Self-esteem and Super-Heroes: Are we harming our children?

Only a hateful parent would knowingly set up their child for failure and disappointment. Is our present culture, however, getting us to do exactly that – set them up for present and future self-destruction?

Whether you are a Christian parent or a non-Christian parent you will find there is good and wise child-rearing advice in the Bible, which states in Proverbs 22:6, “Bring up a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not depart from it.” Put another way, ‘From beginning to end, teach your child to think and act in Godly, righteous, and wise ways and they will tend to follow that path all their lives.’

In order for us to do that we must, first, have their respect and the knowledge that we love them. I mean here that they trust us to truly do what is best for them and not to lie to them. Second, we must tell them the truth and actually not lie to them. A child may believe you and trust you when you tell them about Santa Claus (or allow society and merchandisers do it), but eventually they will suffer disappointment and disillusionment when they discover that this wonderful, magical, caring person does not exist, and the World – including their own parents – lied to them about the whole thing. Their joyful hope has been replaced with sorrowful cynicism and the idea that it is okay to lie if it is ‘just for fun.’ Many parents that I have talked to about this have said that a child’s belief in Santa Clause is just harmless, good fun, but I beg you to consider it from a (trusting) small child’s view. The idea of Santa is incredibly wonderful: a hero who loves them and who uses his great powers to bring them gifts! What a life-shattering thing it is for a child to find that their cherished beliefs were lies! If this sort of thing happens enough, will they believe you when you tell them about God?
Third, we must give them hope for the future based on lasting truths, balanced with the facts of our and their shortcomings and failures. We do this slowly (and lovingly) as they mature and their understanding is ready for those truths. We should not puff up their self esteem by giving them a false view of themselves (Proverbs 29:3), their parents, or the world around them. Instead we should let them understand their true worth that is based on the fact that we love them, God loves them, and they were created for a unique and special purpose. They will thus have a realistic world view.

This leads us into the subject of the present culture of over-worrying about our children’s self esteem. Contrary to what they are telling you, the methodology used by many of today’s child psychologists, councilors, and curriculum’s will destroy – not improve – a child’s self esteem. Self esteem (self worth) has to be built on truth (reality), not on fantasy, because when that house of cards falls it will crush the child. The child will (without correction) end up either depressed, angry, or in some degree of megalomania. Witness the rising tide of suicide, murder, and cruelty in our society – especially among our children.

One thing that concerns me the most is the fact that I see parents doing these things to their children – from infancy on – without even realizing it, or, thinking that they are doing the right thing for the child that they love. This is especially true of “Super Hero” worship. “WHOA!”, you say, “Super heroes are just fun make-believe, not having anything to do with worship.” (Wow, I can feel the heat of some readers’ anger already as I write this!) Please, just hear me out and see if you agree in the end.

What is a “Super Hero”, those comic book (and now big screen) characters like “Superman”, “Spiderman”, and “Wonder Woman”, among many, many others? What do they represent? We are led to believe they represent goodness and justice, but if we look closely (and, yes, critically) they actually represent the idea that ‘might makes right’. They are also representations of ancient false gods. Compare them to the pantheon of Greek gods, Norse gods, and others. You will find them all to be modernized versions of these same false gods, with the addition of cool-looking modern outfits and gadgets. We will discuss this more later.

Whatever they are, they are what we are encouraging our children to hold up as heroes and role models. They have god-like powers, yet they never mention the one true God or give Him the glory for defeating evil. They speak of what is right, but not of what is righteous. There is a difference, as man has his idea of what is right, but God defines what is righteous, as only a true God can. More on this later.
If you observe – from an objective viewpoint – children at play who are enamored with “super heroes”, you will notice certain tendencies come out. First, the play is about violence and domination. Second, the child puts themselves in the role of the (violent and dominating) “super hero”. [Please note: anyone who knows me will tell you that I have no problem handling bad guys with violence when it is absolutely necessary, so I’m not coming from a “Christians must always be milk toast” position.] And, third, in this role they will treat adults or any other child as the bad guys or the ones needing to be saved by them.

So, what then? We have gone from Santa Claus, who uses his powers to magically deliver gifts to the world’s children to the super hero who uses god-like strength and abilities to fight the evil super-villain, who also possesses god-like strength and abilities. See a spiritual theme here? Either way we lead our small children to believe in a fantasy world that is not based on truth. That all said, we can now discuss why this leads to worship of these god-like beings by our children.

Beings such as these are awe-inspiring. If they can create a sense of awe in us adults (why do the films make so much money?), how much more so in a small child?! Let’s define that term, “awe”, to better understand what it is. My old Webster’s New World Dictionary defines “awe” as:

1. a mixed feeling of reverence, fear, and wonder, caused by something majestic, sublime, sacred, etc.
2. the power of inspiring intense fear, or fearful reverence
3. terror, dread

Additionally, it says this:

“Awe refers to a feeling of fearful or profound respect or wonder inspired by the greatness, superiority, grandeur, etc., of a person or thing and suggests an immobilizing effect. Synonyms are reverence and veneration”

Hey, is it only me, or are we describing the way we should feel about God Almighty? Awe, when applied to someone you feel is good and wish to emulate, evokes worship. When we, as parents, hold up such beings to our children as wonderful we are encouraging our children to worship them, even though we have not said so outright.

