June 24, 2015

Thanks for Bucking the Narcissism Trend

Post by Brittany Tedesco

Precept Ministries International just came out with a new study called "Selfless Living in a Selfie World." One of the chapter titles is "Living Unentitled in a Me-First Culture."

Photo credit: Foter / Public domain

I think most of us would agree that our culture is becoming increasingly narcissistic.

David Brooks, popular columnist for the New York Times, points to the 1940s as the time when a shift toward narcissism began to take root in American culture. People began viewing the concept of sin as outdated. Instead of seeing themselves as sinful, people started seeing themselves as "really wonderful."

In his book, The Road to Character, Brooks cites statistics based on tests given to youth that show that "the proportion of American teenagers who believe themselves to be 'very important' has risen from 12% in 1950 to 80% in 2005."

In an interview with NPR, Brooks talked about the culture we're living in as one "where we're really praised and rewarded for celebrating ourselves all the time."

Much present-day Christian literature reflects the self-glorification trend.

An advocate for Christian Aid Mission has suggested that we produce a Bible study/curriculum for churches and small groups to educate people about the indigenous missions model.

As we sat around brainstorming, the question arose: how do we get people interested in something like this?

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A quick trip to a Christian bookstore provided a bit of insight into the challenge we'll face in marketing such a product. We couldn't find even one Bible study on missions.

Are you shocked? Neither am I.

I think it's a rare person who's focused on missions. A person like you, who took the time to even visit this blog.

An interest in world missions requires us to submit to what God says is important . . . to shift our focus away from ourselves in order to cast our gaze on people who've never heard the gospel before. There's no room for narcissism in that.

Author, M. Scott Peck, describes narcissism as being "characterized by an unsubmitted will."

In his book People of the Lie: The Hope for Healing Human Evil, Peck writes: "All adults who are mentally healthy submit themselves one way or another to something higher than themselves, be it God or truth or love or some other ideal. They do what God wants them to do rather than what they would desire . . . What their beloved needs becomes more important to them than their own gratification."

I was blessed to be raised by parents who submitted to a Higher Authority. I observed them using their time and resources accordingly. Rather than hoard every dollar for themselves, they gave toward the building of God's kingdom.

Jackie Peake, our Director of Children's Ministries, received a letter from a homeschooling mother who sponsors children through Christian Aid Mission. She keeps their photos hanging from the light fixture over the dining room table to remind her children to pray for them.

Another supporter of Christian Aid Mission, who recently called us to sponsor an additional child, shared her story. She was one of 10 children. Her parents, in addition to raising their large family, sponsored 10 children through Christian Aid. She said that, today, many of her siblings sponsor the number of children they have—just as their parents modeled for them.

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On April 18, our own Emily Coleman lost her mother to ALS. The agony of watching that disease eat away at her mom challenged Emily's faith—but never overcame it. She clung ferociously to her God in the midst of the storm.

I realized where her strength of character came from at her mother's memorial service. Cindy Coleman poured out her life in service to others. She not only homeschooled seven kids but also ministered to other children in her neighborhood and in Sunday school. Person after person stood up to testify about this amazing woman of God.

The strongest testimony of all, though, is the legacy she leaves behind in the form of seven children, each of whom stood to affirm their faith in Christ because of their mother's steadfast teaching and example.

All of us are born as little narcissists. In fact, the dictionary's definition of narcissism includes this psychoanalysis: "being a normal condition at the infantile level of personality development."

Praise God for godly parents and adults who lead children, by word and example, out of the "infantile" stage toward a spiritual maturity that's actually conducive to being missions-minded.

Justin Barrett, director of the Thrive Center for Human Development at Fuller Seminary, has found through his research that "children are primed to believe in God and spiritual beings. In fact, these beliefs appear to be hardwired into children when they are born . . . the near-universality of their occurrence leads social scientists to believe that this capacity is the baseline or natural state of all humans." (What Your Body Knows about God by Rob Moll)

Narcissism might be our natural state when we're born, but so is a predisposition to believe in God.

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It's there! It just has to be nurtured.

I dare say most Christian Aid Mission supporters are nurturing this predisposition in their own families—by submitting to a Higher Authority, by giving to what God says is important, by teaching the words of the Bible, and by not giving in to a culture that says words like "sin" are outdated concepts.

Thank you, Christian Aid Mission supporters, for being so radical, so countercultural.

We all have to remain vigilant in the fight against worshipping ourselves above our Creator, but you're in the fight! You haven't planted yourself firmly on the throne where only God belongs.

I don't know David Brooks' personal faith beliefs, but at least he's acknowledged that "the true counterculture is found in faith . . . It's about living by a totally different moral logic. The logic of the Bible and the language of humility—that's the real counterculture."