Raising Wholesome Children

tumblr_mcgll0TL1N1rt0kevo1_1280(Not necessarily brilliant, handsome, or talented, and certainly not perfect, but wholesome.)

In 1950 the Gallup organization gave a questionnaire to a large sampling of high school seniors. To the question: “Are you a very important person?” 12 percent said yes.

In 2005 Gallup administered the same question to another large sampling of high school seniors: 80 percent said yes.

The large increase in percentage may seem remarkable to some. Others will quickly relate the upsurge to the great increase in narcissism in our culture.

Remember Narcissus? He was the handsome young man of Greek mythology who gazed at the reflection of his image in a pool and fell in love with himself.

Narcissists are self-absorbed. They betray a sense of grandiosity and self-importance. They have a need for praise, and often show an explosive anger when their fragile sense of self-importance is in any way met with reserve or disbelief.

(Anyone who wants to know more will find a great deal of information by googling not only “narcissism,” but also terms such as “narcissistic injury,” and “narcissistic supply.”)

My understanding is that a majority of teenagers show narcissistic traits (as our generations before them did). But for most, the wear and tear of fighting their way into adulthood rubs away these traits or reduces them greatly.

Also, people of any age may have narcissistic moments or blind spots, but only a small percentage reach adulthood with full-blown Narcissistic Personality Disorder (NPD). Some experts suggest one percent.

What resources can Christian parents draw upon to assure that their children grow up with a wholesome sense of self-respect and at the same time a proper interest in and respect for others?

Perhaps a key insight is given us by Jesus when he said we are to love our neighbors as ourselves. There is apparently a proper sense of self-love — perhaps called self esteem. So parents should be concerned that children develop appropriate self-esteem but also neighbor-love. To encourage the development of a healthy sense of both, what practices should parents attempt to follow?

To begin with, we must recognize that children are a gift from God and that they bear God’s image. Therefore they are to be treated with respect even when we are correcting them. Sometimes we need to sit down and prayerfully review our child’s value to God so as to check and amend our own vexation over their slips.

At the same time, Christians believe their children (and they too) are members of a fallen race. So early in their lives they will show a “bent to evil” and this will manifest itself early and require parental alertness as well as readiness to instruct, restrain, and discipline.

Parents will be alert and respond in a correcting, teaching way, for example, to their child’s first intentional untruth, the first conscious disobedience, and the first unkindness to others or selfishness.

Parents will want to provide a home where there is lots of warmth, love, and laughter but never lose sight of the fact that moral instruction and Gospel claims are serious tasks.

The tendency to romanticize human nature, strong as it is in our culture, may cloud the minds of Christian parents, making them overlook or see as cute or charming the sinful conduct in the developing child. This laxity could easily plant early seeds for narcissism.

Countering the tendency for our children to be narcissistic calls for a 24/7 alertness so that we can show appropriate but not overblown approval when growing children do what’s right, and appropriate and pointed correction when selfishness creates trouble.

By these means parents help children to form a realistic sense of themselves — that they bear God’s image and have gracious gifts from Him, and at the same time along with all of humankind, they have a sin nature.

At the same time, the deepest remedy for curbing narcissistic tendencies is the embrace of the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ. That must mean true repentance — a turning away from sin; and faith — a deep turning to Jesus Christ, declaring him Lord and Savior.

Nothing short of the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ can begin life’s transformation at the center.

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Image credit: John William Waterhouse

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2 thoughts on “Raising Wholesome Children

  1. ‘Just Call Me Pastor’ is always relevant and topical ,to the moment as well as true to the Biblical standard of truth and morality.It helps me see the world through the Christian scriptural perspective and alerts me to current news.

    Last weeks ‘One War on Two Fronts’,like ‘Marriage and God’s Judgement’ three Monday’s previous,alerted me to the issue of same gender marriage.No sooner hasd I read it than the whole week’s UK news was dominated by this very issue .

    First a Christian family baker,Ashers , in Northern Ireland ,was fined £500 for politlely refusing to ice the message ‘Support Gay Marriage’ on a cake for the pressure group ‘Queerspace’Yet .same gender marriage isn’t legal in Northern Ireland . A law proposing to make it legal has been defeated 4 times in the Northern Irish Assembly

    Then,at the end of the week in which ‘One War On Two Fronts ‘ appeared so presciently,our news was dominated by the result of a referendum in Eire ( the south of Ireland ) .62% of those who voted , approved same gender marriage so it is legal in Eire now.Eire is predominantly Roman Catholic . The RC church spoke clearly against the motion to approve ‘gay’ marriage,but some felt not energetically enough.

    There have been many scandals recently come to light, where Roman Catholic priests have been involved in child abuse in Eire.The new Pope hais taken a much more alert stand against such cases of sexual immorality,but a lot of damage has been done ,weakening the Catholic church’s ethical credibility and integrity in Eire.I hasten to add that only a very small minority of Catholic priests commited these sins,and also that it is not only this denomination that has failed Christ this way.But one such case is one too many.

