Example #84 Strengths and Weaknesses

What if a topic on heroes helped learners to see themselves realistically?

Judy covered self-esteem as part of personal development (PSHE). She wanted to help pupils be realistic about their weaknesses as well as strengths and to put this on a firmer footing, not dependent on their feelings about themselves.

"I decided I wanted to look at significance and worth rather than self-esteem. I wanted to use examples of people who achieved in lots of different ways – some ordinary, some extraordinary – but also to put achievement in its place. By taking the focus away from the students I hoped they would feel free to explore the weaknesses of the characters as well as their strengths and use this as a way of reflecting on how they think about others and themselves.

"I changed my approach in personal development (PSHE), and we ran a mini heroes project. We celebrated people who achieved in different ways, but we also looked at their need of other people, the times when they did not feel confident and the times when they got it wrong. This did not detract from their achievements or their worth. I changed the tasks to include this different way of seeing heroes; I included thought bubbles for the heroes' worries and lack of confidence and ‘bins’ for when the heroes got things wrong.

"At the end of the project I created a hero template for each student with bubbles on and a bin. They drew themselves and could think about things they were not confident about and times when they feel they get it. We are a church school and I introduced the idea of being God’s masterpiece and treasure and his acceptance of people through grace, despite our failings. Although God accepts people as they are he does not leave them as they are; with the help of the Holy Spirit, people change. People may lack confidence, choose badly, or get things wrong but that does not stop them being loved by God. A painting may be severely damaged but it can be restored. We talked about how people can admit failings to God and know he forgives and helps people to change."

What’s going on here?

Judy saw personal development (PSHE) in terms of worth and significance and saw this as related to interdependence, not just found inside ourselves. She also saw worth as related to grace.

She engaged students in exploring both strengths and weaknesses, applying this to their own view of themselves, and thinking about the connections to faith.

She reshaped her practice by changing the way the tasks and worksheets were framed (worries as well as achievements, connecting to God), designing resources and using images to focus students' attention on the lesson theme, and making connections to faith explicit.

How do I do this myself?

What does this have to do with faith, hope and love?

Christians find their significance primarily in being loved by God, but trusting God for a sense of worth is an act of faith. This does not mean that Christians do not need affirmation by other people, God acts through others to encourage and affirm. Our deep-felt need to know that we matter can result in low self-esteem if we are not affirmed and loved. It can also result in an inappropriate sense of our own importance if we bolster that need by status, power, a misuse of relationships or attention seeking. If we ignore the negative parts of our characters we will create a fragile sense of worth that does not face reality.

What difference does it make?

Lessons on self-esteem usually focus on our feelings about worth and significance. Judy moved the focus so that it was less dependant on emotions and self-confidence and more connected to the way we value one another in community and receive love from others and God.

Where could we go from here?

The question of where people find their sense of worth can be explored in drama, English, history and art. For example, in a novel students can explore how characters see themselves and what that is based on. Portraits can reveal a person's estimation of themselves, as well as how the artist sees them (e.g., see Leonardo da Vinci's portrait of Ginevra de' Benci at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Leonardo_da_Vinci,_Ginevra_de%27_Benci,_1474-78.png).

