Learning my lines . . .
. . . discovering what it means to follow Jesus, seeing my story swept up into his . . .

Selfless Narcissism. . . .

For the last couple of years I’ve been doing a little seminar on narcissism in today’s youth culture. We look at the trends and how they’re playing out. San Diego State University Professor and Researcher Jean Twenge has done extensive research on the emerging generations and narcissism. She’s concluded that despite what they may say, they are the most narcissistic generation alive.

In many circles, I hear people talking about teens and youth culture saying Twenge is in error with her conclusion. After all, doesn’t the emerging generation of kids want to make a difference in the world? Well, yes. . . but that’s only part of the story. The human heart is still dark and bent on idolizing the self. Doesn’t matter what age we are or what generation we’re from. But the way narcissism is being worked out in many young lives is in a movement towards helping others, and I’ve talked about that in the seminar. It works this way – “Because the way to get ahead in life is to build my resume so that I can position myself to get the best for me, my resume has to include a number of activities, including involvement in social causes.” When my motivation to make a difference in the world is purely about making a difference for me, then it’s narcissism. It’s a selfless narcissism – so to speak – if that’s at all possible. . . and I don’t think it is.

What made me think about this early this morning? I spotted this Zits cartoon, and it captures it well.

3 Responses

  1. Too true. I have to say, though, I think a lot of the “selfless narcissism” is the narcissists copycatting the legit non-profit-starters and philanthropists. I sort of see the situation as a few truly selfless people starting non-profits and charities and getting some recognition for the work they’re doing, and the narcissistic ones jumping on the bandwagon because they see these people getting press. I think you and Zits are right on, though, that much of today’s activism is bandwagon activism and/or self-promotion.

  2. that’s an interesting post Walt..I agree…it seems to me that people are patting themselves on the back for how “good” they are to be servants..the issue is “how can I feel good about myself doing these heroic acts”…it really isn’t about the other…it is narcissism at its core. The spiritual discipline of sacrificial service and submission to service for the pure sake of the other is missing…it is now a post on a resume or a program opportunity to be able to brag about. I’m with you…and the cartoon? hilarious!

  3. It’s interesting to note that “being a Christian” and “obeying” God’s commands, including “witnessing to others” where the primary motivator is that I “don’t want to go to hell” is also narcissistic at its root! In my experience the only thing that can eradicate our narcissism is to see God for Who He really is in the face of Jesus Christ.

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