did your nose just scrunch up in confusion? Mine did the first time I came across this concept. It is a small shift–maybe three degrees from helping a kid have a high regard for others vs. having high self-esteem. Dr. John Rosemond defines the difference between the two very well:
“It is also noteworthy that high self-esteem puts the individual at high risk for bouts of severe depression. People with high self-esteem want to be paid attention to and served. They believe in their entitlement. On the other hand, folks with high regard for others pay attention to others and look for opportunities to serve them.” To see more from John on this subject, click here.
Our clear calling in Scripture is to raise up kids who love God.
“You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might. These words, which I am commanding you today, shall be on your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your sons and shall talk of them when you sit in your house and when you walk by the way and when you lie down and when you rise up.” ~Deuteronomy 6:5-7
When Jesus recalled this verse, He combined it with the second most important law:
“‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the great and first commandment. And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself.'” ~Matthew 22:37-39
Our calling as parents is to guide our kids to love God and love others. High self-esteem is all about putting ME first, expecting that I deserve special attention and comfort. When in the real world these things do not occur (and they won’t) the child with really high self-esteem will be frustrated, confused, constantly disappointed, and possibly angry with the world because it does not work the way they were told it would–chiefly that they would be in the center of the universe.
Next time, I will go over some slight alterations in how we deal with our kids that will make a huge impact in raising a child who loves God, loves others, and therefore enjoys life more. Those kids can take the hits that life will bring without coming undone, and they will be delightful to be around. Stay tuned.
Dave Carl is Pastor of Family and Children’s Ministries at Stonebriar. During the past 12 years, Dave has served on staff at Insight for Living in various capacities. His primary role at IFL was as the creator and creative director of Paws & Tales, a weekly children’s radio program. Through this ministry, Dave shared the love of God with a sense of joy, humor, and humility to children of all ages.