Addressing young adults in a Church Educational System fireside, President James E. Faust presented six keys for keeping a healthy self-esteem.
Besides those filling the newly renovated Salt Lake Tabernacle where President Faust spoke Sunday, May 6, many other young adults heard him, by satellite broadcast to stake centers around the world, repeat the prayer of an unknown Englishman: "O God, help me to hold a high opinion of myself."
President Faust, second counselor in the First Presidency, quoted President Harold B. Lee's reaction to the Englishman's plea: "That should be the prayer of every soul; not an abnormally developed self-esteem that becomes haughtiness, conceit, or arrogance, but a righteous self-respect that might be defined as 'belief in one's own worth, worth to God, and worth to man."'
President Faust continued, "Indeed, the self-esteem that I speak of this evening is not blind, arrogant, vain, self-love, but rather a self-esteem that is self-respecting, honest and without conceit and is born of inner peace and strength.
"Self-esteem goes to the very heart of our personal growth and accomplishment. It is the glue that holds together our self-reliance, our self-control, our self-approval or disapproval, and keeps all self-defense mechanisms secure. It is a protection against excessive self-deception, self-distrust, self-reproach and plain old-fashioned selfishness."
He suggested six keys to keeping self-esteem healthy.
First key: keeping free agency.
"This means," said President Faust, "that we must not surrender self-control, nor yield to habits that bind, to addiction that enslaves, nor to conduct that destroys.
"To keep our free agency we must avoid the deadly traps and pitfalls from which there can be sometimes no escape. Some, having been ensnared, spend the best years of their life trying to escape, and so exhaust themselves in the process that in the end, even though they ultimately find themselves freed from the addiction, they are spent, burned out, their nerves shot and their brains dulled forever.
"How much better off we would be, and how much more complete our free agency, if we were able to say with the psalmist: 'I have refrained my feet from every evil.' " (See Psalm 119:101.)
Second key: humility.
"I mean the humility that comes with inner strength and peace," President Faust said. "It is the humility that allows us to accept and live with our own warts without cosmetics to hide them."
He told of a successful, spiritual friend who walked with a limp and had a misshapen spine.
"These physical defects were so well hidden by natural goodness, warmth and great charm that they were as nothing in the total man. My friend accepts his physical defects with humility and strength, and completely compensates for them with his natural personality."
Humility also means being teachable, President Faust added.
Third key: honesty.
"Honesty begins with being true to one's own self," President Faust said.
Sitting in a courtroom during a custody hearing, he said, he heard the mother of three children accused of having her home in shambles with a dirty kitchen as witnessed by a caseworker. Taking the stand, the woman admitted, "Yes, my house was certainly a mess that day." President Faust said, "Her honesty obviously surprised even the judge and he leaned over the bench and asked, 'What do you mean, "That day?""'
The woman explained that her home was the way it was when the caseworker came because she had spent the morning bottling two bushels of peaches. Although she tried to be a good housekeeper, she said with three children she couldn't possibly keep the house clean all the time. Due to her frankness and candor, she prevailed in the case.
President Faust said, "Being true to one's own self is the essence of honesty, and a keystone of self-esteem."
Fourth key: love of work.
President Faust told about the most gifted athlete at his university. As a hurdler, when he was asked to run a longer distance in training, if another athlete passed him toward the end he would quit and not finish. "His natural talent and ability was such that he never had to extend himself to excel," President Faust said. And although he went on to play professional football, he ended up in a failed marriage and ultimately died from the effects of drugs and alcohol.
President Faust said, "In my experience there are very few people who are of true genius. While there are those who are gifted, most of the world's work and some of the greatest contributions come from ordinary people with a talent which they have developed."
Fifth key: the ability to love.
"The commandment given by the Savior was to love others and yourself," President Faust said.
Sixth key: the love of God.
Transgression is devastating to self-esteem, President Faust said, but can be overcome by repentance.
"I am grateful for this principle and pray none will hesitate to find the peace that comes from repentance. It is important to remember and never forget that all of us, male and female, were created in the image of God and created by God. Mankind is the noblest of all creations."
He added, "The day will come when we will all have to account to God for what we have done with that portion of divinity which is within us."
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