Monday, April 23, 2007

The spiritual opposite of narcissism

One of the biggest questions on my mind last week was how to recognize when a person is headed for the extreme actions committed at Virginia Tech. TIME Magazine gave me some insight in one article of their very tasteful coverage. (I usually wait for the news magazines to arrive before digging deeply into an issue—their slower-than-instant perspective often brings more insight and is less disturbing than being riveted by the TV or Internet.)

The article, Why They Kill, educated me on a state of mind known as "narcissism." As the article states, "[N]arcissism is a condition defined mostly by disablingly low self-esteem, requiring the sufferer to seek almost constant recognition and reward. When the world and the people in it don't respond as they should, narcissists are not just enraged but flat-out mystified." Narcissism can include a total lack of empathy as well, preventing the person from understanding the pain of others.

After reading this, I found myself pondering, what is the spiritual opposite of narcissism? If narcissism is being fixated on yourself to the exclusion of everyone else, what would its opposite be fixated on? If narcissism is thinking you're the center of the universe, what would the opposite central point be?

When I was a little girl (as my family will tell you), I had a definite narcissistic streak. I saw to it that family times revolved around me. I've mentioned before that I was a screamer—there was more to it than that! I was quite the little dickens.

It wasn't until junior high, when I began to sincerely yearn for some friends, that I started to explore gaining some of the social skills needed to acquire them, like listening to others or caring about them. I thought, for a time, that I was supposed to believe everyone else was more important than me in order to gain the love I was seeking. This was a human opposite of narcissism, which you might call an inferiority complex. Obviously, this was unbalanced, too.

It actually took me a long time to figure out what I now think of as a key spiritual point: I'm actually the child of God, with all the stature that heritage implies—and so is everyone else. I'm worthy and precious—and so is everyone else. I'm the pinnacle of God's creation—and so is everyone else. It's because God is so great, that He is capable of crafting each creation of His at the apex of His art. We are all equal in His eyes—and we're all amazing.

To me, that truth is the opposite of the lie of narcissism. People who are fooled into a narcissistic state of mind can break free of it by learning both their own stature as a creation of the Divine and the co-equal status of others.

I wish Cho had known this instead of having to suffer for years with the delusion. I hope and pray that he's finding it out now.

Your ideas and inspiration are welcome! Please comment below or Contact Laura.
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At 4/23/2007 09:12:00 AM, Blogger Kate said...

Great post Laura...I think Cho is discovering all kinds of new things about himself and his relationship to God....I am so grateful to know that God is merciful and helps His children find their peace.
thank you for always bringing such a clearly focused spiritual perspective to bear on an you, K

At 4/23/2007 10:24:00 AM, Anonymous chris said...

thanks laura. this is enlightening.

At 4/23/2007 03:26:00 PM, Blogger PtCakes said...

Wonderful insight.

At 3/07/2009 07:18:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

omg! i love this blog! My parents were both narscisists and I became the opposite helping others despite my own needs to counteract there absaloute neglect of me from there self absorbsion. I then dated guy after guy who were ALL narcisisits not seeing that i was repeating the same patterns and NOW i see narcisism clearly and have healthy boundaries knowing I AM equally as important as everyone else and a child of God and i spot them way before and actually now have a chance at a blissfull life with NO narcisists and no selfdepreceating tendencies...HALLILUJA!!!
Thanks for you post!!!

At 3/07/2009 07:38:00 PM, Blogger Laura Matthews said...

and thank YOU for commenting! so glad the ideas here were helpful.


At 6/26/2011 01:07:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...


At 12/21/2012 12:08:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I am 45 years old and just truly came to terms with this concept You desribe me well I am a child of I think i surround myself with them just to see if I can be the one to help them I genuinely care about others who just are not like me , thankfully never will be . I hope this is the step to let me be free of the actions in my own flaw that have always been my downfall in serving the lord and my self with love respect and dignity.
maybe I am closer than ever to overcome the situations I have put my self in .
my first husband committed suicide
I did not help him i survived by my deep love of god .maybe I can balance myself and find some sanity in this world at last.
Thank you
The widow Alen

At 12/23/2012 07:26:00 PM, Blogger Laura said...

Thank you for writing. Forgiveness includes yourself as well. We're all doing the best we can. I believe there is something redeemable in each of us, which makes the fight to grow and become more enlightened essential, or that which is redeemable will be lost.

So, keep up the fight. You are not alone.



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