Skip to main content

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

Popular posts from this blog

Is the Soul Solid, like Iron?

Mary Oliver has a beautiful little poem in which she asks:

“Is the soul solid, like iron?
or is it tender and breakable, like
the wings of a moth in the beak of the owl?”

It is both.

The soul, we are told by philosophers, theologians, and mystics, is our essence, the permanence of our true self. It is that part of us that lives beyond death. Or so we are taught by religion. Where exactly the soul exists beyond that, has of course, been long debated.

There are times in life when something deep within us is, as Mary Oliver says, solid as iron and we operate out of some sense of aliveness, confidence, and inner strength. It may be fleeting, but there when needed; or it may carry us through long periods of endurance when we build a sturdy self, confident and capable of our abilities and talents.

This is the work of the soul. This is a part of our spiritual development. This is what enables us to believe there are forces in life, loving and generous and mystical, that nurture and compel us tow…

The Light in the Faces of Our Incredible Human Family

National Geographic Journalist Paul Salopek is walking across the world on foot to trace the pathways of the first humans who wandered out of Africa in the Stone Age to claim the earth as theirs. His journey will cover 21,000 miles and is estimated to take 10 years. He is four years into his massive expedition and already he has discovered that humanity is mostly kind and generous, welcoming and caring, hard-working and disciplined.
I watched a brief piece about Salopek’s journey on the PBS News Hour this week. I have included a link below.
What is extraordinary about his adventure is his realization that in spite of all the wars and turmoil across the globe, he has learned that “The world is an incredibly hospitable place.” In following the ancient trade route called “The Silk Road,” Salopek has gotten to know a variety of people young and old. And though he has so far encountered a few dangerous situations where he had his water supply stolen, was once ambushed by raiders, and was sho…