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The Big Ego Trip

By Glynn Harrison
October 2013 | Review by Ray Evans


After decades of trying to feel good about ourselves, why do we still hunger for meaning and significance? In this provocative book, Glynn Harrison argues that self-esteem ideology has led us down a psychological cul-de-sac that causes more harm than good, and today's culture of narcissism and entitlement is the pay-off. Healthy psychological development and fulfilment come from seeing the self as part of something bigger. To achieve the sense of significance that we long for, we need a worldview capable of generating meaning and purpose. The Christian gospel calls us beyond the goal of self-esteem, encouraging us to stop judging ourselves, embrace our identity in God's big story and look outwards to the pursuit of his glory. This is the only sure foundation for biblically based optimism, confidence and personal resilience.

  • Publisher: IVP
  • ISBN: 978-1-84474-620-0
  • Pages: 224
  • Price: 9.99
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Book Review

The big ego trip — finding true significance in a culture of self-esteem
Glynn Harrison
IVP, 224 pages, £9.99, ISBN: 978-1-84474-620-0
Star Rating : 4

Glynn Harrison, an experienced Christian psychiatrist, pinpoints what has become a huge cultural development in the Western world, namely the influence of ‘the self-esteem movement’. He sees what he calls ‘boosterism’ as an often baneful influence, in fields such as educational policy, child rearing and criminology.
    He also demonstrates that many parts of the church have been unhelpfully influenced by thinking that stresses the need of an individual to learn how to love him or herself, before being able to love others or even love God.
    He shows that much ‘popular’ theology reflects a ‘me-centredness’ that focuses attention on one’s own ego needs, while often cleverly masquerading as ‘Christian’ teaching.
    The author starts by showing, convincingly to my mind, that ‘self-esteem’ teaching has gradually shaped the outlook of a couple of generations of Westerners. He shows that the inflated claims for this emphasis lack well-grounded scientific support. Indeed studies he refers to demonstrate that this emphasis has failed.
    Far from solving behavioural and social problems, where boosting the individual’s self-belief has occurred (unrelated to actual achievements), there have been harmful and negative effects.
    He then moves to a careful and biblically informed description of how the gospel is the basis for a proper, accurate and healthy sense of self. The gospel indeed frees us from a self-absorption, both positively (pride is humbled) and negatively (the ‘poor old me’ preoccupation is exposed), to have a Christ-pleasing and other-serving mindset.
    The big ego trip is well researched and contains some great and telling quotes and good theological insights. The subject addressed is a massive issue that is confusing and harming many millions of our fellow citizens. It has also become a source of much shallow and immature Christian ‘sound-bite’ teaching.
    This important book needs to be widely read, especially by those who teach the faith or teach children in any way. I heartily recommend it.
Ray Evans

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