Aside from worship, are these imaginary or false beings what we want our children to have as heroes, really? Is it not preferable to have real heroes? Who should their heroes be? Well, a hero is someone who puts their own well being and comfort aside in order to help someone else. This is the definition of love! Shouldn’t YOU be the hero in your child’s life – a real (true), living, breathing, flesh-and-blood, day-in/day-out hero? Who else loves that child more, and is willing to give all for them than you? (Well, there is One – God Himself). Your child needs you to be his or her daily present hero, as you lead them to the Ultimate Hero who will never leave them or forsake them. They do NOT need – and they are indeed damaged by – false heroes born of pagan gods and fantasy. These “heroes” never really save anyone except in comic books and movies. Their self esteem will only be damaged by the eventual realization that they can never become like these fake “super heroes”. They will realize they are weak, impotent, and without hope, unless their heroes are those that love them and teach them to be real heroes to others through the same agency: love.

Telling a child they are “awesome” is giving them worship along with a false hope of who they are. We are not gods, yet the One True God loves us enough that He gave Himself for us, and wants us to be like Him in loving others. This is true heroism, not beating the hell out of someone we view as against us.
Now, speaking strictly to Christians, you are teaching your children idol-worship when you bring these worldly “super heroes” into your home. Idolatry is placing something created above the Creator in worship or veneration. I speak from experience, as I have struggled in the past with elevating the female form, which I see as God’s highest physical creation, above God in my life. We can make any created thing into an idol, and are warned repeatedly in scripture not to do so. Idolatry is viewed very harshly by God. Get these things out of your house and out of your child’s life. Idolatry is hatred against God and hatred against the child you are damaging. Children are a gift of God, and “super hero” worship/adulation is NOT bringing that child up in the fear and admonition of the Lord (Ephesians 6:3).

If we are to be “Casting down imaginations, and every high thing that exalteth itself against the knowledge of God, and bringing into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ” (2 Corinthians 10:5), does that not start with our own household? Indeed, look at the Apostle Paul’s view of denominationalism:

Now I beseech you, brethren, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that ye all speak the same thing, and that there be no divisions among you; but that ye be perfectly joined together in the same mind and in the same judgment.
For it hath been declared unto me of you, my brethren, by them which are of the house of Chloe, that there are contentions among you.
Now this I say, that every one of you saith, I am of Paul; and I of Apollos; and I of Cephas; and I of Christ.
Is Christ divided? was Paul crucified for you? or were ye baptized in the name of Paul?
– 1Corinthians 1:10-13

Why is this relevant? It is relevant because names are important, and in whose name something is done is important. The names of those we exalt are important, so lets look at these “super heroes” names for clues about who they are:

  • Super MAN – he is man, but a SUPERior one, worthy of glory because of his superiority. He does not need or seek God’s help.
  • SpiderMAN – he is nothing as mere man, but when his DNA is corrupted by combining with that of a spider he is now more powerful and better than the way he was created by God. He does not need or ask for help from God.
  • Wonder WOMAN – she is a SUPERior woman, with magical, god-like powers.She glories in her own accomplishments, neither giving glory to or needing help from the One True God.

From the DC Comics wiki site about Wonder Woman:

“Diana is the daughter of Queen Hippolyta, the first child born on Paradise Island in the three thousand year history that the immortal Amazons lived there. The Amazons had been created around 1200 B.C. when the Greek goddesses drew forth the souls of all women who had been murdered by men. One soul was left behind, the one that would be born as Diana. That soul originally belonged to the unborn daughter of the first woman murdered by a man (whom Hippolyta was the reincarnation of). In the late 20th Century, Hippolyta was instructed to mold some clay from the shores of Paradise Island into the form of a baby girl. Six members of the Greek Pantheon then bonded the soul to the clay, giving it life. Each of the six also granted Diana a gift: Demeter, great strength; Athena, wisdom and courage; Artemis, a hunter’s heart and a communion with animals; Aphrodite, beauty and a loving heart; Hestia, sisterhood with fire; Hermes, speed and the power of flight.”

All these characters glorify man instead of God, but not ordinary men, only superior, or evolved men – not normal people like your child. They all have powers that, being physically impossible, suggest help from the spiritual realm. Some, with super-human strength and abilities equate to Zeus and Thor. Wonder Woman is no other than Diana, the Greek goddess of the hunt (see http://paganwiccan.about.com/od/romandeities/p/Diana-Goddess-Of-The-Hunt.htm). Spiderman mixes man with another creature, as do the Hindu gods and goddesses. All these false gods/ super heroes have weaknesses and failings because they are still part human. To paraphrase the “Hulk” in the 2010 movie ‘The Avengers’, they are puny gods, not worthy of your child’s adoration. Alternatively, the one true God is just that: truly God, all powerful, all knowing, all wise, and worthy of our worship. Yeshua the Christ is not just a man infused with god-like powers, He is instead 100% man PLUS 100% God. Now THAT is a super hero! He had the power to instantly destroy all His enemies, but chose instead to give them a chance to repent and come to Him as friends. That time period is limited however, and when he returns He will be taking no prisoners. Those that oppose Him will be destroyed.

Still think “super heroes” are not about things spiritual? If you do some digging you will find much more information along these lines. In simply going to the Dccomics.com website you can see the parade of superhero characters and info about them. For some of you it might be a bit of a surprise, as these characters are now portrayed as being rougher, darker, “bad-asses” than the clean-cut genteel ones they used to be. What are these “super heroes”? They are saviors. Being false gods, they are false saviors, unlike Yeshua the Christ, the ultimate, complete, and final Savior.

Yeshua our Messiah is TRUTH. Spiderman is a LIE. Teach your children the Truth, and they will be a blessing to you in your old age. Teach them lies and they will be a curse unto you.

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2 Comments on “Self-esteem and Super-Heroes: Are we harming our children?”

  1. Kaelien · July 29th, 2014 at 4:48 pm

    Bravo.

  2. Laura · October 7th, 2015 at 9:05 pm

    Ditto – Bravo. Thank you. I will be including some of these thoughts in a bible study on self un-esteem and idolatry.

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