Tuesday, 3 April 2007

You are wonderful! (or are you...?)

Recently, we went to a talk by a charismatic (I think - he waved his arms in the air during Mass, which is usually a clue!) speaker.

He was pretty good: orthodox in almost all he said (that's good in my book) except for one thing: he got us all to turn to our neighbour and say: 'You are wonderful!'

His view was that most of us don't hear those words often enough (as children or as adults) and therefore suffer from low self esteem, and that as children of God, we should be confident of who we are. He told us that he said this or a variant to each of his children every day.

Both Anna and I had problems with this, for slightly different reasons. Anna simply found it too bogus: "what if you're not! The people next to me don't know me - and if they did would know I'm not wonderful."

I was as concerned at the flawed theology and psychology. Theologically, if this is meant to represent what the Father would say to us, I think it's wrong: a much more authentic message (especially to say to your children each day) would be: "I love you!" That one is true of us, even when our children are less than wonderful - likewise it is a true representation of waht the Father says in all eternity to His children.

Psychologically, I have problems with the whole self-esteem movement, from which I think this type of thinking comes: Maslow, Rogers et al. I heard a great series of talks (on tape) by William Coulson, who was Carl Rogers' right-hand man till he recanted, and he warned of the dangers of TMP (too much psychology) and particularly applying therapeutic responses (eg to low self esteem) in a simplistic way without proper training or diagnosis. This seemed to me a classic example of that problem.

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