A narcissists is someone with a limited, concise and narrowing focus – there is only room for one person in their spotlight.
Guess who it is?
The dictionary defines narcissism as: inordinate fascination with oneself; excessive self-love; vanity. Synonyms are: self-centeredness, smugness, egocentrism.
In teaching Galatians recently, I was struck by a reality that the Apostle Paul begins to get at – as it comes to being a person who lives in the grace of God. That person is anchored to the saving and secure grace offered through Christ alone. There is no other activity or personal effort needed to attain, acquire or keep God’s grace – it is a grace through faith alone. Period.
For freedom Christ has set us free; stand firm therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery… Galatians 5:1 (perhaps the thesis statement of the entire book of Galatians)
We are to live resting and rooted in that grace through faith. Thank you Jesus. It’s a gift (see Ephesians 2:8-9)
Now, as we live rooted in that grace (see also Colossians 2:6-8) it’s not meant to be just something we cling to, soak up and have stored within us – only unto ourselves.
God’s grace is a grace poured out and freely given in order to be shared, not stockpiled or hoarded.
It’s a grace that is to find expression outward as it fills us from the inside out…
Paul hints at this in Galatians 5:6
“6 For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision has any value. The only thing that counts is faith expressing itself through love. “
He carries that further in verses 13-14:
13 You, my brothers, were called to be free. But do not use your freedom to indulge the sinful nature; rather, serve one another in love. 14 The entire law is summed up in a single command: “Love your neighbor as yourself.”
Freely given, to be freely expressed. Serve one another. Love your neighbor.
Which leads to an interesting question:
Can Christians begin suffering from Spiritual Narcissism?
A narcissism that begins to see grace as something one needs continually and only for your consumption. Narcissism feeds on selfish consumption and never leads to outward expression. It quickly can become all about me, for me, focused on me, centered on me and ‘others’ becomes a lost realization.
Maybe you know people who:
- hear the story Jesus tells of the 1 lost sheep and their comments are not about the lost sheep and why the Good Shepherd would go searching for that which was lost, but rather all about the 99 who were left – “what about them?” The attitude of their heart is quickly inclined for the ‘found’ ones only. The ‘lost’ ones are devalued or worse yet, forgotten.
- they have an unhealthy bent on Christianity consumption – always looking for the next study, book, sermon that will “fill them up” and give them the hit of knowledge, insight or grace deposit. It’s all about acquiring more of those things and the notion of dispensing those deposits of grace doesn’t come across the radar screen.
- their conversations are all about those that have discovered the grace of Christ and never about someone that needs grace.
- they’ve joined 10 different bible studies and yet can’t tell you one of their neighbor’s names or co-worker’s life story.
- they’ve reached the point of feeling like they ‘deserve’ God’s grace they’ve earned and labeled those around them that are ‘undeserving’. They’ve somehow become qualified enough through their efforts to deserve God’s grace and they can quickly point out the “why” others are dis-qualified…
The real question is: do you ever find that mindset or heart attitude welling up within you?
If so, you might be developing a bit of spiritual narcissism.
Sometimes the longer we’ve been a follower of Christ – living in the embrace of his grace – we might be more prone to hoard it, instead of share it.
But all throughout the Scriptures we see: God’s grace is an open casting call for every wanderer and broken person to come home and find hope. To find life.
Spiritual Narcissism pulls us toward a narrowing view of people and can begin limiting the power of grace.
But the grace offered through Christ – Paul says should be nourishing us, welling up within us and finding expression outward to a world that needs it. God’s grace is fiercely free. It was never meant to be bound up or restricted.
God’s grace fills us – filled up to spill over and pass it along. All are in need of it. A BIG spotlight is needed.
An expanding focus is what’s called for, not a narrowing one. Maybe that is what it means to follow Paul’s final challenge in chapter 5 – “keep in step with the Spirit”… He leads. We follow. He leads us along changing us with his grace, refining us and refilling us – in order that His grace might be on the move – impacting others. We’re actually enfolded into the partnership of sharing His grace.
He’s the supplier but we’re part of the delivery process.
Just some thoughts from a recovering spiritual narcissist…
Paul – in Ephesians 2:8-10
8 For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, 9 not a result of works, so that no one may boast. 10 For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.