Our Narcissistic Generation

Everyone lives for something – a philosophy that keeps them going, gets them through the week’s problems, acts as their final source of authority on the meaning of life, morals and other matters. This philosophy or ideology might come from anything or take different forms. There are many different ‘isms’. It might be a person close to you, a political figure, a historical figure, a holy book, or a mish-mash of different things (as is very prevalent today). For many of us, we wouldn’t even see it as a ‘philosophy’.

Narcissistic individualism is one such ism, founded upon sin. Narcissism is incredibly dangerous, and is strongly linked to depression and suicide. But even Christians can be grossly guilty of it, perhaps without even being aware of it. I hope to briefly consider narcissism, and then consider how we can get out of these mindsets, which can seriously stunt our spiritual growth.

This post is not intended to be too philosophical or overly morbid, so don’t be worried!

 

Why Narcissism is so nasty

Narcissus, as the legend goes, was a handsome young Greek man. One day he saw his own reflection in a rock pool and so fell in love with it that he didn’t move. Eventually he died.

Hence, we have ‘Narcissism’ – the worship of oneself, or excessive interest and admiration of one’s personal appearance. I believe we can all be guilty of this, to varying degrees, and without wishing to be judgmental (although I speak to myself as well!), I will explain how.

Narcissism is perhaps best exemplified with social media. Social media, for many people, is all about promoting yourself.

How many Facebook friends do I have? How many likes does my Instagram photo get? Why hasn’t so-and-so liked my post? Take the test: how young do you look? How popular are you?

Our obsessive egotistical narcissistic outlook is most evident with pictures. Our profile pictures are always the most flattering, and often risqué. Look at the intense obsession we have with taking selfies of ourselves. Our phones have whole memory cards jam-packed full of selfies. How many do we have to take to get it right? How many do we delete, because they (quite frankly) were a bit of shock (do I really look that bad!)? Only the best will ever make it onto our Instagram.

Driving license photo v. FB profile pic
This hopefully illustrates the point.

When we go out, the highlight is often when we’re taking the photos that will go up on our social media profiles, rather than the fact that we are spending quality time with our friends or family.

Look at Snapchat, pictures visible for 10 seconds only, inviting the recent craze of posting nude selfies to select individuals. Hasn’t the world gone to pot!

Now you may just say “it’s harmless fun using cool or funny filters, I would never fall into ‘nude-selfies’, ‘sexting’ or anything like that!” But is it? You see, I think we deceive ourselves. We worry about our self-appearance. All good and soundly biblical, but we worry too much! We spend too much of our time worrying about it, or attempting to correct it.

“If only my nose wasn’t quite so wonky, I’d be a happy man!”

“Gosh, I look so ugly in that group photo.”

Needless to say, this mindset isn’t healthy for the Christian – or anyone for that matter. It can never make us happy. If it doesn’t matter to God, it shouldn’t matter to us.

“Man looks at the outward appearance, but God looks at the heart.” 1 Samuel 16:7.

And this is the great part. God doesn’t care about what we look like, whether we’re black, white, brown or blue. He doesn’t mind if we’re grey-haired, balding, too thin, too fat, ugly and covered in warts. He doesn’t mind even if we look like a turnip come out backwards in the wash with a face like a mouldy gingerbread biscuit. Why doesn’t he?

  1. Because he created you just the way you are, you are a work of God, a marvel.
  2. Because he doesn’t care what you look like, but he does care about what your heart looks like.

Society judges us on our looks. We can’t help that. God judges us on our heart. That doesn’t mean we’re better than society. It just means that we shouldn’t worry about what society thinks of us, we should worry what God thinks of us. Society can do what it wants, we will stand for Christ!

There is also a deeper, underlying problem. Selfies are just the tip of the iceberg. This underlying problem is – Self. Narcissism is by no means a new concept. It’s a battle that people have faced for a thousand years.

At its heart, narcissism is self-centred – what’s in it for me? How can this make me look good?

We don’t care for others. We only seek admiration from others, believing ourselves to be superior. We always want to constantly project a positive image of ourselves and desperately want to attract more followers.

But this is generally false; it is an elaborate outer façade built up to hide an inner loneliness and discontentedness. Your social media profile isn’t you. It never can be. It’s the me I want to be; hence, why we always present the positive image. I want to be happy, have fun, be seen to have lots of friends, go to lots of parties. I don’t want to be seen as an ugly loner with no friends, no people liking my posts.

