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Our National Lack of Self-esteem

There is a brokenness in our society, a pervasive moral collapse, a reckless disregard for community, neighborliness, courtesy, and compassion.

Our government leads by this example. Both parties are incompetent to guide us into a more responsible living, into a serviceable structure of humanity. Our leaders are dominated by greedy oligarchs who don’t just want more, they want everything, even if it costs our society its dignity, its soul, even its future.

What is on display here daily is a wretched lack of self-esteem. The loss now influences all of us. We’re all affected in ways that keep us shamed by our actions.

When we feel powerless, aimless, without any higher goals than the accumulation of things and the momentary thrill, we then mute our intelligence. We live by raw emotions—anger, appetite, urges. We don’t think, we don’t consider, we merely react. We push. We disregard. We threaten. We act out. And we fail.

Self-esteem is a learned process. It builds on genuine successes that are the result of healthy choices, reasonable goals, and mature thinking. If we don’t seek self-esteem through conscious awareness, through personal responsibility, through character and integrity, then we will most likely seek it in popularity, material possessions, power, or sexual exploits.

We see this now in the crisis of men in leadership positions whose power, wealth, and dominance in their careers, was used to sexually harass, abuse, manipulate and rape women who sought their approval for their work, or in many cases, simply worked with them or for them and were endlessly teased and tormented by senseless sexual intimidation.

These men, and many more unknown men like them, lack any valid self-esteem.

In spite of the celebrity status, the vast wealth, the seemingly unlimited power and influence of the men who have been publicly shamed by the revelations of their abuses, they most likely are men with deeply wounded egos, raging self-loathing, and the inability to provide and maintain healthy interpersonal and intimate relationships with women or anyone else.

The gifted and wise writer and novelist, Madeleine L’Engle, writes, “A self is not something static, tied up in a pretty parcel and handed to the child, finished and complete. A self is always becoming.”

What that self is becoming is determined by each individual. If the self becomes stuck in shame, in profound emotional injury, or is stunted by ego issues, then it stops growing and gets sick. And until the self discovers real successes and not faked or manipulated ones, and is able to relate to others in genuine concern, then it remains unhealthy and barren.

People in these circumstances survive by lies, domination, trickery, posturing, and wielding the upper hand.

There is far too much of this in the leadership of our nation. And that includes leaders across the board—politics, religion, education, media, and entertainment.

Poet Nayyirah Waheed has said, “If someone does not want me it is not the end of the world. But if I do not want me, the world is nothing but endings.”

Sadly, we see this too often today in those we expect to guide our society.

Who we follow is also our choice. And it is time to seek those who display the personal qualities that inspire and challenge, that encourage and affirm; people who operate out of a healthy self-esteem. Those people are out there. We have to want them.

© 2017 Timothy Moody

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