Friday, July 21, 2006

Best Line I've Heard Lately and Why

I watched Spanglish last week. I saw a couple of good reviews of it when it came out, but I never would have watched it then because it had Adam Sandler and because I figured it was likely another "Americans bad, Mexicans good" thing. But recently my husband wanted to see 50 First Dates and having, to my surprise, enjoyed it, that got rid of the first objection and I was willing to try Spanglish. (As to the second objection, there is a little of that in there, but not enough to offend even me; I thought if was more that the mother wanted to be the one who exercised influence over her daughter, not so much that America is bad.) Turns out it is pretty good, as those reviews said.

The line I mention comes in when the self-centered, selfish wife of Sandler's character has moved on to out and out adultery. Her mother guesses and tells her that if she keeps on doing what she's doing, she will lose her husband. She says a few more, needed-to-be-said lines, and turns to leave. Daughter says something like, she could always count on her to make her hate herself. Mother turns, comes back, and says gently, "Honey, lately your low self-esteem is just good common sense."

That gave me my only LOL moment in the film, and it was a good long one. See, I've been waiting for someone to say something like that for a long time now. The high self-esteem brigade would have us believe that all people should feel good about themselves all the time. But I don't think so. If you're cheating on your spouse, neglecting your children, or running con jobs on elderly pensioners, then I don't think you should feel good about yourself. If you're stealing money from your company or stealing gas from the local gas station, you've earned your low self-esteem. If you're lying to your spouse about your spending habits or to your significant other about where you spent the weekend, that niggling sense of guilt is a healthy thing, not a sign you need a self-esteem workshop. Guilt, disappointment in ourselves, or just generally feeling bad about ourselves are often deserved feelings. And they can and should be spurs to help us repent and do better.

Of course, I'm not suggesting we should hang on to those feelings after they've passed their usefulness. It is natural to have some regrets over past misdeeds, but once we have repented and done our best to correct the problem, we should let it go. Jesus didn't say to the woman taken in adultery, "Go and wallow in guilt", he said, "Go and sin no more."

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