Tuesday, May 5, 2009

The Greatest Love of All?

Last night we went to Baskin Robbins for our Family Home Evening treat. While we were waiting for David to pay for our ice cream, Whitney Houston's "The Greatest Love of All" came on the radio. This is one of those songs that I absolutely despise, and every time it comes on I can't help myself: I sigh. I snort. I just can't deal with it. I think the song needs to be banished to a desert island, never to be heard again.

Why the vehement dislike? I just think it has a terrible message. Not that children are our future and we should teach them well, blah blah blah. That part is okay (if cheesy). It's the main message that bothers me - you know - "learning to love yourself is the greatest love of all". What?!

Since when does the greatest love involve loving yourself? That is the worst thing I've ever heard. The greatest love may be a lot of things, but it is not selfish and certainly doesn't involve patting oneself on the back.

It's like those Relief Society lessons we get at least once a year where someone gets up and uses Matthew 22:39 to say, "It says in the scriptures that we should love ourselves." And then we get to spend forty-five minutes discussing the benefits of self-pampering. Huh? I'm sorry, but I don't think that's what that scripture means at all. I think it means we already love ourselves plenty (probably too much), and that we should start loving everyone else the way we do ourselves.

I'm not discounting the importance of feeling good about oneself or having a healthy self-confidence (or taking sanity-saving breaks to care for one's personal needs, emotional or otherwise). We should feel good about ourselves, if we are living as we know God expects us live. (And if we don't feel good about ourselves because depression or perfectionism are preventing us from being able to see ourselves as capable, lovable beings, then those issues need to be dealt with, whether through counseling or medication). But having a healthy outlook on life and confidence in one's abilities is not what people mean when they say we should love ourselves. What they mean is that we should be able to go out and do whatever we want, behave in whatever manner appeals to us, take care of our own needs first, and then tell ourselves it's all okay because we should love ourselves just how we are.

Every time I go to the playground I see what this self-esteem "love yourself first" movement is producing, and it's not pretty: Spoiled, snotty children who are completely undisciplined and unguided, but who have a healthy dose of self-appreciation. They can do anything! The world is their oyster! They are so talented at art and dance, and are the smartest, best little inventions since sliced bread, don't you know? But ask them to wait their turn to use the slide and you can literally see the universe quit revolving around them for a split second, which is so disorienting to them they nearly fall over. (It only takes a moment for them to bounce back, though - generally with a hostile, "No! I'll do what I want!")

I'm certain that the world's future problems will not be caused by the low self-esteem of any of these children (though teachers, parents and doctors may say otherwise as they breathlessly rush to compliment every scribble little Johnny produces). I think the majority of our problems will come from too much self-esteem - thinking we know everything and deserve everything, whether we've worked for it honestly or not, and loving ourselves in spite of our hideous behavior.

The greatest love of all? I don't think so. More like the greatest danger.


oldlady63 said...


singingrae said...

First, I totally agree. I've always hated that song! Makes me gag every time I hear it.
Second, I love your Coney Island pics. Your family is so adorable! I can't believe how big Michael is! You look like a very happy family. :)

overlyactive said...

I have to disagree with you. Because I love this song. This is one of the songs I learned on the piano and love to play it. I think the message is beautiful, honestly. If you visit my parenting blog childrenareworthit.blogspot.com you better pause the music because it plays this song. =)

Bonnie said...

To be quite honest, Heather, I always turn my sound off when I'm visiting blogs because I don't like having to listen to someone else's choice of songs while I read. It interferes with what I'm listening to, or I may not like the song, so I just turn my sound off altogether.