It seems to me that we are living in a time of expanding narcissism. In the search for more confidence and independence, a growing number of both sexes and all ages are basking in the glow of their own self-importance. I have seen it for years in the media, but now it's appearing in limited engagements all around me.
Even our current technology signals this attention to self: MySpace, YouTube. Researchers claim, "This self-promotion might be helpful in social networking and auditioning for 'American Idol,' but a serious problem for close relationships." Really!
So, do you know a narcissist? Do the following symptoms remind you of anyone?
- Exaggerates self importance
- Forces friends and family to earn his or her love and affection
- Is afraid to trust others
- Takes advantage of others to achieve his or her own ends
- Is unwilling to feel empathy
- Tries to controls all situations and relationships
- Is jealous and possessive
- Expects others to take responsibility for making him or her feel better
- Unwilling to commit to anything outside self
- Has a "the world revolves around me" attitude
- Is unwilling to confess personal problems or issues
If indeed there is a growing number of narcissists living in our neighborhoods and attending our churches, what can we do about it? The social scientists are unsure of and doubtful of any obvious remedies for this condition.
Jesus knows what to do. He took 12 self-focused men and transformed them. It didn't happen overnight, but he changed these argumentative, controlling, distrusting, impetuous, self-absorbed followers into humble faith giants.
So, what is the secret of this miraculous change? Personal time with Jesus — worship! In fact, it is one of the reasons Christians meet together as often as they do. We need more time with Jesus ... more praise time ... more time getting to know him, being transformed by him.
So, how does that work? Full participation in weekly praise gatherings will dismantle our growing glut of narcissists. True praise gatherings begin with an attitude of awe. When the created and the creator come together there is always a renewed awareness of spiritual realities. God is God and we are not. This moment of awareness ignites an overwhelming need to confess our attempts to replace the God who made us. We are humbled! God is lifted!
God designed it so that our praise gatherings help us get the focus off of ourselves and onto him. In fact, only the humble enjoy worship.
Find a gathering that consistently focuses on God; your faith will enjoy the refreshment and you will grow immune to the current plague.
The sanctuary was crowded. As usual the back rows were packed. Even though the audience was mostly white, middle class, and aging church members, there was an undercurrent of tension and awkwardness. A spirit of fearfulness had descended on the congregation over the years; yet, hidden in the hearts of many believers was a growing desire for something more. Secretly they were looking for more AWE — a little dose of amazement.
The preacher stopped in the middle of the sermon and walked out to the front steps of the stage. Then he lifted his hand; he lifted it high, like he wanted the teacher to call on him ... like he knew the answer.
Then with his hand still lifted he asked the audience to stand.
Within a few moments everyone was up, even the grumblers in the back felt the pressure to stand.
"Thank you for standing. Now I have one more request. I want everyone in the room to take whatever steps are necessary to get as close to my hand as possible. Please do it for me. There is a point in all this."
With frowns and grumbling from the back, the crowd moved to the front and in from the sides.
Then once again he spoke, "Please move closer, as close as you can get."
After a few more minutes of shuffling and mumbling the church had responded to his request and stood tightly grouped completely surrounding him. There were no spaces between anyone.
Before the claustrophobics in the crowd could get too flustered, the preacher announced, "Have you noticed what has happened here? When you got closer to my hand you had to get closer to each other. It's the same with the kingdom. When God draws you closer to himself, you have to get closer to each other. That's why we are here. Now, go in peace."
The strange thing was that the people didn't leave. They hugged and talked and some even prayed. And God smiled.
I have a growing need for more praise time. How about you? In this narcissistic culture I can't get by with just a weekly praise gathering. I am beginning to understand why the early Christians met together daily.
Gather a collection of praise songs, ones that focus on the power and might and wonder and grace of our father-God. Find a time each day and lift your hand; imagine God calling on you to sing. Sing your heart out. If your time is commute time, lift your fingers and feel the fingerprints of God.
He is God and we are not. I'm humbled by praise and I need it.