I have several times recently read or heard stories of the failure of self-esteem ideology to grant people the fulfillment it was initiated to provide. Though none of this research is from a Christian perspective, it certainly squares totally with the teachings of Christ.
The first item to catch my attention was a Wall Street Journal article about “Gray Divorce” – the phenomenon of people over age 50 leaving marriages in record numbers. The divorce rate for people over 50 has doubled in the past two decades … at the same time that rates for the general population are actually slightly falling.
Why is this? The reasons vary, but a part of almost every explanation is some version of a self-fulfillment story. Baby Boomers of the “Me Generation” entered marriage with a different viewpoint from generations before. Not strongly endorsing the long-term values of fulfilling roles of spouse and parent, this generation entered with some high expectations for how the marriage would fulfill personal dreams and aspirations. And now, facing maybe 25-35 years more of life with someone they’ve found to be a personal disappointment, they are bailing out to go make it happen while it still can happen.
A second item that caught my ear was on a radio talk show – where the host was interviewing two secular researchers who found that those people who are religious are indeed far more often happy than those who do not have this life component. The researchers were very clear in saying that the religious people had a different world view – one more focused away from self and rather upon the helping of others and serving God, faith, etc. For the secular folks, the writers came right out and blamed decades of self-esteem educational ideologies. The fact is that those folks who focus upon their own personal-centric universe are not fulfilled and hence carry a higher load of sadness and disappointment.
This should not surprise the biblically literate person, as we are able to know what Christ taught about the human condition – that life is not about us and our fulfillment, but about knowing Him and finding our pleasure in His service. Fulfillment is not a product; it is a by-product of something much bigger. Jesus said, “For Christ’s love compels us, because we are convinced that one died for all, and therefore all died. And he died for all, that those who live should no longer live for themselves but for him who died for them and was raised again.”