The Age of Narcissism: Putting Self in its Proper Place

Keith Campbell, Head of the Department of Psychology at the University of Georgia, has come to a conclusion. After 15 years of research, the professor says narcissism is on the rise. “A lot of the cultural changes have to do with self-esteem and putting the self at the center of things.” (Quote from The University of Georgia Magazine, March 2012)

A 24-year study by Jean M. Twenge inspected the rate of narcissism in college students. The Narcissistic Personality Inventory (NPI), a 40-question survey, was administered to 16,475 college students in the United States between 1982 and 2006. It was found that there has been a steady increase in the rate of narcissism. Almost 2/3 of the sample had a higher rate of narcissism than the 1982 average. (Wikipedia)

Webster defines Narcissism as “excessive self-admiration or self-love.” The term has a wide range of meanings from simply a personality trait to mental illness. Is this the Age of Narcissism? Webster defines self as “the essential being of one person as distinct from any other.” Since self is integral to our identity, how are we to deal with its negatives?

In Luke 10:27, Jesus admonishes us to love God first and then our neighbors as ourselves. (Luke 10:27) There is a healthy self-love that flows from our love for God. But then Jesus also says, “If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me.” (Luke 9:23) Nowhere are we told to die to self, but we are told to deny self as the control center of our lives. How do we do that? We dethrone it!

I’m an extrovert sanguine. And yet, I spend a lot of time in isolation. I love writing but I love people, as well. Unfortunately, I don’t get the opportunity to mix with other writers very often. Therefore, when I recently attended a writer’s workshop, I was like a kid in a candy store. As a result, I ate too much candy and got a little hyper. In other words, I talked too much.

As a result, I badgered myself for two days. Why did you talk so much? Why didn’t you wait for others to speak first? I couldn’t shake the guilt and regret. Why was I so miserable? I finally realized it was because I wanted everyone to like me. Let’s face it, sanguine friends. Isn’t it okay to want people to like us? Not really. God created us in His image—not to draw people to ourselves—but to Him.

Let’s consider as an example how Jesus dealt with self. He claimed he could do nothing by himself. Although He was God Incarnate, His purpose and desire was to please the One who sent Him. (John 5:30-31) How then are we to flourish in our personalities? Unlike Jesus, we all have weaknesses and idiosyncrasies. Wouldn’t it be nice if God could infuse us with the grace to rise above the demands and desires of self?

He can! It’s the Holy Spirit’s job to convict and cleanse us of the sins propagated by self. What’s our part? To continually choose to dethrone one and submit to the other. In Romans 12:1, we’re called to live the crucified life. How? By offering ourselves to God as living sacrifices.

                       We’re surrounded by the stained glass windows of our faith. We wear gold crosses washed clean from the blood and grime of reality. The cross wasn’t a pretty place to behold. Neither is the altar upon which we offer ourselves to God. It’s painful and messy. Perhaps that’s why we keep jumping off it.

How do we put self in its proper place? We trust the Crucified One to live His resurrected life in and through us. In closing, contemplate with me the words of Paul as depicted in Galatians 2:20 from The Message.

“. . . I have been crucified with Christ. My ego is no longer central. It is no longer important that I appear righteous before you or have your good opinion, and I am no longer driven to impress God. Christ lives in me. The life you see me living is not ‘mine,’ but it is lived by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me. I am not going to go back on that. Is it not clear to you that to go back to that old rule-keeping, peer-pleasing religion would be an abandonment of everything personal and free in my relationship with God? I refuse to do that, to repudiate God’s grace. If a living relationship with God could come by rule-keeping, then Christ died unnecessarily.”

                                                                                                           

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Comments
4 Responses to “The Age of Narcissism: Putting Self in its Proper Place”
  1. Elizabeth Hall says:

    Great article, Liz! Way to go. Keep up the fabulous writing! Love you, my sanguine friend!

  2. Jeannie says:

    Just had a conversation with my teenager about Narcissim. Thank you for your wisdom!

    • Thanks friend for checking in. I’m glad the post on Narcissism served as an opener for conversation. It’s a good thing for teenagers today to contemplate, don’t you think?

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