Reflections on Self-Esteem
Animals: Tradition - Philosophy - Religion Article from


Stephen Kaufman, M.D., Christian Vegetarian Association (CVA)

Reflections on Self-Esteem

We have a strong need for self-esteem, in part because a sense of self-esteem is a salve against our innate fear of death. However, know that we have shortcomings, many of which we do our best to hide from the public and perhaps even our closest friends and loved ones. Those who believe in God generally believe that they can’t hide their shortcomings from God. In that case, are they really worthy of God’s love and concern? If not, what will happen when they die? Even among atheists, self-esteem correlates with a sense of immortality, for example by virtue of their being remembered in a positive light.
There are many people who claim to have complete confidence that they will go to heaven after they die, but I think uncertainties often gnaw at their psyches. The need to feel worthy and righteous can be a strong motivator to blame other individuals for our shortcomings. How often, when we make a mistake, is our first response to try to lay the blame elsewhere? In the bitter disputes we’ve had, have we not convinced ourselves that the other person(s) are entirely to blame, and that we are totally innocent victims? Wouldn’t an honest appraisal normally demonstrate that the blame should be shared, though not necessarily equally.
Animals are frequent victims of the blame game, in part they can’t defend themselves against baseless accusations. Thus, farmers cut off the tails of crowded pigs on the grounds that otherwise the pigs would engage in the “vice” of tail-biting; hunters demonize and kill members of predator species who compete with hunters for “game”; and meat-eaters relieve their conflicted feelings about eating animals by holding farmed animals, such as chickens, turkeys, pigs, cows, and other animals, in contempt.
As long as we evaluate ourselves and gain self-esteem through the domination of others – and eating their bodies is an extreme expression of domination – there will not be peace among humans nor between humans and the rest of God’s Creation. The realm of God “on earth as in heaven” is only possible if we can find ways to find self-esteem that don’t involve harming other individuals. I think Christianity has an answer, which I will discuss next week.

Go on to: A Scientific and Christian Approach to Self-Esteem
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