I don’t think I’ve ever used the word narcissism, but I’ve heard it used and have had a sense of what it means. In a book I’m reading (entitled Honest Worship) author Manuel Luz talks about “cultural narcissism” and “narcissism in our worship.”
My understanding of narcissism was enhanced and expanded by Luz’s reference to a book entitled The Mirror Effect: How Celebrity Narcissism Is Seducing America written by Drew Pinsky and S. Mark Young. Luz relays what Pinsky and Young note are “the seven traits classically associated with clinical narcissism” – authority, entitlement, exhibitionism, exploitativeness, self-sufficiency, superiority, and vanity.
Just reading that list of traits gives us insight into both the book by Pinsky and Young How Celebrity Narcissism Is Seducing America as well Luz’s observation about “narcissism in our worship.” Simply stated, narcissism is about focusing on oneself and putting self first before anyone else. I’ve tried to capture the idea with the title of this post giving the narcissistic priority: me, you, and everyone else.
I don’t plan to get and read The Mirror Effect, but I think the seven traits of narcissism the authors list make sense. Other descriptions that come to my mind in reading their list include egotistical, judgmental, self-centered, user of others, show-off, deserving, and demanding.
Not to be guilty of being judgmental myself, but I think all of us are aware of some celebrities (certainly not all) who exhibit these traits to some degree. And hopefully as Christians, even though we don’t always act like it, we know that worship is not about us, but God.
The issue of narcissism, however, is not just about worship and celebrities. The traits listed by Pinsky and Young show up in the lives of those who are not celebrities and in lots of places beyond worship. You and I may even exhibit these traits ourselves at times. I know I do.
Narcissism is the opposite of one of Jesus’ best known and oft quoted list of qualifications to be one of his followers: “Then he said to them all: ‘Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me’.” (Luke 9:23). Being a disciple of Jesus is about getting oneself out of the center, being willing to make sacrifices, and imitating Jesus.
The Apostle Paul presents a similar challenge in his letter to the Philippians: “Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests (only) but each of you to the interests of others (2:3 and 4). Sounds like the opposite of the seven traits of narcissism, doesn’t it?
Perhaps I should reverse the order in the title of this blog from me, you, and everyone else to everyone else, you, and me? What do you think?
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