According to Adler, safeguarding tendencies are a survival mechanism that people use to protect their sense of self from public criticism, and therefore, maintain their idea of self. These safeguarding tendencies make a person create what Adler refers to as, a “neurotic” lifestyle. This is whereby one displays the character one assumes will please people while keeping one’s real self hidden.
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The result of such a lifestyle is a fictional existence that withholds growth of real character in a person. This is because such a person will not accept correction or positive criticism from others, consequently, dooming him or her to repeating mistakes and not learning from them. As Proverbs 19:20 states, “Listen to advice and accept instruction, and in the end you will be wise.”
One form of safeguarding according Adler is “excuses”. This is whereby a person expresses their intention to do what would please others, and then explains why they cannot do it. Excuses help the person to protect their self-esteem by shifting the blame of their shortcomings. Lack of responsibility for one’s actions limits a person from flourishing in life as the excuses one makes offer him or her comfort in failure.
As a result, one goes about life achieving the bare minimum instead of meeting his or her potential. They therefore perform with little dedication in everything since their concern is to appeal to people and not to fulfil their role. This goes against scriptural instruction that tells us in Colossians 3:23, “Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as if you were doing it for the Lord”.
The second category of safeguarding tendencies is aggression. Adler divides aggression into depreciation, accusation, and self-accusation. Depreciation aims at putting down others or exaggerating one’s achievements to feel superior. Secondly, accusation shifts blame to others and is accompanied by revenge towards those that have wronged the person.
The person inflicts suffering to those around that he or she blames for their misfortune. Lastly, with self-accusation, the person uses feelings of guilt to make others suffer and consequently, protect their inflated sense of self. In these three components of aggression, one projects negativity to others in order to improve how they feel about themselves.
According to Mathew 7:12, Jesus tells us that we should do to others as we would have them do to us. Being kind to others helps us to build ourselves positively and grow in character, so that we can appreciate ourselves more.
However, when we are unkind to others, the negativity continues to affect our character and we are unable to view others positively. This leads to misinterpretation of other people’s actions towards us and causes one to be constantly defensive.
Finally, withdrawal is the last form of safeguarding tendencies and it involves inability to face one’s problems and running away from them. This form of safeguarding tendency leads to stalling of one’s character development such that, a person does not grow skills that allow him or her to face life’s obstacles and disappointments.
These obstacles and disappointments help in development of character, and so when one avoids dealing with them they cannot flourish in relationships with others. Facing obstacles and disappointments requires courage and faith that all will be well.
Proverbs 3:5 states that one should trust in God and not rely on one’s understanding. When one trusts in God, he or she is able to face different situations in life because they know that “all things work for the good of those who love the Lord”.
In conclusion, the safeguarding tendencies limit a person’s development of good character because he or she is enclosed in a self-constructed prison of negativity that overshadows all aspects of his or her life.