It is fabulously superficial.

It is so sad. Yet I believe any social media user can be guilty of thinking in such a manner. But we can only find true contentment in the Lord (Philippians 4:11-13).

Young people, finding their way in the world are especially vulnerable. Peer pressure is intense. I believe we are by miles the most narcissistic generation in history. The problem is it’s so normal and so deeply-rooted in our everyday lives. Everyone uses social media. At the current average rate (1.72 hours per day), if we live to be seventy, we will have spent around five years on social networks. Yes, five years…

What else could we do in that time?

 

So what can we do about it?

Now with this in mind we might want to take dramatic action, selfies are wrong! Social media is evil! No more!

But it’s essential to note there’s nothing inherently wrong with social media or selfies. Social media is invaluable for keeping in touch; social networks can be great tools for communication, encouragement, evangelism even. Photographs are great to document important events in our lives. These things are useful. It’s our use of these tools which can be wrong. We must be immensely careful how we use them. What’s the first thing you reach for in the morning, your Bible or your phone? Watch yourself!

For some of us, perhaps it is right to come off social media completely and that’s something we should prayerfully consider.
Having a break from social media is a great idea, even if it’s just for a day or two. You could have a weekly day off social media; Sunday would be a good day to have social-media-free! Miss it too much? It’s likely you’re relying on it too much.

Our primary purpose in life is to glorify God. Take a step back, are we doing that?

‘Everyone does it’ is not a valid excuse. The desire to conform is intense. Don’t be afraid of being different.

Don’t check your social media feed merely for the sake of it, browsing without purpose. It’s a bit like me Christmas shopping, having no idea of what to buy and ending up spending hours wandering around aimlessly, uninspired, without buying anything at all; a total waste of time.

Don’t spend countless hours wasting your life away (I suspect many of us spend a considerable deal more than 1.72 hours on social media per day).

The Apostle Paul puts it perfectly in his letter to the Romans:

“Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God – this is your true and proper worship. Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is – his good, pleasing and perfect will.

For by the grace given me I say to every one of you: do not think of yourself more highly than you ought, but rather think of yourself with sober judgment, in accordance with the faith God has distributed to each of you.”

With all this, I’m sure we won’t stop worrying about what others think. We face a massive battle. It’s not easy, there’s no quick fix; but such is the Christian life. We will fail, we will stumble; but thank the Lord we have a loving Heavenly Father and an atoning sacrifice for our sins!

Let us live true to our calling in life, to glorify the Lord before God and men.

Make-up – to Wear or Not to Wear?

Note from the editors: we see Eat Write Sleep as a channel for young Christians to share their ideas, life experiences and talents with everyone. Henceforth we shall be inviting a number of such Christians to post their work on our blog. Jemimah has the privilege (or misfortune, depending on which way you look at it!) of being our first ‘guest blogger’. So without further ado… take it away Jemimah!

When I first heard about Eat Write Sleep my reaction was, “What an amazing idea!” Taking the narrow window of the whole world as a topic area, Josh and Michael are two young people consolidating their personal viewpoints on culture, politics and life with the super glue of scripture. And I think it’s fantastic.

Who am I? Jemimah, a Christian girl in my mid-teens and fortunate friend of the writers of this blog, who have kindly invited me to add a seasoning of my own to the simmering compilation of ideas that constitute it.

As a teenage girl who experiences these issues myself, I’m really excited to use God’s word as a primary reference as I delve into some of the hot topics concerning young women in the modern world.

So, what’s my topic? I had so many ideas that this took rather a while to decide on.

However, as a decision had to be made, I eventually chose “Makeup”.

Many Christian girls today wear makeup, many others don’t, and speaking from my own experience, many girls have strong opinions on it.

But what does the Bible say about makeup?

Is it a good thing, or a bad?

In answering these questions, I’ve categorised makeup-wearers into three ‘types’. I realise that this is stereotypical, but seriously – it’s hardly possible to interview every single girl in the world!

So, here are my three ‘types’:

  • the Enhancers
  • the Coverers
  • the Unsures.

