Narcissism is a new name for an old problem. The term originated in Greek mythology where a young hunter, Narcissus, was so fixated with himself that he fell in love with the reflection of his own image in a pool of water (where he died). Narcissism is the egotistical admiration of one’s self, a concept introduced by Sigmund Freud into psychoanalytic theory.
The American Psychiatric Association has classified narcissism as a personality disorder in its Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders. In my view the APA has severely underestimated the percentage of the population that have this “disorder.” Identified traits of narcissism include, but are not limited to, the following:
Self-focus in any interpersonal relationship
Inability to sustain genuine relationships
Inability to empathize with others
Hypersensitivity to criticism or insults, real or imagined
Disgust towards others who don’t affirm them
Exploitive and manipulative of others for personal profit
Exaggerating their importance, their achievements, their intentions
Thinking themselves as ultimate authority and expert in everything
Inability to see life from any perspective but their own
Jealous and envious of others
Narcissism, in its varying degrees, has blatant disregard for the warning of Scripture:
“For I say… to every man that is among you, not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think;
but to think soberly, according as God hath dealt to every man the measure of faith.” (Romans 12:3)
Every one of us has been given a measured potential, a gifting if you please, of proper faith in ourselves. True joy in life comes from discovering our potential—our gift—and developing it and using it for the highest glory of God and others. Narcissism causes us to be constantly comparing ourselves with others, competing, and playing the one-upmanship game. And so we lose ourselves, our real selves. We’re too busy trying to be something we are not, somebody we’re not. The tragedy is that there is no one left to be the real us. We’ve stolen our own identities.
Each of us must learn how to conquer the tendency to Narcissism in our own lives. But this teaching is on how to deal with the Narcissism of others.