I read a convicting article recently.
No, it wasn’t from a devotional website or the blog of a famous Evangelist.
God spoke to me through…. (*cough. *) Psychology Today.
The name of the article is “Why We Need to Stop Throwing the Narcissism Label Around,” by Dr. Craig Malkin.
This is his clincher paragraph:
“Posting one too many selfies, hogging the bathroom mirror, or speaking loudly on a cellphone is not the same as compulsively lying to, insulting, or even screaming at one’s partner— [which are] common habits of the severely narcissistic.
Equating these behaviors … is a bit like comparing a pickpocket to an armed bank robber.
Hurling [the label] ‘narcissist’ at people also makes us blind to our own potentially unhealthy narcissism.”
A friend of Malkin’s, Dr. Jeremy E. Sherman, also wrote an article on the subject, “The Key to Diagnosing Narcissism Diagnosers.”
In trying to figure out why so many Americans are interested in “How to Diagnose Narcissists,” Dr. Sherman notes:
“Mental diagnostics are a double-edged sword. People use [diagnoses] to cut through nonsense… But we also use them to create nonsense, for example when we ignore other people’s reasons, because after all, they’re just narcissists.
Narcissists are very good at diagnosing narcissism to get what they want.
If you disappoint them, then you must be a narcissist, and it’s all your fault.“
Dr. Sherman goes on to say that self-centeredness is like Attention Deficit Disorder, in that both have something to do with the environment we’re all creating for ourselves.
Some of the “symptoms” of both Narcissism and ADD come from our culture’s rapid changing:
“We think of ADD as a mental disorder… But ADD is, to some extent, a product of changing environments. There’s simply vastly more than any of us can pay attention to, much of it extremely stimulating, accessible and distracting.
Narcissism is, to some extent, a cultural phenomenon, too. We live in a society that has come to take its preferences very seriously. Technology has proven increasingly reliable at fulfilling our wishes. When you wish for something, you can bet there’s an app that will deliver it.
People, not so much.
People don’t meet our expectations half as reliably as technology does. We expect more from partnerships than people ever have. We process in relationships, trying to wire them just right, as though they were malfunctioning technology.
If your partnership were a computer, you would have tossed it years ago replacing it with a more efficient model.“
But that’s what happens when every, single salesman competing for my money insists that I can have it MY way because it’s all about ME.
Eventually, I begin to take that self-centered philosophy into my relationships as well…
…including, sadly, into my relationship with God.
Just as I was considering this humbling thought, a friend shared a quote by A.W. Tozer, which further pushed my nose in the dirt.
Listen to what Tozer says about using “Machine Age Methods” to buy a convenient taste of God:
“The idea of cultivation and exercise, so dear to the saints of old, has now no place in our total religious picture. [The work] is too slow, too common. We now demand glamour and fast-flowing dramatic action. A generation of Christians reared among push buttons and automatic machines is impatient of slower and less direct methods of reaching their goals. We have been trying to apply machine-age methods to our relations with God. We read our chapter, have our short devotions and rush away, hoping to make up for our deep inward bankruptcy by attending another gospel meeting or listening to another thrilling story told by a religious adventurer lately returned from afar.
The tragic results of this spirit are all about us: shallow lives, hollow religious philosophies, …the element of fun in gospel meetings, the glorification of men, trust in religious externalities, quasi-religious fellowships, salesmanship methods, the mistaking of dynamic personality for the power of the Spirit. These and such as these are the symptoms of an evil disease, a deep and serious malady of the soul…” -A. W. Tozer
Shallow lives…salesmanship methods…and glorifying men…
All of these things happen because we believe “fast” and “easy” is the same as “good.”
If God were a computer, I probably would have tossed him out for a more reliable model years ago.
In fact, by hopping churches and searching for certain types of books/music and cutting ties with the Christians who disappoint me, that’s exactly what I’m trying to do…
I’m very good at pursuing my own happiness–and I blame other people (those horrible narcissists!) when I don’t get what I want.
But, as Dr. Sherman asks toward the end of his article, “Who is a butthead, except the person I happen to butt heads with?”
“I happen to live in a pocket of the world where we expect a lot, and I’m grateful for it. But it is a bit humbling if I stop to think about it. When I get outraged at some injustice to me, and I’m inclined to diagnose someone as a narcissist for disappointing me, it’s sobering to remember that unlike many worldwide, I think I’m entitled to hot water, stocked grocery stores, and reliable electricity.
My sense of injustice is relative.
If you turn out to be one of those “narcissism diagnosers,” it’s worth keeping all of this in mind.
That is to say, I need to be careful when I look around and think EVERYONE ELSE is “selfish.”