I wonder if the Psychologists and Psychiatrists would agree with me but I believe we are engulfed in tsunami of self obsession – “narcissism”. Our blogging and Facebook posts are only the tip of the iceberg. I find I am encountering “Hitler” and “Assad” styled self belief, in otherwise ordinary people, daily.
The symptoms include the idea that they are beyond advice and criticism. An issue is always, without fail, the other person’s problem. They will defend to the death, preferably the other person’s, their right not to be criticised. They are strident in interpreting all events and actions in relation to themselves and fail to see the perspectives of others.
If I am right, and my own narcissistic tendencies tend to suggest I am, where does self obsession come from?
I would like to suggest three reasons. You may wish to add more intelligent ideas.
- As I have written previously, parents are giving children, starting at a very young age, too much choice: when they eat, what they eat, what they wear, what they do … the daily list is endless. Children are becoming wise in their own eyes. They are attributed maturity well beyond their years. In other words, some parents are setting a treacherous groundwork.
- The advertising industry lives off narcissism. It is their bread and butter. We encounter the subtle and not so subtle messages to make ourselves “No.1” hourly. Their feeding of our narcissism is relentless. Consciously or unconsciously we absorb the seductive message.
- Our hearts are wired to set our selves up as God. Our rebellious natures love the idea that we are the supreme being of our lives: we are the Captains of our destinies. We are ultimately only responsible to self. Incidentally, when for whatever reason this perspective is destroyed, one way out is, too often, suicide.
What is the antidote?
The solution is remarkably simple: Essentially “Christ”. In one fell swoop he is both the mirror that reveals the brokenness of our humanity and he also becomes our release from that brokenness and its impacts. He gives us perspective and promise.
A friend once said that we need to go to the cross, climb up and push the blood matted hair away from our Savior’s face and stare into his tortured eyes to understand the immense brokenness of our own heart, our motives, our actions, our words – our very being. The reason he was dying was for all of that and much more. Then, no longer, can we put ourselves on a pedestal of immaculate self belief. We are awoken to an amazing and confronting awareness of the depth and seeming unwashability our own corruption.
And yet, that very awareness leads us back to the same cross so that we can say in all helplessness. “Lord, Save me! Cover my brokenness with your own pure righteousness.”
To get a glimpse of that truth is a powerful antidote to the darker side of our heart as it whispers, “It is all about me”.
Another interesting aspect of this trend is the apparent self loathing which is also rife amongst individuals. This leads to addictive behaviour as the person does not see themselves as worthy when they compare themselves to others.For example they purchase the next item of clothing or make-up, or whatever the advertisers say they “need” in order to feel better about themselves.
I find this fascinating and deeply concerning; this interplay and apparent polarity between narcissism (“pride” if you like), and the dis-ownership of our own preciousness (“grace” if you like)..