Self-centeredness vs. Union with Christ

“Perhaps, then, another reason it’s difficult, if not impossible, for us to embrace union with Christ is because it displaces us from the center of our own lives, where we naturally love to be. It tells us that the most important part of our identity comes from outside ourselves and that, therefore, our posture needs to be one of dependence and vulnerability, of waiting and trust. To an age that embraces self-promotion as fervently as our own, union with Christ will come across not only as bizarre and strange but even distasteful and offensive.” -Rankin Wilbourne


Cultural Observation: Narcissists, All

“In 2006, thousands of American college students filled out a survey. They weren’t told what it was, but it was actually the Narcissistic Personality Inventory (NPI), a psychological evaluation that asks for responses to statements such as “I am an extraordinary person,” “I am more capable than other people,” “Everybody likes to hear my stories,” and “If I ruled the world it would be a better place.” The NPI has been given to college students for several decades. By looking at the change in responses over time, a recent study shows a 30 percent increase in narcissism over the last thirty years. Even more striking, in the 1950s, 12 percent of teens agreed with the statement “I am an important person.” In the 1980s, just thirty years later, 80 percent of teens agreed with that same statement. By our own reckoning, we live in an increasingly self-centered world.” -Rankin Wilbourne, Union with Christ


We Are Not Our Own

“In this method, you don’t ask, What do I want from life? You ask a different set of questions: What does life want from me? What are my circumstances calling me to do? In this scheme of things we don’t create our lives; we are summoned by life. The important answers are not found inside, they are found outside. This perspective begins not within the autonomous self, but with the concrete circumstances in which you happen to be embedded. This perspective begins with an awareness that the world existed long before you and will last long after you, and that in the brief span of your life you have been thrown by fate, by history, by chance, by evolution, or by God into a specific place with specific problems and needs. Your job is to figure certain things out: What does this environment need in order to be made whole? What is it that needs repair? What tasks are lying around waiting to be performed? As the novelist Frederick Buechner put it, “At what points do my talents and deep gladness meet the world’s deep need?” -David Brooks, The Road to Character

What Selfishness Produces

“This self-centeredness leads in several unfortunate directions. It leads to selfishness, the desire to use other people as means to get things for yourself. It also leads to pride, the desire to see yourself as superior to everybody else. It leads to a capacity to ignore and rationalize your own imperfections and inflate your virtues. As we go through life, most of us are constantly comparing and constantly finding ourselves slightly better than other people—more virtuous, with better judgment, with better taste. We’re constantly seeking recognition, and painfully sensitive to any snub or insult to the status we believe we have earned for ourselves.” -David Brooks, The Road to Character

Why Self-Centeredness is Easy

“Everything in my own immediate experience supports my deep belief that I am the absolute center of the universe; the realest, most vivid and important person in existence. We rarely think about this sort of natural, basic self-centeredness because it’s so socially repulsive. But it’s pretty much the same for all of us. It is our default setting, hard-wired into our boards at birth. Think about it: there is no experience you have had that you are not the absolute center of. The world as you experience it is there in front of YOU or behind YOU, to the left or right of YOU, on YOUR TV or YOUR monitor. And so on. Other people’s thoughts and feelings have to be communicated to you somehow, but your own are so immediate, urgent, real.” -David Foster Wallace, 2005 commencement address at Kenyon College

Selfishness Disguised as Christianity

“It is very important to note that the most dangerous idols for all of us are those that are easily Christianized. Selfishness is most dangerous when it masquerades as service. Self-focus is most powerful when it dons the costume of love. Earthly treasures are most seductive when they take on the appearance of spiritual need. Idols do their nastiest work when they wear the latex mask of God. Because the little kingdom is a costume kingdom, it presents a near and present danger to everyone who has committed himself to the kingdom of God.” -Paul Tripp

We Are All, Always Civilizing Others to Fit our Personal Culture

“It’s not just that we all tend to build our own little claustrophobic kingdoms, but that we want the people who are around us to keep the rules of our kingdoms as well. So, we all have ways of enculturating the people around us. The engaged woman enculturates her fiancé in the rules of her kingdom by inflicting him with silence when he doesn’t give her the compliments that she seeks. After four or five of these moments of silence, he learns the rules and the necessity of keeping them. The father, who wants peace and quiet in the house while he is reading the paper, enculturates his family by his angry outbursts. Before long, they all learn to tiptoe around him when he has the newspaper in his hands. The boss who is obsessed with his own success enculturates his employees in the rules of his kingdom by a system of threats and rewards. Before long each of his employees is “civilized” and toes the line as demanded. The junior high kids enculturate their peer into their civilization of appearance, by their mocking laughter when he wears something that is not approved. He learns the rules quickly, quits letting his mom choose his clothes for him, and determines to only wear what is on the “cool” list. In each example, people are being civilized— that is, taught the rules of the little kingdom and told what will happen if they don’t stay within those rules.” -Paul Tripp