Digging deeper

Our view of ourselves is rooted in how we see ourselves, how others see us and how God sees us. God looks at the heart and knows everything about us (1 Samuel 16:7). God has no illusions about us but still loves us. Then there is the way we are perceived by others. A quick glance at ourselves through the eyes of others can break through layers of self-deception. Others, however, are not always right.
O would some power the gift would give us
To see ourselves as others see us. Robert Burns
Finally, there is how we perceive ourselves. The Bible calls for humility in this. Biblical humility is not low self-esteem, but rather realistic assessment.
The Bible describes people as God’s treasure (Deuteronomy 26:18). God knows each person in detail from before birth (Psalm 139:13; Jeremiah 1:5). Significance and worth are grounded in God but can be affirmed by others.
We all sin and fall short not only of our own ideals, but also of God’s standards (Romans 3:23). Sin is not ignored in the Bible; only through repentance, forgiveness and trust are relationships restored with God and with others. The way to a sense of worth and value is not by ignoring our failings, but by facing them. A knowledge of being loved and forgiven by God brings with it a freedom to face personal failings without one's sense of worth crumbling. Repentance and guilt are sometimes viewed negatively, but guilt is a warning system, like pain. There can be false guilt and people can wrongly be made to feel guilty by others but these wrong instances of guilt do not remove the fact that we need it to function as moral people. We need to know when we have crossed a line. Repentance helps people face past sin and move on with forgiveness.
Salvation is all grace – the gift of God – and we cannot earn it, for no one is good enough (Ephesians 2:8). This emphasis on grace for salvation, rather than just human achievement, means a compassionate and ethical way of life should flow from a relationship with God out of gratitude rather than a constant striving to do enough to be accepted by God. A sense of worth should be enhanced by loving relationships within the family and the community of Christians in order to turn outwards and serve others.

Explore similar examples:

