I tend to feel like everyone is a narcissist. Like can you tell someone “You’re a narcissist” and have them not say “No I’m not” without smirking?
But I’m not talking about being selfish or self-absorbed because we all are at times. Narcissism is much deeper and foundational to a person’s character and how they operate and behave and reason with themselves and with the world around them. As if there is a world around them.
A friend of mine posted this article the other day and it was so heavy to read and think through just how damaging it can be to have this true underlying notion, in the base camp of your mind, that EVERYTHING is about YOU. It’s a fundamental flaw of our society, our country, our rights, our freedoms, our pursuits, our very lives, to believe that everything – or anything really – starts and ends with me.
But the flip side of this is that it can easily be turned into a blame game shifting from me to everyone else. Why is it that the things that SHOULD be about me are about everyone else, and the ways I SHOULD be putting others first become about me? It’s the ultimate irony of our life decisions that make true joy and contentment so elusive. We have everything backwards.
[Read this in your spare 3 hours of time http://n-continuum.blogspot.com/2012/06/characteristics-of-narcissistic-mothers.html]
The term narcissist is a great one, harking back to that great Greek myth. A young man catches a glimpse of his reflection in a pond and couldn’t pull himself away, gazing at his own beauty for hours, days, weeks, and eventually withering away and dying there just admiring himself. It sounds ridiculous to us, but it’s a perfect metaphor for what we do with our lives. We are so intent on making ourselves into something, or becoming more important or respected, or being vindicated in our choices, or getting what we feel we deserve – and while we are focused on ourselves, we are wasting away.
My prayer of late has been that I don’t get self-absorbed. It’s easy to do when things like getting married happen. Or trying to make life decisions about where to live, where to work, how to condense all your stuff to make room for your husband’s stuff. I start thinking about the loss of my independence and how long I’ve been left on my own to do what I please and the flip side, to take care of everything by myself. It’s always been all about me me me. It’s the single woman in me who starts thinking about how different my life will be and how interrupted and turned upside down everything will be.
But then I smile and think how incredibly worth it being married to the love of my life is and how humbled I feel when I think about how my life has gone so far and how I get to have a man I always hoped existed. And it’s love – real true pure untarnished love – that turns me from myself outward to another. It’s this sense of overflowing joy and hope and expectation – not in a demanding, unforgiving, rigid way, but an expectation full of promise and resilience – that allows me to say whatever may come, whatever he does or does not do, whatever our lives will be together, no matter what tomorrow brings, I am content. I am truly content. Fulfilled. Gratified. Appeased. Satisfied.
And maybe that’s the key. The problem with Narcissus was he found contentment in his own beauty, but in real life and in our society, we know that people are grasping at straws for contentment in any THING, any ONE, desperate to make something out of their lives, desperate for applause and accolades. Or we want control of others, we want power, we want to see that everyone is falling in line for us and that if people just do what we say and act like we tell them to, everything will be right in the world.
And when – not if – those things and those people fail to satisfy our appetites, we move on to something else and search high and low for our next fix. We chase after things that aren’t ours to chase. We become envious and we manipulate and strategize, consciously or not, to gain what we think will bring us some kind of self worth or power or contentment.
But God has given me grace upon grace. He has shown me, through the darkest of nights and the worst of days, that I tried many things and I came to the conclusion of old, the one Solomon came to, though I certainly didn’t have his resources (thank God) – it is all vanity. It is narcissism at its worst. It is me trying to appease me. And that will NEVER EVER succeed. We are not made for ourselves. We are not built to achieve our own worth. We are like a stuffed animal trying to go for a walk. We need the Spirit indwelling and the Grace that has been given to recognize our true worth, clothed in the garments of Jesus, and our purposes to glorify our God and Redeemer for all our days. You try to do what you can in this life, and you will always search, and want, for more.
So then, my prayer is to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with my God. To give freely, to love without return, to want for nothing, to accept grace, to truly know – always more and more – the only contentment in His goodness and love, and to turn that goodness and love outward to those around me. This is my humble prayer.
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