The Enhancers first of all. To my view, these are those who consider Scripture and only then decide whether or not they will wear makeup, and how much they’ll wear. Let’s take the 1 Peter 3:3 text to demonstrate what I mean: “Do not let your adornment be merely outward – arranging the hair, wearing gold, or putting on fine apparel – rather let it be in the hidden person of the heart, with the incomparable beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is very precious in the sight of God.”

So basically, we shouldn’t be just thinking about what we look like outwardly – our hairstyles, our jewellery and clothes (and makeup!) – but rather worried about what our heart’s like, wanting to have an incomparably beautiful, gentle and receptive heart which is really precious to God.

Does that mean that girls should not wear makeup, full stop?

Well, that is for each girl individually to decide. But with all things, we must keep in mind that we are “the temples of the Holy Spirit” (1 Corinthians 6:19). God’s very spirit lives in us! Surely then, we’ll want to honour Him in how we look after our bodies.

To be perfectly honest, I’m not much of a makeup wearer. Yes, I do use BB cream and mascara on special occasions, for the soul purpose of novelty. I suppose it could be compared with putting on a nice dress for a wedding?

But I don’t think wearing or not wearing is necessarily the issue; what can be is when makeup draws away attention (either your own or others’) from our main goal. If makeup becomes a weight and draws away from the Lord Jesus Christ, then it’s definitely something to cut back on!

And there can be benefits of not wearing makeup regularly!  

  1. Firstly, foundations can be dermatologically harmful.

Personally, I’m not interested in covering my face with any product that will cause dermatological problems on the long run. I see that as plain counter-productivity, and definitely not the way to preserve the “temple of the Holy Spirit”!

  1. Going ‘clean’ is a time-saver.

I don’t think that I could ever imagine getting up earlier to put on makeup; I prefer to have more time to sleep. But remember, there are biblical reasons for not spending too much time on anything that’s not legitimate/furthering the cause of the Gospel. Ephesians 5:16 talks about “redeeming the time”; or in other words using the (relatively short) time we have on this Earth to the best ability that we can, to bring glory to our Heavenly Father and spread the good news of the Gospel.

Of course, it’s impossible to spend every free moment we have in spreading the Gospel – that’s not what I mean. Many of us have busy family lives, busy church lives and a job or are in full-time education – and helping at home and at church and working hard is a ministry in itself.

But perhaps spending less time in front of the mirror in the morning would give you more time to phone someone who would benefit from a call or do some washing up?

It may be only 30 minutes that you’ll save each day, but every little helps – and you’d be surprised how much a half-hour ‘free’ on your schedule can do.

  1. Making up on occasion is a novelty!

In July of this summer, I was a bridesmaid at my elder brother’s wedding and decided to wear some makeup. I admit, this was more for my brother’s and sister-in-law’s benefit than my own. I didn’t want to ruin their wedding photos by my eye-bags and spots.

However, it wasn’t actually that bad! I made the dangerous decision of entrusting my elder sister with ‘the deed’, and was expecting the worst. But it was a novelty; and made the day, and the photos afterwards, that little bit more special.

So let’s think about why we’re wearing makeup before we put it on.

Let’s not wear makeup to dramatically change our faces, but rather recognise that God has created us in our mothers’ womb for His own glory! I don’t know about you, but personally, I find that amazing. He “knit” each human being into the complex forms they are today (Psalm 139:13). WOWZA.

But what about Coverers?

Well, we girls have a tendency of overdoing things sometimes, and it’s the same with makeup. Those that struggle with overdoing makeup are the ones that I would class as Coverers.

I think that this ‘covering’ attitude arises from one main source:

What others look like.

If I didn’t struggle with this myself I might say that’s it’s irrational. Of course, it is, but how easy it can be to look around at others and then compare ourselves to them and put ourselves down.

I just want to encourage you to remember that ‘covering’ is not a biblical solution to this problem, even if it’s an easy route: God has made every human being to his praise, and so completely covering our faces because we think they’re ‘unworthy’ or worthless is actually wrong!

Try and keep in mind that Christ is our goal, not any dream wardrobe or ‘perfect face’.

Peer pressure may be hard at times too, but ultimately the way man sees is different to how God sees – and how He views us is what we should really be worried about. 1 Samuel 16:7 says, “The Lord does not see as man sees; for man looks at the outward appearance but the Lord looks at the heart.”

Isn’t that amazing!

