A sign over a mirror in a public school reads, “You are now looking at the most special person in the world.” The message is part of a program designed to build self-esteem in children, and there is no questioning the fact that some kids suffer from a lack of self-esteem. At times parents disparage the achievements of their kids—like, “Why can’t you do as well in school as your sister?” Or, “You’re dumb,” or “Get up, you lazy girl.” Or, “You’ll never amount to anything when you do that sort of thing.”
Tell a child something often enough and loudly enough, and he’ll grow up believing it. But to tell a child, “You are the most special person in the world” is going about a proper thing in the wrong way. Why? Special people expect special privileges and don’t have to follow the rules. They go to the head of the line, or push their way to the front, thinking, “Why not? I’m special.” They expect teachers and administrators to treat them differently. Why? “I’m special,” which means, “You can’t treat me like all the other kids.”
The fact is that every person is unique.
And when they become adults, they often find out what they are not prepared for: life doesn’t give you special breaks and privileges just because you think the world owes you a living. It is one thing to convey the message to a child that you are loved, even that you are unique, that being different is not being better than anyone or inferior to anyone. But the message that you are the most special person in the world tells a child something that reality doesn’t support.
The fact is that every person is unique. Unless you are an identical twin there is no one in the world like you, and even if you are an identical twin no one thinks your thoughts, or feels what you feel, or sees what you do. To be special means that you stand out from the crowd, you are different, or you expect to be treated better than others.
For the Son of Man came to seek and to save what was lost. Luke 19:10
Question: Are you special to God? Does He consider every person to be special? How would you answer that question? In all probability you feel so inadequate and so far removed from what God expects of you, you think you wouldn’t even get a second glance from heaven. OK, that question will get us nowhere fast. But here’s the right one to ask: “Am I important to God?” and there is no ambiguity in the answer because the entire Bible shouts aloud: “Yes, you are important to Him!” God has no throw-away lists. The door to the throne room is open, and Christ is that door. He said, “I am the way, the truth, and the life; no person comes to the father but through me” (John 14:6).
When you read the New Testament you find account after account of Jesus taking time for the people that the world never considered “special” by a long shot—the woman at the well (we’d call her a slut today), Zacheus, a man who earned his living the shady way, a prostitute caught in the very act of adultery, and so forth. Jesus had time for them, reflecting the values of His father—and they have time for you.
There’s a vast difference between being “special” and being important. Have we gone overboard in striving to help kids have a healthy sense of self-esteem? It may well be, say many, that we’ve gone about it the wrong way. Helping them to know their value in the sight of God, giving them the love that says, “You are important to me, and I’ll be there for you” is important, but conveying the message that “you are special” works the wrong way.
Scripture reading: Psalms 139:1-18