What if perseverance were acknowledged, not just perfection?
What if failures were seen as opportunities to serve?
What if flawed people can make a difference?
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1One day he said, Samuel, I've rejected Saul, and I refuse to let him be king any longer. Stop feeling sad about him. Put some olive oil in a small container and go and visit a man named Jesse, who lives in Bethlehem. I've chosen one of his sons to be my king. 2Samuel answered, If I do that, Saul will find out and have me killed. Take a calf with you, the Lord replied. Tell everyone that you've come to offer it as a sacrifice to me, 3then invite Jesse to the sacrifice. When I show you which one of his sons I have chosen, pour the olive oil on his head. 4Samuel did what the Lord told him and went to Bethlehem. The town leaders went to meet him, but they were terribly afraid and asked, Is this a friendly visit? 5Yes, it is! Samuel answered. I've come to offer a sacrifice to the Lord . Get yourselves ready to take part in the sacrifice and come with me. Samuel also invited Jesse and his sons to come to the sacrifice, and he got them ready to take part. 6When Jesse and his sons arrived, Samuel noticed Jesse's eldest son, Eliab. He must be the one the Lord has chosen, Samuel said to himself. 7But the Lord told him, Samuel, don't think Eliab is the one just because he's tall and handsome. He isn't the one I've chosen. People judge others by what they look like, but I judge people by what is in their hearts. 8Jesse told his son Abinadab to go over to Samuel, but Samuel said, No, the Lord hasn't chosen him. 9Next, Jesse sent his son Shammah to him, and Samuel said, The Lord hasn't chosen him either. 10Jesse sent all seven of his sons over to Samuel. Finally, Samuel said, Jesse, the Lord hasn't chosen any of these young men. 11Do you have any more sons? Yes, Jesse answered. My youngest son David is out taking care of the sheep. Send for him! Samuel said. We won't start the ceremony until he gets here. 12Jesse sent for David. He was a healthy, good-looking boy with a sparkle in his eyes. As soon as David came, the Lord told Samuel, He's the one! Get up and pour the olive oil on his head. 13Samuel poured the oil on David's head while his brothers watched. At that moment, the Spirit of the Lord took control of David and stayed with him from then on. Samuel returned home to Ramah. 14The Spirit of the Lord had left Saul, and an evil spirit from the Lord was terrifying him. 15It's an evil spirit from God that's frightening you, Saul's officials told him. 16Your Majesty, let us go and look for someone who is good at playing the harp. He can play for you whenever the evil spirit from God bothers you, and you'll feel better. 17All right, Saul answered. Find me someone who is good at playing the harp and bring him here. 18A man named Jesse who lives in Bethlehem has a son who can play the harp, one official said. He's a brave warrior, he's good-looking, he can speak well, and the Lord is with him. 19Saul sent a message to Jesse: Tell your son David to leave your sheep and come here to me. 20Jesse loaded a donkey with bread and a goatskin full of wine, then he told David to take the donkey and a young goat to Saul. 21David went to Saul and started working for him. Saul liked him so much that he put David in charge of carrying his weapons. 22Not long after this, Saul sent another message to Jesse: I really like David. Please let him stay with me. 23Whenever the evil spirit from God bothered Saul, David would play his harp. Saul would relax and feel better, and the evil spirit would go away. Goliath challenges Israel's army
1The Lord is giving you the land, and soon you will conquer it, settle down, 2and plant crops. And when you begin harvesting each of your crops, the very first things you pick must be put in a basket. Take them to the place where the Lord your God chooses to be worshipped, 3and tell the priest, Long ago the Lord our God promised our ancestors that he would give us this land. And today, I thank him for keeping his promise and giving me a share of the land. 4The priest will take the basket and set it in front of the Lord 's altar. 5Then, standing there in front of the place of worship, you must pray: My ancestor was homeless, an Aramean who went to live in Egypt. There were only a few in his family then, but they became great and powerful, a nation of many people. 6The Egyptians were cruel and had no pity on us. They ill-treated our people and forced us into slavery. 7We called out for help to you, the Lord God of our ancestors. You heard our cries; you knew we were in trouble and abused. 8Then you terrified the Egyptians with your mighty miracles and rescued us from Egypt. 9You brought us here and gave us this land rich with milk and honey. 10Now, Lord , I bring to you the best of the crops that you have given me. After you say these things, place the basket in front of the Lord 's altar and bow down to worship him. 11Then you and your family must celebrate by eating a meal at the place of worship to thank the Lord your God for giving you such a good harvest. And remember to invite the Levites and the foreigners who live in your town. Ten per cent of the harvest Moses said to Israel: 12Every year you are to give ten per cent of your harvest to the Lord . But every third year, this ten per cent must be given to the poor who live in your town, including Levites, foreigners, orphans, and widows. That way, they will have enough to eat. 13Then you must pray: Our Lord and our God, you have said that ten per cent of my harvest is sacred. I have obeyed your command and given this to the poor, including the Levites, foreigners, orphans, and widows. 