The Starting Point For A New Outlook
Self-Esteems Shapes How We Value Others
by Eric Elkin
The camp I directed became a very popular summer activity for children in the community. Matter of fact, new families moving into the area, were often told, “You need to send your kids to Camp Shalom.” It did not take long for us also to gain a reputation as the place for “good kids.”
The board of directors was committed to diversifying the summer program. They wanted it to be a place for people of all ages and circumstances. So we started nurturing a relationship with a city school dealing with lower income children. Together with the school staff, we identified at-risk children who could benefit from a camp experience.
When we kicked off the project, I explained the program and its intent to the summer staff. They were excited, willing and very gracious in how they served the campers. However, when referring to the children in this program, our staff would say, “Those children are wonderful.” The words were poison to my ears.
At-risk children are always, “Those children.” Even when they are referenced in positive terms, as our staff did, the words, “Those children,” always suggest they are less than the “good children.” Why can we not see all children just as children? Why must we view them by their distinctions?
After that first summer, I quit identifying "those" campers to our staff. We stressed in training the need to deal with each child as a child without distinction. “Those children,” became a forbidden phrase. Our leadership staff would stop anyone using it and remind them, “We just deal with children.”
Distinctions, even when used for the best of purposes, open the door for division. Division provides the soil for the seeds of evaluation to grow. And, we live in a world which loves its distinctions. We love classifying people according to a group. The group has an identity which blinds the outsider from seeing the person and the story behind each one.
Our need to classify other people is grounded in our sense of identity. The late psychologist, Dr. Leon Pomeroy, suggested our perception of others was rooted in our own sense of self-worth. He wrote about how self-esteem informs personal worth and personal worth shapes how we value human beings.
If this is true, and I believe it is, we would need to stop evaluating ourselves from a human point of view if we hoped to do the same to others. So, the starting point for this new outlook is the mirror. The person we are always looking at was made in the image of God, and that image is a good one.
Click to read 2 Corinthians 5: 6-17
- When was a time you felt judged by a classification?
- What was right or wrong about the view of you as a person?
- How able are you to no longer view people from a human point of view?
- What image do you think God has of you?