God is certainly not superficial in any way – rather, He wants us to have hearts that are holy and honouring to Him.

Don’t you think it’s contrary to God’s perfect attitude and superficial to think about what we look like for an unhealthy amount of time?

Let’s put it like this: For me, when I’m thinking about my outward appearance – in front of a mirror or choosing my outfit for the day are classic examples – it’s pretty much a definite that I’m directing my thoughts away from God.

This is both unbiblical and unhelpful! As Christian young women, we’ve got to remember to go about our daily lives in everything – be it in makeup or anything else – bringing Jesus with us.

What does this mean practically?

Well, something slightly different for each girl, I believe. Some people agree with makeup, some don’t, but as the Bible is not prescriptive about whether or not to wear makeup, I think it’s up to the individual to apply as they see fit, according to scripture.

This is not a licence to apply our own standards under the banner of ‘having our own reading of the bible’. In fact, it’s quite the opposite! As we apply God’s standards in our lives, it will definitely become more evident for all of us that this way is a way of self-denial.

Yuk. Sounds horrible, doesn’t it?

It does to me, but that’s because I still have a sinful nature which is always trying to tell me that “my way is the best way”. But it’s simply not true. God “knows His plans for you” (Jeremiah 29:11), and they’re far better than any human can think up.

He knows the future, gal.

Last but by no means less common are the Unsures. This third group is formed of people that either wear or do not wear makeup because they have no opinions on it.

And for the most part, I’ve seen that people in this group are prone to being rather ill-informed on the topic. They can also be purely confused as to the opinions they have formed due to what they have heard, read or watched. So, for those that find themselves in this category, let’s try and dig into a bit of Scripture to discover God’s way.

1 Peter 3:15 says that we should “always have a reason for the hope that is in us”. This is intended primarily towards the truths of the gospel and how we should be ready at all times to give a defence of the same to non-believers. But as the “hope” that is in us links to our Saviour the Lord Jesus Christ, surely this verse underpins every aspect of our Christian walk! We are members of the body of Christ, and as such, we have a duty to be well informed as to our reasons for opinions.

What if you are an Unsure and you don’t know how to go about forming your opinions?

Well, rather than automatically putting on makeup without thinking, perhaps take a break to ask yourself why you actually wear it. Is it a must?

Remember, if you choose to wear makeup, it should be for enhancing and not to change the vessel that Christ has crafted.

However, there is also the people that we meet to think about. These people can be affected by the message that we send by what we wear, how much we wear and how we wear it.

I recognise that this can be a tad sensitive as a topic area, as all of us have a habit of being selfish when it comes to putting others before themselves. But as I pose this point, I hope you’ll see how crucial it is.

Take eyeliner and -shadow, for example. Is it seriously necessary to wear a thick layer of either of these alongside mascara?

As a pair, eyeliner and eyeshadow can put forward different messages, according to how they are worn. Indeed, if the wearer chooses to wear them so, they can cause a gothic or emo mood to form, which can be less-than-helpful for a Christian!

We are “children of light” (1 Thessalonians 5:5), and if we put forward an image of someone who is misogynistic or self-hating (which is essentially what emo and gothic styles do), surely that is creating a persona of someone who is “of the darkness”, just as Paul says Christians are not to be? No, this isn’t me trashing all eyeliner and eye-shadow as evil…rather, it’s a caution against makeup styles that form a negative image.

Taking it from another perspective, it can be equally possible, via makeup, to put forward a provocative message. Think of the effect deep eye-makeup coupled with crimson lips could bring – and will bring if we’re not careful. The chief purpose of unnaturally-coloured eye-shadow and lipstick is to draw attention to the eyes and lips, so do give it a thought whether the makeup you choose is so innocent; or not.

I know what you’re thinking now, not this ‘think about the guys’ thing again! But think of Proverbs 31, if it helps.

I fall short of this so often! I’m too quick to think of myself before others, and I’m sure many of you young Christian women out there often feel the same.

But remember that the joy of the Lord is our strength, and the work of grace in us making us want to live to serve Christ in the first place is all of Him and nothing of ourselves!

And in closing…Please don’t cover up the face that God has given you simply for the point of doing so! God has made your body, it’s glorious, so yet again I ask you to pray to Him for help in using it more to His glory as you live to honour and serve Him.