When I first overheard someone use the term ‘narcissist’, I thought it was probably some kind of religion. During my tenure in that demographic strata we currently refer to as ‘the millennials’, using a word like narcissist might have felt natural in some university psych department, but it would never have found its way into a conversation with any of the guys I hung out with. A lot has changed since those days, and both the word and the kind of personality it describes have become all too commonplace in America today. A recent study declared that today’s ‘millennials are the most narcissistic generation ever’, and supportive evidence is not only not hard to find, it is unavoidable.
Things Have Changed ~
Admittedly, I grew up in a simpler time. Weddings had an instantly identifiable bride and groom. Babies were born, and continued to live as either boys or girls, and the whole range of options to deal with the gender question on any form was adequately covered with two check boxes. Wishing for some vestige of those days to return would prod some to accuse me of standing in the way of progress. But on the other hand, someone once defined progress as the process of taking things that are inherently simple and making them hopelessly complex. I think whoever said that was on to something.
‘Progress’ Doesn’t Always Look Like Progress ~
Our twisted definition of progress has led to the invention and successful marketing of the ‘selfie stick’. That in itself explains a lot. We have also progressed to the point of demanding a whole list of options to choose from when dealing with gender designations and identity preferences. Beyond that, the gurus manipulating the current crop of millennials require that their fragile disciples protect themselves from the corrupting influence of rational thought and honest debate by clinging obsessively to their growing lexicon of intolerable ideas, expressions, political positions, food choices, and religious beliefs. Thus, the forms that ask such sensitive questions as race and gender these days have to be constantly revised, because the box somebody checked yesterday may be totally irrelevant today. The rampant epidemic of narcissism underlies this kind of thinking, and a few observations are worth mentioning.
- The narcissism that is openly promoted and nurtured by academia and the entertainment world as a state of mind that is positive and desirable is, in reality, a malignant condition.
- Narcissism exerts destructive impact on every interpersonal relationship it touches, and its influence diminishes the overall social stability of the culture at large.
- Narcissistic obsession with self-interests demands the rejection of any potentially conflicting viewpoints of others and considers the needs of others as irrelevant.
- The narcissist’s persistent focus on self-promotion, self-protection, and self-satisfaction leads to emotional atrophy, relational manipulation, and ultimate internal isolation.
- The life and teaching of Jesus Christ not only stands in diametric opposition to the malignant philosophical tenets and behavioral practices of narcissism, it represents its proven remedy.
Jesus, the ‘Anti-Narcissist’ ~
Jesus was a blatant contradiction of anything remotely akin to selfishness. In the midst of His agonizing last hours on earth, He turned His attention to the needs of others. Even with His body nailed to a cross and helpless, Jesus reached out with His heart and His words to address the needs of others. How different, how foreign, and how repulsive it would sound in our heads if we replaced “Father, forgive them…” with some wimpish plea for pity and a whining declaration of the injustice of it all.
‘Good News’ – His Attitude Still Changes Things ~
In his Philippian letter, Paul admonishes all of us to “Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ, Jesus” (Phil. 2:5 NKJV). No one had a more valid reason to focus on himself than the Son of God, yet in spite of that, He devoted everything He did to the needs of others. His followers have taken that attitude, and along with His ‘good news’, have brought more positive change to more people than the world has ever known.
Like light, if love cannot extend beyond itself, then it cannot fulfill its only real purpose. When practiced as God designed, it carries with it the ultimate recipe for individual hope, corporate harmony, and social stability. Narcissism strips love of all hope of fulfillment by turning everything akin to it, including worship, inward, and the results are a personal and relational catastrophe. And come to think of it, my initial thought that narcissism was probably some kind of religion was, no doubt, pretty accurate after all.
© 2017 Gallagher’s Pen, Ronald L. Gallagher, Ed.S. All rights reserved.
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Brilliant, I’ve met a few real narcissists in my life. Thank you for reminding me to focus on others first, and not myself. My favorite line, “Like light, if love cannot extend beyond itself, then it cannot fulfill its only real purpose.” May I quote you?
Sorry to be so slow getting a response back to you Cherrilynn, but would not avoid offering my gratitude for your gracious comment. You can, of course, quote anything I ever write that find worth repeating. I am blessed above measure that folks read my stuff and that some are kind enough to share their thoughts. May God continue to bless each of us in our efforts to keep His truth alive and the Light shining.