In Greek mythology, Narcissus fell in love with his reflection in a pool of water, and he looked at it until he died. This is where we get the word narcissism, a fixation with oneself. When we hear this story, we probably think of others who we consider self-centered. Very few of us believe that we are self-centered. But, Narcissus didn’t think he had a problem either!
Narcissism can also be defined as inordinate self-love. That is, loving oneself more than one should. This is the root of all other sins and the in-born sin (original sin) that affects us all. It is the preference of our own good over the good of others and the desire to be God without submitting to Him (pride).
Again, very few of us think that we are guilty of this sin – and that is the main problem. Answer these questions honestly: If you know you are in a group photo, who is the first person you look for? If you don’t like the way you look, but every one else looks good, do you like the photo? How do you feel about people who seem to be nice to everyone but who aren’t nice to you? Have you noticed that when you have a bowel movement, you do not mind the odor? However, when you go into a washroom where there is an odor from someone else, don’t you find it repulsive? In the same way, we quickly condemn the faults we see in others but often overlook or rationalize the same faults in ourselves. Let’s face it, nearly all of us are much more concerned about our dandruff or our hemorrhoids or our in-grown toe nail than we are about our neighbor’s lung cancer.
Just because inordinate self-love is “normal,” doesn’t make it okay. It is, by far, the greatest obstacle to our spiritual growth. It is said that inordinate self-love is the last thing to die in a man, but it must die if he is to enter heaven. Now, I don’t mean that we shouldn’t love ourselves. We should love ourselves. However, we must not do so more than we ought. How do we rid ourselves of inordinate self-love?
First of all, we must see that we are guilty of this sin. We all have a huge blind spot in this regard. I believe that the references to Jesus healing the blind allude to the fact that we are all spiritually and psychologically blind. We don’t see ourselves as we really are: wretched sinners in need of salvation. The Pharisees in Biblical times seemed very righteous; however, Jesus criticized them more than anyone else. He called them “blind guides,” “blind fools,” and “blind men” (Matthew 23:16, 17 & 19). There is a proud, self-righteous, hypocritical Pharisee in all of us.
Humility is the answer. Salvation is all about God saving us. We do have to play our part, but it is ultimately God’s work, not ours. We merely say yes to God and cooperate with His saving work. So then, turn to God, and ask Him to open your eyes to your sinful and wretched state. Turn to him in extreme humility, with a contrite heart, and He will heal you.