14I have not eaten any of this sacred food while I was in mourning; in fact, I never touched it when I was unclean. And none of it has been offered as a sacrifice to the spirits of the dead. I have done everything exactly as you commanded. 15Our Lord , look down from your temple in heaven and bless your people Israel. You promised our ancestors that you would give us this land rich with milk and honey, and you have kept your promise. The Lord is your God, and you are his people Moses said to Israel: 16Today the Lord your God has commanded you to obey these laws and teachings with all your heart and soul. 17In response, you have agreed that the Lord will be your God, that you will obey all his laws and teachings, and that you will listen when he speaks to you. 18Since you have agreed to obey the Lord , he has agreed that you will be his people and that you will belong to him, just as he promised. 19The Lord created all nations, but he will make you more famous than any of them, and you will receive more praise and honour. You will belong only to the Lord your God, just as he promised. Build an altar on Mount Ebal
1You have looked deep into my heart, Lord , and you know-all about me. 2You know when I am resting or when I am working, and from heaven you discover my thoughts. 3You notice everything I do and everywhere I go. 4Before I even speak a word, you know what I will say, 5and with your powerful arm you protect me from every side. 6I can't understand all this! Such wonderful knowledge is far above me. 7Where could I go to escape from your Spirit or from your sight? 8If I were to climb up to the highest heavens, you would be there. If I were to dig down to the world of the dead you would also be there. 9Suppose I had wings like the dawning day and flew across the ocean. 10Even then your powerful arm would guide and protect me. 11Or suppose I said, I'll hide in the dark until night comes to cover me over. 12But you see in the dark because daylight and dark are all the same to you. 13You are the one who put me together inside my mother's body, 14and I praise you because of the wonderful way you created me. Everything you do is marvellous! Of this I have no doubt. 15Nothing about me is hidden from you! I was secretly woven together deep in the earth below, 16but with your own eyes you saw my body being formed. Even before I was born, you had written in your book everything I would do. 17Your thoughts are far beyond my understanding, much more than I could ever imagine. 18I try to count your thoughts, but they outnumber the grains of sand on the beach. And when I awake, I will find you nearby. 19How I wish that you would kill all cruel and heartless people and protect me from them! 20They are always rebelling and speaking evil of you. 21You know I hate anyone who hates you, Lord , and refuses to obey. 22They are my enemies too, and I truly hate them. 23Look deep into my heart, God, and find out everything I am thinking. 24Don't let me follow evil ways, but lead me in the way that time has proved true. (A psalm by David for the music leader.) A prayer for the Lord 's help
1My name is Jeremiah. I am a priest, and my father Hilkiah and everyone else in my family are from Anathoth in the territory of the Benjamin tribe. This book contains the things that the Lord told me to say. 2The Lord first spoke to me in the thirteenth year that Josiah was king of Judah, 3and he continued to speak to me during the rule of Josiah's son Jehoiakim. The last time the Lord spoke to me was in the fifth month of the eleventh year that Josiah's son Zedekiah was king. That was also when the people of Jerusalem were taken away as prisoners. The Lord chooses Jeremiah 4The Lord said: 5Jeremiah, I am your Creator, and before you were born, I chose you to speak for me to the nations. 6I replied, I'm not a good speaker, Lord , and I'm too young. 7Don't say you're too young, the Lord answered. If I tell you to go and speak to someone, then go! And when I tell you what to say, don't leave out a word! 8I promise to be with you and keep you safe, so don't be afraid. 9The Lord reached out his hand, then he touched my mouth and said, I am giving you the words to say, 10and I am sending you with authority to speak to the nations for me. You will tell them of doom and destruction, and of rising and rebuilding again. 11The Lord showed me something in a vision. Then he asked, What do you see, Jeremiah? I answered, A branch of almonds that ripen early. 12That's right, the Lord replied, and I always rise early to keep a promise. 13Then the Lord showed me something else and asked, What do you see now? I answered, I see a pot of boiling water in the north, and it's about to spill out towards us. 14The Lord said: I will pour out destruction all over the land. 15Just watch while I send for the kings of the north. They will attack and capture Jerusalem and other towns, then set up their thrones at the gates of Jerusalem. 16I will punish my people, because they are guilty of turning from me to worship idols. 17Jeremiah, get ready! Go and tell the people what I command you to say. Don't be frightened by them, or I will make you terrified while they watch. 18My power will make you strong like a fortress or a column of iron or a wall of bronze. You will oppose all of Judah, including its kings and leaders, its priests and people. 19They will fight back, but they won't win. I, the Lord , give my word I won't let them harm you. Israel's unfaithfulness
