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By Bill Franklin
I think it’s time to check my self-esteem. Self-esteem, if you haven’t been paying attention lately, takes on real significance the moment yours is on the line. And sad to say, like a pain or headache you didn’t know you had, it comes on line the moment someone brings it up, (much as I’m doing now). But don’t be alarmed. If your personal esteem isn’t up to snuff, I have ways to get around the high standards you’ve probably set for yourself.
I know I have gotten around all the standards I started out with and I’m proud to say, lowering my standards has been one of my crowning achievements. To get around the curse of high standards it helps to borrow a few concepts from Christianity. You don’t have to be a Christian to rip off some of their golden nuggets, take the best and sweep away the rest, as I like to say. Thankfully, I had a friend who was Christian and he filled me in on some vital info about God that I was lacking.
I asked him, “Why in the heck should God love me?” What have I done to deserve all that good God love?” He answered me with a doctrine I actually like and so I thought well, finally, the universe is giving me a deal. I couldn’t beat this at the swap meet. He said because of grace, I didn’t actually need to earn God’s love, God loves me in spite of myself and there is absolutely nothing I can do about it. His love is free, undeserved and there for the taking.
This is my kind of love. No matter how down on my luck I am, no matter how selfish and self-absorbed I am and no matter that I’ve never helped a flood victim, God thinks I am OK enough to be gifted with his love. (I always equate God’s love with the fact that there are billions and billions of stars. Somehow in my infantile, illogical thinking self, anybody that is into billions and billions of stars and stuff, should not leave me out.) I may not deserve heaven (according to the doctrine) but I am way cool with God and with some luck could be purgatory bound at least.
Purgatory I assume to be a cut above living in El Centro in the summer or being broke in Vegas just when I think my slot machine is going to hit. Hell, I should think, is reserved for history’s complete jerks, guys like Hitler and Stalin, Mao or the worst of the creepy Mongol horde. Plus “Blue Duck,” if you happen to have read Lonesome Dove.
So here is the concept as it applies to self-esteem. You (or I) have been harboring the notion that your appreciation of yourself is tied to achievement. But wait a minute, God doesn’t think so. He thinks what you’re up to doesn’t matter. He loves you anyway. Like your parents or Billy Joel, he loves you just the way you are. You could be the village idiot and it is all the same to God. This gives your self-esteem a leg up. Now you don’t have to be so fancy. You don’t need so much money for example. You can get drunk more. You can take that afternoon nap and still be square with the universe.
I used to think that if I sang real good and played the guitar and got a good crowd and they liked it and tossed some money in my pauper’s guitar case, I would have high self-esteem. And of course it worked. I felt great about it. But I realize now that I didn’t need to go to all that trouble.
And later in life, when singing in the street began to seem odd and too beggarly, I thought I should stretch a bit and teach school. So I bent myself all out of shape and taught school for years and felt semi-horrible. And I achieved and achieved and, true to the code, I asked myself, “what does it profit a Franklin to make all this little money and lose his soul to the school board.” So I took up tennis.
Because I was good at tennis in the sense that I didn’t care if I won and frequently didn’t, my self-esteem soared. But again, after conferring with my friend the Christian, I realized that tennis and teaching and singing were very shallow ways to approve of myself. Instead I decided I approve of myself because I am looking good, way good, perfectly good, plastered right there, hung maybe, basking in the cross hairs of God’s image.