    Every single Christian ,let alone every ordained Christian, represents Christ and Christianity.Didn’t we make that promise at our baptisms? When some individuals behave sinfully they weaken the moral authority of the whole church.

    This Monday was Whitsun Bank Holiday in UK,the old name for the Monday after the remembrance of Pentecost ( White Sunday,so called of old, in England) So our public library being lcosed I didn’t read read ‘Raising Wholesome Children’ til Tuesday.My immediate thought was that just as the answer to anxiety is the Christian virtue of faith,so the antidote to narcissism is the Christian virtue of humility.

    Wednesday morning on the BBC radio breakfast news came an article on narcissism m children of this generation. I thought how prescient again of ‘Just Call Me Pastor’ or at least how up to date.

    An American ,David Brooks ,was being interviewed on BBC.,about his new book ‘The Road to Character’.He was going to call it humility ( in tiny lower case) with his name in huge upper case, DAVID BROOKS ,as a joke.

    I gather Mr Brooks is a distinguished conservative New York Times commentator,who like so many neo cons,started his adult life as a socialist. Now respected across the whole political spectrum,at least by many, his opinion is often solicited by President Obama.

    On the radio this morning David Brooks talked about the Narcissm test which I’d never heard of til this week’s ‘Just Call Me Pastor’That children surveyed were found to be 60% more narcissistic than a few decades ago,and 60% less likely to use words like kindness and humility.

    He called this the age of ‘The Big Me’ and found a majority of today’s children agreed with and related to the following statement :

    ‘’I find it easy to manipulate people because I’m so spectacular’’

    Such a statement would have been considered very un- English only a decade or so ago.Not today,I fear ! .I was born in 1953 and as a child,even if I thought it,which I did not,I would have been ashamed to say I was spectaculsar or a very important person.It’s just something an English person wouldn’t say.Or at least didn’t then.

    David Brooks’ solution was for children to be encouraged to build a stronger moral character and a deeper inner life They should’ take a leap of love he said.’.I felt the words ‘Jesus Christ,’or’ Christian’ were on his lips ,but they were never uttered.I wondered if he’d heard that British folk were hostile to Christianity,or thought Christianity can only be mentioned on BBC on Sunday Morning’s or in the 6 am ‘Prayer for Today’ slot.

    But I understand one of the anti narcissistic figures Mr Brooks recommends in his book is St Augustine,Bishop of Hippo,I’m sure Mr Brooks is coming from a Christian perspective. He was open about using the word ‘sin’,always a good sign in my view, so I trusted him.

    Reading this week’s ‘Just Call Me Pastor’ some scriptural words came immediately to mind : Jesus’ command to love others as ureself .His second Law upon which all the law hangs..So I wasn’t surprised to come across these very words of Jesus halfway through this week’s blog.

    Self love is fine,I suppose, as long as one does not love oneself more than others.We must know we are but one of many of God’s creatures ,all brothers and sisters,each personally and specially loved by Him.We are not more important in His eyes nor should be in our own eyes.

    This weeks ‘Just Call Me Pastor’ has been a real eye opener. I greatly admire the Roman poet Ovid’s book ‘Metamorhoses’ ,with it’s vivid charsacters Echo and Narcissus’, I’m familiar with the concept of narcissism,But I’d never heard of “narcissistic injury” . “narcissistic supply.” or NPD.It’s interesting researching these terms.I see they can lead to something called ‘narcissistic rage’.Yes,now I understand,for I’ve seen this in action.

    Falsehood ,unkindness and selfishness are ,I hope,universally aciknowleged as sins ,faults and weaknesses.I’ve noticed that the devil’s sin of pride and disobedience seems not so clearly acknowledged a sin or fault nowadays.

    Pride and disobedience,such easy facile options,are even portrayed in some contemporary media as admirable ,even noble or heroic qualities. From the late 50s ,in America,the rebel without a cause was lionized.In 60s England ,it was ‘the angry young man’,cynical of everything,feeling himself above everything,who was portrayed as heroic.

    I recognize the archetypal figure of the narcissist from a character in a great English epic poem of the 17th century : ‘Paradise Lost’ Lucifer,the devil is that narcissist.He thought he was better than everyone else,above even obedience to God.’Non serviam ‘ he told God,’No I will not serve or obey you’.This narcissist was furious that God blessed His new creatures – the humans,us..His overwhelming pride filled him with rage and led to his fall.He determined to make us fall. tooBut Jesus undid his evil and redeemed us.

    For the archetypal figure of the antithesis of the narcissist, we can read the sequel to ‘Paradise Lost’,’Paradise Regained’.Here is the greatest figure of loving humility.It is Jesus Christ Himself,our Redeemer.

    From his close reading of the Bible,John Milton wrote these great imaginative epic poems.But the narcissism of the devil and loving humility of our Saviour are right there to see in the pages of our Bible,in true Scripture.

    When teaching our children we have the perfect pattern of how to be – Jesus Christ.Loving others in humility like Christ is the true way,,not seeing ourselves as above others in pride,like the great narcissist ,the devil.

    Pride comes before a Fall.We don’t want our children to fall.

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