Religious beliefs and doctrines that promote low self-esteem like “being unworthy in the sight of God” have borne fruit in African-American communities all across America. They are harming the people in our communities and cause black to people struggle.
What is not recognized is we are participants in our own demise and willingly but unconsciously use psychological tools designed to limit self-esteem and individual self-expression.
The ideas expressed in the quote above are the very essence of what has been taught to us as adults and what we lovingly teach our children on a daily basis.
According to Branden healthy self-esteem has two components. Self-efficacy; which is a basic sense of confidence in the face of life’s challenges. and Self-respect; which is the sense of being worthy of happiness.
Doctrines of brokenness
Both of these components are preached against every Sunday in Christian Churches across America.
Those of us that grew up in the Christian Church were routinely taught doctrines like:
- You are unworthy in the sight of God
- You are born in sin and are sinful by nature
- As a sinner, you are broken and need to be fixed
- If you have ANY value it’s not because of anything you have done, or could ever do, it’s only because of God’s loving grace
- you are weak and in need of the strength that can only come from a savior
All of these doctrines have been taught as a foundation of what it means to be humble and righteous in the African American community.
But, in the black Church, the fruits of the message coupled with the historical images of worship have had a devastating effect. These doctrines are never discussed in the churches and how they affect the very essence of an individual and the community at large.
There is a realization that Africans in America need to build a community, an economy with viable businesses, and rebuild families within our communities. Everybody agrees on these points.
Exceptions don’t build a nation
But how can a person start a business when the basic beliefs you are taught are in conflict with the attitude needed to develop a business?
How can you mentally survive the ups and downs of a startup when you believe that you are unworthy to even be happy and successful?
How can you even start a business when you believe that you are born defective in some way and can’t even fix the defect without an outside savior to intervene? What happens mentally when things go wrong and the savior and the perceived oppressor look the same?
How can an adolescent that makes a mistake in their life recover when they believe they have a sinful nature? In other words, their defect is the essence and nature of who they are.
Do they develop a mindset that will empower them to make life changes or do they gravitate towards solutions that will mask their pain? You already know the answer. Look in black communities around the nation and you see drug use is rampant and hopelessness the order of the day.
It’s the legacy of religious doctrines passed on to slaves to keep us in bondage. We don’t even question the effects of what we have been taught and what we lovingly teach our children.
Overcoming these toxic Christian doctrines becomes the heroic exception, not the rule. Exceptions don’t build a nation.
Arguing for your defect
People that believe they are lacking or broken do not become high achievers. The Black community has these beliefs reinforced in most churches every Sunday.
A whole nation of people that believe they are broken and need someone to fix them.
A nation of people that believe they are unworthy.
A nation of people that believe they are sinful and have a broken nature.
A nation of people that are taught they are NOTHING and of NO VALUE but God loves them in spite of themselves. You’re not special, just blessed and lucky.
A nation of people waiting on a savior to swoop down and smite their enemies.
These beliefs lower self-esteem and cause self-loathing. People of low self-esteem fear failure. In their mind failure becomes proof OF their defects rather than an opportunity to learn and grow. Fear of failure alone will stop most people from ever stepping out of their comfort zone to start a business.
Many black people will argue for their defects believing that it makes them more spiritual. “God saved a wretch like me”, “I’m nothing without God.”
How do you build yourself, a business, or a community arguing for your defects?
If you can’t believe in and accept yourself how can you accept that you can fail but not be a failure?
It’s not just about business building in the community either.
Unworthy Men and Women
How do you build healthy relationships when you see yourself as broken and in need of a savior. Black women have this idea constantly pounded into them every Sunday. You NEED a man. You NEED a covering. If you don’t have a man marry Jesus.
Depression is a major issue for black women in the church. These doctrines are a major factor. To top it off getting professional help is shunned, viewed as a weakness and separation from God.
Men who are taught as being sinners, broken and unworthy are unable to relate to a woman that is self-assured, conscious of her own right to be a sovereign individual, and self-assertive because she is a threat to his diminished self-esteem and “manhood.”
There is a direct link to the abuse of women in this country and church doctrines that teach men, women should be subservient to him. To a man with low self-esteem that is regularly affirmed in the name of being humble and Godly any women with high self-esteem is a threat to his already fragile psyche.
But, the connection of female abuse, in this country, and church doctrines is pretty much ignored in the black community. Women are abused every day and the church turns their head.
People of the African diaspora hear me! As long as toxic religious church doctrines given to our slave ancestors and passed on to us are at the foundation of building ourselves and our communities, our businesses, and our relationships we will be ill-equipped to change the tide of destruction in our communities.
You cannot be at odds with the basic components of self-acceptance and build anything. You must FIRST build yourself and then the world around you will reflect that which is within.
We must get in touch with the spiritual system of our ancestors. What you now worship is a repackaged version of the knowledge and wisdom of the ancients. It was misunderstood. Believing in someone else’s understanding is killing us from the inside out.
Stop teaching our children that they are broken, weak and in need of someone else’s strength, that they are unworthy in the eyes of God to be happy and healthy. It’s destroying them before they have had a chance to move through life!
We see the fruits of that message in the condition of our communities nationwide.
Many great nations were built in Africa before colonialism. High Self-esteem, self-respect, and Self-efficacy was a major key to that success.
To continue holding on to toxic doctrines means that as a people we will succeed in spite of our beliefs not because of them. Those few that overcome the slave mentality will be the heroic exceptions.
We cannot afford to leave our brand of religion unexamined any longer. Our survival depends on us being self-assertive, conscious, and believing that we are worthy of and have the right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness in this country and around the world.