It’s been a slow boil, a subtle building up, so slight as to be unnoticeable, that it’s practically impossible to pinpoint how it has come to this. Perhaps it was a collective of conditions that have brought us to the narcissistic world of self-absorption and promotion. No doubt social media and cell phones with professional quality cameras have moved us further faster than the days of glamorous magazines and humanistic Live Your Best Life - You’re Okay/I’m Okay gurus could ever have.
The question is begged though… have we reached the point of no return? What would it take to stop the madness? Is there a reset button? When will we see it’s time to slam on the brakes? Are we destined to end up crashing and bursting into flames? Will we have to be ‘blinded lest we see’? (John 12:40)
I have no answers to those disturbing questions. All I know is that self-focus, self-centeredness is epidemic and, even worse, is embraced and accepted as the new norm. We are mentored and encouraged to be ever cognizant of our emotional temperature, the health of our internal state of being, which has fostered a societal demand for constant self-assuring, self-inspiring, self-loving to hedge against self-loathing.
Not surprisingly, self-focus has become a vehicle for promoting what seems, in a worldly view, to be what I have often referred to as Good for Goodness Sake illusion, a great pretender, a substitute goodness that fusses and flurries and dresses itself up to replace genuine Godly goodness.
Ironic, isn’t it, that if we were properly focused on Godly good, we would be completely redirected away from the need to be identified with self-good.
Unlike SELF goodness, Real Deal Godly Goodness is usually unnoticeable, mostly goes undetected. More often than not it’s a simple gesture of self-sacrifice, performed anonymously, a stepping up to do a menial task, a charitable gesture given with no fanfare, no applause expected. No glamour. No need for illustration with a self-portrait broadcast across all media.
Narcissism isn’t all that difficult to recognize as such but there is an updated twist to the evolution of self-as-center that seems to me to be a bit more sinister and perhaps even more dangerous. When I see what appears to be good sounding ‘Christian’ concept words presented with a well-crafted selfie I have to wonder what the real point is. I instantly sense an unseen agenda.
Obsession with SELF is not new but rather an ancient device used by that old deceiver and is successful because it appeals to the immature flesh craving to be noticed and approved of, which leaves little room for looking out and up. Narcissism is addressed in the Bible in Paul’s second pastoral epistle to Timothy (2 Timothy 3:1-7). Paul questions the character and behavior of leaders within the church, so he warns Timothy to beware of those who act out of a “self love attitude” and says, “But know this, that in the last days perilous times will come. For men will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boasters, proud, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, unthankful, unholy, unloving, unforgiving, slanderers, without self-control, brutal, despisers of good, traitors, headstrong, haughty, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, having a form of godliness but denying its power. And from such people turn away.”
Oswald Chambers addressed the issue specific to those who seek applause for ‘good works’:
…whatever you do, do all to the glory of God. —1 Corinthians 10:31
In the Scriptures, the great miracle of the incarnation slips into the ordinary life of a child; the great miracle of the transfiguration fades into the demon-possessed valley below; the glory of the resurrection descends into a breakfast on the seashore. This is not an anticlimax, but a great revelation of God.
We have a tendency to look for wonder in our experience, and we mistake heroic actions for real heroes. It’s one thing to go through a crisis grandly, yet quite another to go through every day glorifying God when there is no witness, no limelight, and no one paying even the remotest attention to us. If we are not looking for halos, we at least want something that will make people say, “What a wonderful man of prayer he is!” or, “What a great woman of devotion she is!” If you are properly devoted to the Lord Jesus, you have reached the lofty height where no one would ever notice you personally. All that is noticed is the power of God coming through you all the time.
We want to be able to say, “Oh, I have had a wonderful call from God!” But to do even the most humbling tasks to the glory of God takes the Almighty God Incarnate working in us. To be utterly unnoticeable requires God’s Spirit in us making us absolutely humanly His. The true test of a saint’s life is not successfulness but faithfulness on the human level of life. We tend to set up success in Christian work as our purpose, but our purpose should be to display the glory of God in human life, to live a life “hidden with Christ in God” in our everyday human conditions (Colossians 3:3). Our human relationships are the very conditions in which the ideal life of God should be exhibited.
See? Selfie not required.