The gospel of self-esteem on steroids

Here is a Student’s Creed used for real in an Irish secondary school prayer service.

Today, this new day, I am a successful student. Overnight my mind and body have produced thousands of new cells to give me the greatest advantages possible. I am born anew, revitalized, and full of energy.

I am rare and valuable; unique in all the universe. I am nature’s greatest miracle in action. I have unlimited potential. I believe in my abilities, attitudes, and goals. I am worthy of greatness because I am the most important person in my world.

Today I push myself to new limits. I use my skills and knowledge every day. I begin the day with a success and end it with a success. My goals are being reached every day and I seek them eagerly.

I act positively and happily, fully accepting myself and others. I live to the fullest by experiencing life without limits. I embrace life. I approach each class, each book, and each assignment with enthusiasm, happiness and joy. I thirst for knowledge. I look forward to reading and believing this creed each and every day.

I am a positive and successful student. I know each step I must take to continue to be that way. I am clear on my goals and see myself reaching them. I now realize my infinite potential, thus, my burden lightens. I smile and laugh. I have become the greatest student in the world.

No, really, I jest not. This was not written by Tom Marvolo Riddle in training to be “he who shall not be named”.

This is the gospel of self-esteem on steroids.

The good news is, quite simply, ‘ME’.

I am marvellous, successful, ambitious, focused; a miracle, unique, worthy of greatness, the centre of my own universe. There are no limits to my wonderfulness, joy, potential and stupendous significance (cue megalomaniacal laughter).

This is the gospel where I am my own saviour, guide and god. I am without fault, a specimen of perfect humanness (move over Jesus).

There is no Fall in this gospel. There is no need of salvation either. How can perfection be improved? I only need fully to accept myself as I am.

Neither is there any humility.

Or reality. With enough positive thinking, we all can be ‘the greatest student in the world’ – which dilutes greatness just a tad (Cue link to The Incredibles. Elastigirl tells her son, Dash, not to run so fast so he won’t stand out. We are, she says, all special. Dash replies with the immortal line, ‘Which is just another way of saying no-one is.’)

And precious little humanity. It is a ‘gospel’ that leaves no room for doubt, for failure, for struggle, and, ironically, for learning and discipleship. What have I to learn when I am already the master of my destiny, the lord of myself and my world?

All this is a stark contrast to the first preaching of the real gospel.

Peter’s sermon in Acts 2 finishes with the magnificent good news – not of our own infinite all round splendidness – but that Jesus the Messiah, who was crucified, is the risen living Lord.

The men of Israel’s response was not to congratulate themselves on their successful achievements and healthy self-images; their hearts were cut to the quick and they repented, put their faith in the resurrected Lord, and were baptised as a sign of dying to themselves and being raised to a new life in the Spirit.

Comments, as ever, welcome.