In Episode 10 of "The Coming Summer", we're looking at how the Bible prophesies people becoming a lover of themselves and of money. Here's the video:
I had to cut quite a lot of the information from the book in order to make this episode concise, but I hope it still makes sense.
Some decades ago, it was determined (somewhat accurately) that self-esteem was an extremely important determiner for life success. Educators and parents therefore, began trying to raise the self-esteem of their children by telling them they were special, unique and capable of anything. They also began trying to shield their children from anything that might damage their all-important self-image; from anything that might make them sad or upset. This is what eventually led to children being given prizes for finishing last in sports days. This is what led to the creation of safe spaces so they wouldn't have to hear anything troubling to their worldview. This is what led to teachers being told not to use red pen to mark wrong answers on tests because red is too damaging to a child's psyche. It all started becoming a bit absurd. But the underlying idea was simply that adults could confer self-esteem upon their children.
It cannot. Self-esteem can't be conferred.
True self-confidence can only be developed through personal struggle and the overcoming of trials. When parents and educators decided to overprotect against the pain and challenges of life, they effectively began short-circuiting this process to create self-entitled, narcissistic snowflakes who can't handle real life. Paul at least hints at this when he writes, "We can rejoice, too, when we run into problems and trials, for we know that they help us develop endurance. And endurance develops strength of character, and character strengthens our confident hope of salvation." (Romans 5:4) In this context, Paul is specifically talking about how struggle leads to confidence in salvation, but the principles he's talking about hold true in a broader sense. The overcoming of any trial leads to strength of character and confidence. If a child isn't allowed to face problems and trials, or to know what it feels like to lose, they don't develop endurance and character in any way, and they don't develop true confidence either.
Hebrews 12:17 tells us that God doesn't overprotect us. He fathers us by letting us endure a little pain occasionally because it's how we grow. We should do the same for our kids. Indeed, speaking of fathers, this is where fathers tend to play an important role and why narcissism tends to rise in rough proportion to fatherlessness. Fathers are more likely to encourage kids to test themselves and do scary things that build self-confidence where mothers may not. Fathers tend to be less moved to intervene by a child's tears than a mother may be too.
There's a balance here, for sure. But the bottom line is this: the cure for narcissism, which is just false self-confidence, is to create the right conditions for our kids to generate true self-confidence. True self-confidence kills narcissism. And we only generate true self-confidence in children by letting them face trials and overcome disappointments. That's how they grow. The answers here are straightforward: Bring discipline back into the homes. Don't overprotect students by giving them safe-spaces but let them be confronted by challenging ideas. Use red pen on tests again and don't be afraid to tell children when they're wrong. Don't give prizes out for finishing last on sports days but after the tears have been wiped away, encourage those kids to train and work harder so they can do better next year and receive a prize they actually earned. Do things like these and we'll see a generation who begin to grow in endurance, and in character, who know how to deal with setbacks, and who have that all important self-esteem.