May I answer the question for you? Yes, you are and so am I. The real discussion is not whether we have narcissistic tendencies, but are we battling them. This is, of course, a human problem and not a denominational one. Though this series is aimed at those who are, or have been, part of the Independent Baptist world, this subject extends far beyond it. Those in it struggle here not because they are Independent Baptists, but because they are flesh and blood and join in the human condition. In that it is a challenge for us all, it affects every group of people including those in Christian circles. So that calls for a word here.
Narcissism as a term for our malady traces back to Narcissus in Greek Mythology. Its essence as a concept, though, goes back to Eden. Narcissus was a young handsome chap who caught a reflection of himself in a pond. He was so captivated by his own reflection that he fell in love with himself. This love affair grew until the captivated Narcissus fell in the pond and drowned. Whatever you think of Greek mythology, can you think of a better, or more accurate, story for being impressed and infatuated with yourself?
This excessively growing love that is narcissism has been described as “an unbounded admiration of self.” As bad as it has always been, it is clearly a growing issue of the Last Days: “For men shall be lovers of their own selves, covetous, boasters, proud, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, unthankful, unholy,” (II Timothy 3:2).
Being in a church setting, or a Christian home, or in a room all by yourself, is no guarantee to avoid narcissism. A preacher could look over his sermon notes and think…wow, this is awesome. A singer could come to believe that applause actually proved something. A pastor might start believing and openly proclaiming how great his ministry is…the best in town, or maybe the state. A volunteer might come to believe the church’s future is fully on his back.
Our teaching or preaching may become overloaded with stories where we are the hero. Beyond the little stories of things we have observed, our stories become ever more the tale of one rescuing the world, of one clearly standing above others. Just before we fall into the pond staring at our own reflection, our story grows more relevant as we speak than His story.
It will show up in our daily lives as well. We might blog and think ours has more potential to change the world than others. (Ouch). Our Facebook or Twitter statuses grow beyond keeping up with each other to a need to status because those readers need to hear from us. It’s not the posting that is an issue, but the thought processes as we hit “send”.
The answer is in God’s Word. The reflection that you see in the mirror of its pages gives a more vivid and accurate image of us than do those ripples across the pond. If you look at it long enough you won’t fall in love with yourself, but with Christ Who is worthy of the deep love we narcissists usually give ourselves.
Perhaps, narcissism isn’t so surprising after all. I was reading the other day that we are made in the image of God and that God is worthy of praise. Somewhere inside of we who are in His image is a need for that praise. There is, however, two problems: 1) We are not the Almighty even if in His image, and 2) We are corrupted by sin and incredibly unworthy. We are marred and we view our lives as touched-up photos.
We must strive to keep the accurate, biblical view of ourselves ever before our eyes or we will never do any worthwhile ministry. We must stay in love with Christ, and fulfilled by Him, so that we need not believe such hopelessly ridiculous things about ourselves. The world could get along without us without missing one beat. On the other hand, it cannot do without Him.
So, I pray–Lord, help me keep the narcissist within at bay.
Find all articles in the series here.