1What good is it to be a Jew? What good is it to be circumcised? 2It is good in a lot of ways! First of all, God's messages were spoken to the Jews. 3It is true that some of them did not believe the message. But does this mean that God cannot be trusted, just because they did not have faith? 4No, indeed! God tells the truth, even if everyone else is a liar. The Scriptures say about God, Your words will be proved true, and in court you will win your case. 5If our evil deeds show how right God is, then what can we say? Is it wrong for God to become angry and punish us? What a foolish thing to ask. 6But the answer is, No. Otherwise, how could God judge the world? 7Since your lies bring great honour to God by showing how truthful he is, you may ask why God still says you are a sinner. 8You might as well say, Let's do something evil, so that something good will come of it! Some people even claim that we are saying this. But God is fair and will judge them as well. No one is good 9What does all this mean? Does it mean that we Jews are better off than the Gentiles? No, it doesn't! Jews, as well as Gentiles, are ruled by sin, just as I have said. 10The Scriptures tell us, No one is acceptable to God! 11Not one of them understands or even searches for God. 12They have all turned away and are worthless. There isn't one person who does right. 13Their words are like an open pit, and their tongues are good only for telling lies. Each word is as deadly as the fangs of a snake, 14and they say nothing but bitter curses. 15These people quickly become violent. 16Wherever they go, they leave ruin and destruction. 17They don't know how to live in peace. 18They don't even fear God. 19We know that everything in the Law was written for those who are under its power. The Law says these things to stop anyone from making excuses and to let God show that the whole world is guilty. 20God doesn't accept people simply because they obey the Law. No, indeed! All the Law does is to point out our sin. 21Now we see how God does make us acceptable to him. The Law and the Prophets tell how we become acceptable, and it isn't by obeying the Law of Moses. 22God treats everyone alike. He accepts people only because they have faith in Jesus Christ. 23All of us have sinned and fallen short of God's glory. 24But God treats us much better than we deserve, and because of Christ Jesus, he freely accepts us and sets us free from our sins. 25God sent Christ to be our sacrifice. Christ offered his life's blood, so that by faith in him we could come to God. And God did this to show that in the past he was right to be patient and forgive sinners. This also shows that God is right when he accepts people who have faith in Jesus. 27What is left for us to boast about? Not a thing! Is it because we obeyed some law? No! It is because of faith. 28We see that people are acceptable to God because they have faith, and not because they obey the Law. 29Does God belong only to the Jews? Isn't he also the God of the Gentiles? Yes, he is! 30There is only one God, and he accepts Gentiles as well as Jews, simply because of their faith. 31Do we destroy the Law by our faith? Not at all! We make it even more powerful. The example of Abraham
1In the past you were dead because you sinned and fought against God. 2You followed the ways of this world and obeyed the devil. He rules the world, and his spirit has power over everyone who doesn't obey God. 3Once we were also ruled by the selfish desires of our bodies and minds. We had made God angry, and we were going to be punished like everyone else. 4But God was merciful! We were dead because of our sins, but God loved us so much that he made us alive with Christ, and God's wonderful kindness is what saves you. 6God raised us from death to life with Christ Jesus, and he has given us a place beside Christ in heaven. 7God did this so that in the future world he could show how truly good and kind he is to us because of what Christ Jesus has done. 8You were saved by faith in God, who treats us much better than we deserve. This is God's gift to you, and not anything you have done on your own. 9It isn't something you have earned, so there is nothing you can boast about. 10God planned for us to do good things and to live as he has always wanted us to live. That's why he sent Christ to make us what we are. United by Christ 11Don't forget that you are Gentiles. In fact, you used to be called uncircumcised by those who take pride in being circumcised. 12At that time you did not know about Christ. You were foreigners to the people of Israel, and you had no part in the promises that God had made to them. You were living in this world without hope and without God, 13and you were far from God. But Christ offered his life's blood as a sacrifice and brought you near God. 14Christ has made peace between Jews and Gentiles, and he has united us by breaking down the wall of hatred that separated us. Christ gave his own body 15to destroy the Law of Moses with all its rules and commands. He even brought Jews and Gentiles together as though we were only one person, when he united us in peace. 16On the cross Christ did away with our hatred for each other. He also made peace between us and God by uniting Jews and Gentiles in one body. 17Christ came and preached peace to you Gentiles, who were far from God, and peace to us Jews, who were near God. 18And because of Christ, all of us can come to the Father by the same Spirit. 19You Gentiles are no longer strangers and foreigners. You are citizens with everyone else who belongs to the family of God. 20You are like a building with the apostles and prophets as the foundation and with Christ as the most important stone. 21Christ is the one who holds the building together and makes it grow into a holy temple for the Lord. 22And you are part of that building Christ has built as a place for God's own Spirit to live. Paul's mission to the Gentiles