The disappearance of certain sayings from our culture provides some insight as to why there’s so much wrong in the world today. One of these sayings is: Say what you mean and mean what you say. Basically, this refers to integrity. Put what you think into what you say, and put what you say into action. The problem is that this presupposes somebody thinks in the first place. An independent and rational thinker is in a position to either say what he thinks, or not; to do what he thinks, or not. As fewer people emerge into young adulthood as critical, objective and independent thinkers, this saying has less and less relevance.
It’s odd to live in a time and place where there’s so much emphasis on self-esteem and yet few of the experts on the subject even know what it means. The widespread assumption is that self-esteem means feeling, not thinking. Given this fact, it’s no wonder that the widespread policy is, “Do what you feel.” The only people who oppose this policy are the ones who say it’s bad to be selfish. They assume that feeling is selfish, while its alternative — rational thought — is presumably selfless. Yet thinking advances the individual’s life first and foremost. Thinking gives rise to pleasant and healthy emotions. Thinking serves the individual, and as the individual benefits, of course you end up with a better society and culture overall. So those conservative types who condemn subjectivism as “selfish” have got it just as wrong as the Oprah-ites who run through life feeling whatever they feel like and calling it self-enhancing “spirituality.” Bottom line here: Self-esteem arises from thought. Feelings only come later.