Have you ever heard of a “Word Cloud Generator?” It’s a weighted list appearing in visual design. You upload a sentence or paragraph, and it shows you what looks like a cloud of words, and the more commonly a word is used, the bigger it appears in the cloud.
What would happen if you took all your Facebook statuses, diary entries, comments you write, etc. and put them into one of these generators? How many times do you think the word “Me,” or the Letter, “I” appear? How large would the foul language appear? Would these generators show you as comforting and compassionate, or vain and profane?
To understand selfishness in the way the Bible describes it and what it looks like in the modern age, your best description will be found in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual (DSM) [of Mental Disorders], under what is now known as “Narcissism.” What’s interesting is that Narcissism originates from Greek Mythology, let’s see if this sounds familiar to you: “According to the myth, Narcissus was a handsome and proud young man. Upon seeing his reflection on the water for the first time, he became so enamored that he could not stop gazing at his own image.”
The story is nearly identical to the fall of Lucifer, told in Ezekiel 28:17,
“Your heart was filled with pride because of all your beauty. Your wisdom was corrupted by your love of splendor. So I threw you to the ground and exposed you to the curious gaze of kings.” Granted, I’m not saying all Narcissists are Satan, but it’s evident that Satan is a Narcissist. His entire falling was a result of him taking pride in his own beauty. Should we be surprised by the similarities between stories? Not necessarily, considering the Hellenistic Age which was essentially 350 years of Greeks trading ideas with the Jews, working off each other to create a new form of philosophy.
“For where you have envy and selfish ambition, there you find disorder and every evil practice.” [James 3:16]
The philosophy of narcissism is pretty simple, they’re mostly just absorbed with themselves, but what about the psychological aspect? Psychology Today has numerous articles regarding the subject, but in a 2017 publication they stated, “the psychiatric literature defines narcissists as possessing specific traits, such as having a sense of entitlement or requiring excessive admiration.” Beloved, unfortunately this isn’t something that’s becoming less common. Peggy Drexler (Ph.D. / Research Psychologist) wrote, “but studies show that more, not fewer, people are undergoing plastic surgery. Botox is up. Fillers are up. And women—and men—are starting younger, too, not even willing to wait and see how well or not they age.”
“For men will be lovers of self, lovers of money, boastful, arrogant, revilers, disobedient to parents, ungrateful, unholy,” [2 Timothy 3:2]
To really cut to the point of the previous paragraph, aesthetics are becoming more and more important to people (2 Tim 3 Culture), but a woman who relies on her looks, is not a Proverbs 31 woman by its own definition, “Charm is deceptive, and beauty is fleeting; but a woman who fears the LORD is to be praised.”
Men who rely on charm, and women who rely on their beauty, will find their progress throughout life, slowly suffocates until it too, is deceased with their ability to please people outwardly. It’s not that they received gain due to their charm or beauty alone, but that it fed a confidence in them which pushed them to pursue goals in life. After the beauty is gone, after the charm has lost its whit with age, so too will the confidence fed by it, slowly drift away.
“For those who are according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who are according to the Spirit, the things of the Spirit.”
Are you a Narcissist? Let’s hope not, but there is a set of guidelines psychologist agree most narcissists tend to follow. These guidelines mostly pertain to how they see themselves. Here’s the 6 ways narcissists generally tend to characterize themselves:
-1. “I love myself, and I know you do, too. In fact, everyone does. I can’t imagine anyone who doesn’t.”
-2. “I have no need to apologize. You, however, must understand, accept, and tolerate me no matter what I do or say.”
-3. “I have few equals in this world, and so far, I have yet to meet one. I am the best _______ (manager, businessman, lover, student, etc.).”
-4. “Most people don’t measure up. Without me to lead, others would flounder.”
-5. “I appreciate that there are rules and obligations, but those apply mostly to you, because I don’t have the time or the inclination to abide by them. Besides, rules are for the average person, and I am far above average.”
-6. “I hope you appreciate all that I am and everything that I have achieved for you — because I am wonderful and faultless.”
Granted, narcissists probably aren’t this straight forward and honest, due to fear of exposure. Part of being a narcissist, is seeing no reason why anybody would dislike you, but if you expose yourself as self-absorbed, it will give people a reason to dislike you. Narcissists generally are incapable of asking for help. The ways we come to each other, as brothers and sisters, asking for prayer regarding the burdens we carry, a narcissist is almost completely incapable of such a thing. “I’m struggling with ____________, please pray for me,” cannot pass their lips. “For what then would they think of me if they knew I was struggling with pornography/ drinking/ patience/ compassion/ (etc.).” It is also important to note, that they very well could struggle with even seeing their faults, because of their inflated sense of self-worth. They could not be vocalizing their flaws, because they legitimately don’t even see them.
The prideful narcissist, along with his obsession with his personality, also comes a grandiose sense of self achievement. They’re unrealistically thrilled about their works, for example, they’ll learn 4 chords on an acoustic guitar, play the most repetitive noise you’d never want to hear again in your life, and equate it to the anthem of the gods. Em-D-A-G (x10), without changing the strumming pattern once or being restricted to a four-fours signature. Yet they’ll act like they walk with the ghost of Michael Jackson.
Solomon makes reference to this in Ecclesiastes 2:11, where he says, “Yet when I surveyed all that my hands had done and what I had toiled to achieve, everything was meaningless, a chasing after the wind; nothing was gained under the sun.” Now you’re probably saying, “That’s the exact opposite of what you just said about narcissists..” Exactly. Beloved, it’s important that we note, when the Bible gives us descriptions of godliness, you can see exactly what ungodliness is in contrast. If a righteous man doesn’t take for himself the reward of his labor, then we know, taking their own reward is exactly what the ungodly do.
Alright, lets wrap this up. The ‘Verse of the Article’ here is going to be Philippians 13: 4-5: “Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves.” This point is reiterated again in 1 Corinthians 10:24, “No one should seek their own good, but the good of others.”
Beloved, avoiding narcissism is so much easier than taking less selfies and staying clear of plastic surgeons. The key to avoiding narcissism, is service. What magnitude of prosperity could you possibly envision yourself as when you are humbly serving others. You’ve heard the scriptures say, “I must decrease, so he may Increase.” Always put others before yourself, above all things, serve. Not only will you become selfless through service, buy you then will become a servant who is good and faithful. What then shall you hear besides, “Well Done.”