Today’s Wall Street Journal has an interesting article on the sense of entitlement among college students. Professor Don Chance at Louisiana State University observes that American students, but not Asians, seem to feel that they always deserve an “A.” He says

“They felt so entitled, and it just hit me. We can blame Mr. Rogers.”

Mr. RogersMr. Rogers was well know for his TV children’s show in which he taught children to repeat after him “I’m special!” He was part of the self-esteem movement in children’s education that included a song sung in preschool to the tune of “Frere Jacques” with the words “I am special, I am special. Look at me.”

Now researchers are questioning this uncritical promotion of self-centeredness. Professor Jean Twenge of San Diego State University is the author of a book entitled “Generation Me: Why Today’s Young Americans Are More Confident, Assertive, Entitled — and More Miserable Than Ever Before.” She and her colleagues did a study of 16,475 college students using a tool called the Narcissistic Personality Inventory, and discovered that the NPI scores of students increased substantially from 1982 to 2006. The subtitles tell the story: “We’re all above average!,” “I am special, I am special,” and “Enough about me, what do you think about me?” Apparently college students are becoming more self-centered. Obviously some college students will object strongly to this conclusion. (I can imagine them saying, “But you just don’t understand me! I’m special!” 😉 )

Too much unfounded self-esteem isn’t good for you. The best way to achieve self-esteem is by accomplishing something. A healthy self-image cannot be based on pure narcissism. But how does this relate to God’s grace?

God’s grace is a free gift, not dependent on anything that we have done or can do. We are special because we are loved by God, and invited into a relationship with Him despite our unworthiness. To receive God’s grace we need to acknowledge our sin and our need for forgiveness. Once we have received His grace, we are freed to show grace to others and become less self-centered. God’s grace is the opposite of artificial self-esteem.

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