Narcissism or the Joy of Unselfish Living?

By Stephen, Katherine | The Christian Science Monitor, February 1, 2012 | Go to article overview

Narcissism or the Joy of Unselfish Living?


Stephen, Katherine, The Christian Science Monitor


A Christian Science perspective.

A former presidential hopeful, scheduled to undergo trial in the near future, names it as the cause of the behavior that ruined his career. And on the basis of it, borrowers took out loans for houses that they couldn't afford, loans provided by lenders who desired materialistic gain to such an extent that the results were one cause of the global financial crisis still being experienced today. According to observers of contemporary thought trends, the name for the constellation of traits that defines these behaviors is narcissism. The examples mentioned above are among those included in the book "The Narcissism Epidemic," by Jean M. Twenge and W. Keith Campbell (see pp. 2-3).

Narcissism is characterized by self-love, overconfidence, materialism, excessive risk-taking, vanity, or lack of care and concern for others. The term is derived from the Greek myth of Narcissus, the handsome youth who fell in love with his own image.

In the view of many who map and monitor such trends, narcissism is not only on the rise, but it has become a pervasive and damaging characteristic of modern life. If contemporary research is a reliable guide, there may be a narcissist near you.

Is there anything you can do about it? I believe that Christian Science provides ideas that are helpful in countering narcissism and in healing its effects on individuals and society.

For a start, the Bible indicates that caring and concern for others is fundamental to the well-being of every individual, as it is impossible to achieve genuine happiness while focused exclusively on oneself. "Let nothing be done through strife or vainglory; but in lowliness of mind let each esteem other better than themselves" (Philippians 2:3). The practice of expressing unselfish love is an antidote to narcissism.

A proper sense of our own self-worth as the beloved children of God is a priceless truth that provides the true foundation for unselfish living. The basic biblical axiom, "Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself" (Matthew 22:39), requires a right appreciation of ourselves and of others. In contrast to narcissism, this biblical standard represents a balanced approach to life.

We gain a capacity to understand and live this verity of being when we glimpse our true relationship to God as His reflection, including all the qualities of good which God Himself expresses. We then understand that there is nothing to lose and everything to gain by being unselfish. …

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