Posted by: minnow | August 1, 2009

Narcissism and Grace

Typically I read three or four specific blogs on a weekly (if not more frequent) basis, not because I always agree with everything these writers say but because I almost always go away with something on which to ponder.  A couple weeks back I was drawn to a post and comment on the Without Wax blog that lead to a second post, as well as a comment on Parchment and Pen

The comments on each of these blogs were critical and harsh if not unequivocally hurtful and untrue. The visible manner in which Pastor Wilson dealt with his critic was graceful and to this reader (as well as most other commenters) impressive. If Mr. Patton saw the comment I am referring to (the post was about him but he did not write it) he chose to remain silent which was an equally gracious response.  If you wish to see the original discussion feel free to follow the links.  Pete Wilson’s second post was also about narcissism.

The applicable (to this post) definition of Narcissism according to my very old Merriam-Webster dictionary is: “egotism”, which is further defined as: “an exaggerated sense of self importance.”  While most of us have probably run into someone who obviously fits this definition, the majority of the people we know or associate with do not or we would not associate with them.  The point Mr. Wilson made in his second post however was one many of us would just as soon avoid.  We do not want to acknowledge those thoughts and feelings (often rather egotistical) we keep hidden away that, if know to others, would in all likelihood cause them to see us in a considerably different light.  Sometimes they come in the form of silent comparisons which usually put us on top–“at least I am not as fat as so-n-so” or “at least our car is newer that John Doe’s.”  At other times they show up as out right criticism and judgment–“how dare she wear such a revealing dress in Church”.  The reality is, such thinking is nearly impossible to avoid but most of us work pretty hard to keep it in check. 

Mr. Wilson’s concern, with regard to himself, was that he wanted for everyone to like him, so badly (in his self assessment) that he obsessed on the negative things people said to or about him and tried to justify his actions or thinking accordingly.  His supporters quickly pointed out how well he actually handled himself with regard to those around him even if his confession was true.  Others gave him props for being so authentic as to confess his underlying thinking, saying his example helped them to do the same.  Not knowing Mr. Wilson, his ministry, or those in his fellowship I can not argue with anything they say (not that I would want to anyway).  At any rate, Mr. Wilson seems to be doing it  right even if fighting his hidden tendencies and thought process is difficult. 

The point I would like to make by bringing all of this up is that I believe we can not help but have self oriented thinking.  No matter how hard we try we can not escape our own minds.  The best we can hope for is that we allow our orientation toward ourselves to be informed by God’s orientation toward us.  I realize in many circles my last statement would be considered blasphemous–saying God is oriented to us—“How dare she!  Why…why…if anything we must be oriented toward Him!”

Why?

“Huh?  What do you mean–why?”

Why?  What is the underlying motivation  for our thinking “we should be oriented toward Him”?  And what is wrong with saying God is oriented toward us; it is His choice?

“Well to begin with He is God and He deserves to be honored and worshipped and–“

And, I am not saying God does not deserve to be honored and worshipped!  But, even when we do manage to touch a part of heaven we  are the ones to benefit.  We  receive His abundant joy.  We  experience His unspeakable peace.  And, we  often want “more, Lord” because it feels so good!  Our true motivation  for saying what we do with regard to the shoulds of God is that our best interest is served by orienting ourselves toward God.  We become better people.  Others think more highly of us.  (And in some people’s thinking:) We get saved

But best of all, we experience  what it means to be loved by the Sovereign Lover of our souls.  Nothing is more pure, more radical!  Can you wrap your head around what that means?  Perfection loves us, gives Himself up for us, is oriented toward us.  Wow!  I mean seriously–wow!  God understands Man’s self-orientation and still loves us.  We reject Him and He loves us.  We sin against Him and harm the rest of His creation but He still loves us.  Redemption–God’s ultimate Grace–is ours.

Now when I said: “The best we can hope for is that we allow our orientation toward ourselves to be informed by God’s orientation toward us.” I simply meant that recieving a gift from an anonomous lover can be fun and exciting.  We can enjoy the gift in and of itself BUT when the Lover is known and we can share our enjoyment of the gift with the One who loves us our experience is magnified.  We become more than what we were on our own.  When we give a drink to the “least of these” we may be the hands and feet of Jesus but when we recognize His eyes in the faces of those we serve we are indeed transformed.

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Responses

  1. Hi Minnow,

    I like your thoughts here. I think throughout Scripture God has demonstrated His movement towards mankind, to reconcile His creation to Himself. And if John 3:16 and Romans 5:8 isn’t the apex of that, I don’t know what is. Yes, God has been oriented towards us all along.

  2. Great post. Love your perspective!


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