Friday, March 27, 2009

A Culture of Narcissism

In the midst of the chaos that is my life, I sometimes tune out the crying, fussing children and retreat to the far corners of my mind just to think. And lately, my brow has been more furrowed than normal because I just can't turn off my thoughts, my growing concern for people I'm reconnecting with. A couple of them, I can see how alcohol and the party scene still rules their lives even though most of them are now approaching their mid-thirties and will be 40 in the blink of an eye! And when I learn--yet again--that someone I know is getting a divorce, it just breaks my heart. But, I think I've put my finger on so many of the problems I'm seeing in others' lives. Narcissism.

America has an "All About ME," a "How Does This Benefit ME," mentality. From the "self esteem" movement being imparted to our children (such that teachers like me are discouraged from using "red ink" because it's psychologically damaging to tell a student s/he did something wrong) to the media and the government telling people they can "have it all" (and that they deserve it all), we're just a bunch of narcissists who, at our core, only care about ourselves.

This really could explain so many divorces, so many families falling apart for no real reason other than "we grew apart"--if I care about me more than I care about my spouse, I put myself first and care more about my feelings and desires than I do my spouse's feelings and desires. Yeah--that's the way to build a healthy marriage. Marriage is hard. Marriage takes work. Marriage takes sacrifice of self for the good of the family. Narcissism preaches the exact opposite of that: take care of yourself first.

I've been thinking about this a lot because when I read someone's blog the other day, his entry addressed the desire to never grow up, to always remain young at heart. Sounds good, right? I'm not so sure anymore. Being young at heart was equated with acting irresponsibly and foolishly because it was "fun", embarrassing oneself by one's actions, and making alcohol a big part of one's life, all of which seem to have contributed to his losing his wife.

And it started me wondering if at the very heart of this desire to not "grow up" is merely a tendency towards narcissism. Children and youth are nothing more than little narcissists--I live with three of them, so I should be an authority on this subject. It's all about them, all the time: what makes them happy, what they want to do, what they want to "have", etc. Who cares about anybody else. So, in one way, a desire to "stay young" means I want the ability to do what I want, when I want to do it; I want to live in the moment, have fun, and not have to worry about "real life" or how my actions affect others. I want to look how I did when I was young and feel how I did when I was young. I, I, I. Narcissism.

I'm not saying we shouldn't take care of ourselves. That would just be stupid. But I do wonder how many families and lives would be healed if we all put others' needs before our own petty desires. I'll admit that it's much easier to not care about others. It's so easy to live in my own little world and not get involved with anyone else. It takes so much time and energy to care. The more you're involved with others, the more you see and feel their pain, the more you agonize over the poor choices they have made and are still making, the more you just want to shake some of them and say, "Wake up! Fight for your marriage! Don't just let it go gently into that good night!"

The more Jesus makes my heart like His, the more my heart swells with sorrow for so many people. At times, it's overwhelming, almost suffocating. But sorrow isn't enough. It just leaves me knowing I'm personally not making enough difference in this world. I can give every excuse in the book, but on judgment day, they will count for nothing. Action is required. Self sacrifice. Getting involved. Taking a stand against this narcissism.

No comments:

Post a Comment