When you see narcissism in the title of an article, does it immediately attract your attention? Do you wonder if perhaps you might have those tendencies? Maybe because someone, something, your conscience, God has prompted this awareness that perhaps there might be something to it in relation to you.
The definition for “narcissism” is the following:
- excessive or erotic interest in oneself and one’s physical appearance.
synonyms: vanity, self-love, self-admiration, self-absorption, self-obsession, conceit, self-centeredness, self-regard, egotism, egoism“his emotional development was hindered by his mother’s narcissism”
- Psychologyextreme selfishness, with a grandiose view of one’s own talents and a craving for admiration, as characterizing a personality type.
- Psychoanalysisself-centeredness arising from failure to distinguish the self from external objects, either in very young babies or as a feature of mental disorder.
Narcissism is an extreme form of self-absorption and self-obsession. It is classified as an actual personality disorder: NPD (Narcissistic Personality Disorder).
Selfishness though is what leads to the downward spiral into narcissism. Selfishness is something towards which all humans have a tendency. What is “selfishness”? According to dictionary.com, it is the following:
Narcissism isn’t a word that any of us want to have associated with us. Yet, I believe its main cause, selfishness, is something that all of us can struggle with at times — some on a large scale and then others perhaps on a lesser scale.
When we look at our motives, truly look at them — why we do the things we do — we find that often our actions are prompted more for self-gratification, avoidance of that which would “hurt” ourselves, escape, self-fulfillment.
Even our “love” can be very self-motivated. That’s why when our relationships start requiring more work then pleasure, interactions become “ugly”.
Our parenting can be motivated out of what we “get” from our kids — the fulfillment they give us.
Watch out though when those “sweet” little cuties rebel or publicly act in a way that brings humiliation. Watch out when there is more work involved then self-gratification. That’s when we see our true motives and heart revealed.
God has a way of gently convicting me when self begins to take precedence. It’s always humbling to see the ugliness of ulterior motives, the insincerity of prideful accomplishments, the judgmentalism of self-centered “righteousness” and religion.
A lot of “good” things can be accomplished with nice-sounding labels but with a heart that is full of selfishness at its core. Because these things are “good” things they may look attractive, receive approval, and even appear to be blessed for a time.
But the things “sown” in the flesh will ultimately reap fleshly results.
Self-centered religion does not glorify God. It seeks to glorify self, to establish self as the god who is “good enough”, a “moral” citizen, accepted by all.
The truth is we have no merits, no true righteousness, no pure motives, no sacrificial love, no selflessness, except in Christ.
It is impossible to not seek to please or worship self without the all-consuming Gospel power of grace.
It is Christ alone and His grace at work in our lives that convicts and compels us to look outside of self, to serve in joyful abandonment of self, and to find the freedom that comes when we are no longer chained to the all-consuming ugliness of the god of self.
We can do all kinds of things to attempt to avoid being consumed by narcissism. We can fool ourselves into thinking we are selfless when we do good works, but if we do them to avoid confronting the true state of our hearts, then self is still our god.
It is God alone who can reveal the true intentions of our hearts. His Word and Spirit have a way of “cutting” through the pretty words, the artificial works, the commercial-worthy smiles, the accolades, the religious phrases to the true conditions of our hearts.
In a time-suspending, illuminating moment, God has a way of removing our blinders. He does it not to shame us but to bring us into freedom — freedom from the imprisoning, debilitating clutches of self.
Freedom from self enables us to serve others with sincerity. Freedom from self frees us from preoccupation with our own needs, hurts, goals, passions in order to be able to truly see the hearts, wounds, needs of others. Freedom from self humbles us enough to be able to respond to others with forgiveness and grace. Freedom from self gives us the courage to do what is right rather than to live in fear of others.
As humbling and convicting as it may be, let’s allow God’s Spirit to remove our “blinders” and to purify our hearts so that we can be free to live a life that is God-centered and not self-centered.