In a Sydney Morning Herald News Review Essay, The Marketing of BrandMe, Hugh Mackay, the well-known observer of Australia social customs and culture, discusses the “virus of self-promotion.” He contrasts self-esteem with self-respect. Recognition — the number of Likes on our Facebook page, the number of people following our Tweets — feeds our self-esteem. The key to rapid recognition in our modern digital society is self-promotion. Everyone suddenly seems to know that — thus the virus of self-promotion has “infected our society” according to Mackay. But what of self-respect?
The virus of self-respect
Mackay says the “keys to self-respect are humility and self-restraint.” I know that is so — my father was a well-respected man but also humble and restrained. I knew implicitly that he respected himself and from that inner sense of his own strength everything else flowed. As I get older, I recognise more and more the gift he gave me of the way he lived his life. My mother was the same. I guess what I’m saying is that the “virus” of self-respect originates (or doesn’t) in one’s family. If it isn’t there, you can “catch it” elsewhere but life is more difficult without this early foundation.
How Christian parents nurture self-respect
To be clear, I am not saying only Christian parents can nurture self-respect in their children. But Christian parents have a special obligation. Their children’s self-respect — their confidence in their inner strength — has a different origin. To me it lies in the realization that we have a soul, an eternal life to be considered along with everyday things. My Dad wasn’t a Catholic but he always attended the big events in my life like my first Holy Communion, and he helped me with my Catechism. I sensed these were important in my life. My mother was a Catholic and was the major religious influence in my life but my father was 100% supportive of her. Were we an extraordinarily religious family? I’d have to say no — but my parents clearly communicated that life was more than following the crowd, and had a moral and spiritual dimension. That’s how I think Christian self-respect is nurtured in a family.