Narcissism, The Cross and Being Called By Name

A few years ago, I would have never admitted to being narcissistic. I had a website dedicated to me and a countless social media accounts highlighting my opinion. I shared that opinion often and regularly dominated conversations. In addition, I was impatient when things didn’t align with my will and I constantly surveyed my bank account and financials to see how things were stacking up. And finally, I analyzed my performance in both my career and in my hobbies. What I wanted, needed and desired was the focal point of each day.

The truth is, I was blind to my own reality. The telltale sign was the constant anxiety I felt on the days when life didn’t go to plan—which was more often than not. My life was narcissism masquerading as ambition, diligence and nobility.

But it was really hard to spot because my intentions were pure. Beneath the veneer of self I truly wanted to help people. It just felt better when I got credit. Zig Ziglar once said, “You will get all you want in life if you help enough people get what they want”. My life embodied that phrase. It sounds sweet as it rolls off the tongue, but it is laced with the venom of self.

The gap between our intentions and our reality is a chasm of Grand Canyon-like proportions. The problem is, most of us are oblivious to it. Then comes the moment when we are aware, yet unwilling to admit it. Or even worse, when we are totally aware and unwilling to change.

But isn’t self-care essential? Don’t our desires matter? Isn’t some narcissism good?

The odd truth is, yes. We just have to have something more powerful than our own hubris to restrain it.

Modern-Day Christianity

I believe that Christianity is the only thing powerful enough to restrain the narcissistic tension of mankind.

However, modern Christianity has evolved into something like a kind of rock concert for folks who wear their church’s t-shirt. Now, I’m all for changing the context of church as a way to break off some of the old ways of doing things. And I’m even more supportive of the idea that we have to welcome the masses. But we can’t trade our identities in Christ for our identities in our church. More importantly, we can’t comfortably hide behind our denomination, theology and Bible memorization as a way to qualify our sanctification. The enemy is a master at infiltrating the camp from the inside.

The Christian life is more than dogma, doctrine and denomination. It’s the essence of life itself—the hope for all that ails us. And we live in a world that desperately needs that hope. But we have to be willing to be aware of our own reality. In a world that loves to point fingers, it’s time to take an honest look in the mirror.

Pride sunk the Titanic. Let’s not blame the iceberg.

Humbled By The Cross

The Western world largely understands that Easter is the Christian celebration of the death and resurrection of Christ. Jesus, the Son of God and the Perfect Man, came to die on the cross for our sins. He’s the substitutionary sacrifice—He died the death we deserve so we could get right with God.

But to so many, God has become a rule-bearing dictator and Jesus is the perfect son we’ll never be. As a result, “Faith” is something we’re not quite good enough for and “Sin” is something we learn to live with. We trust in Jesus to save us, but we still live buried beneath the guilt our sin and trust in our willpower to break free.

In parrot-like fashion, we march in every Sunday and dump our sins as a way to check off the box that we still believe. But as we look around at pews full of other sinners, we fade back into the narcissistic pattern of living a good life with ourselves at the helm.

But the truth about Christianity is that the cross destroys narcissism, both for those who think they’re good enough and for those who think they’re not worthy. The cross presents the opportunity for us to get absolutely honest. The question is, have you ever nailed your narcissism to the tree and let it hang there until it dies?

This Easter, I invite you to go to the cross like never before. Enjoy the smock outfits and seersucker, but press deeper. Picture an innocent man who stands beside you, on trial for every wrong you’ve ever done. When the gavel falls, you’re set free. He gets the death penalty. Emotionalize that in your mind and feel it in your gut. Weep your heart out that your concept of fairness and justice has been offended and receive the gift of true life.

Be humbled by the cross. But don’t stay there.

Empowered By The Resurrection

For far too long, I lived in the narrative of Good Friday. I was grateful for Jesus’s sacrifice and I had asked for His forgiveness, but I stayed at the foot of the cross and wept by His tomb. Service to Christ was all about reverence and commitment to Him. Each day when I felt guilt, I would come back to sit and weep. But the truth is, I was so focused on myself that I forgot the rest of the story.

Jesus didn’t stay on the cross. Nor did He stay in the tomb.

My favorite account of Jesus’s resurrection is recorded in the book of John. Mary stands weeping outside of the tomb and is approached by a man who asks, “Woman, why are you weeping? Whom are you seeking?” She thinks it’s the gardener so she says, “Sir, if you have carried Him away, tell me where you have laid Him, and I will take Him away.”

Then, Jesus simply says to her, “Mary.”

A few years ago, I pictured myself weeping by the tomb and then I inserted my name into the passage. After the cross and after the resurrection, Jesus calls each of us by name. At that point, it’s personal. Once I began to realize that, I began to internalize Jesus’s final words, “It is finished.” It is done. For good. No more striving. No more shame.

Once we’ve gone to the cross, we don’t need to return there. He didn’t stay there and neither should we.

The resurrection empowers us.

Life Between Sundays

Those who profess Christ must understand that we are the window through which the world will see and experience Jesus. In that way, our life has to become a resurrected one. We can no longer ignore cross or casually pass by without acknowledging it’s symbolism. But we also can’t stay there weeping. We must live from the freedom that Jesus promised—from heaven.

The Christian life isn’t a Sunday life, it’s about our life between Sundays. And if Christ isn’t guiding that exclusively, narcissism is.

One of the things that has been incredibly helpful to me is starting my day with a fresh perspective. Each morning, I get a text message that challenges me to consider my compass for the day. If you want to join me in that, click here.

The bottom line is that the power of the gospel is the only thing strong enough to kill the narcissistic spirit that lives within us. But ironically, the gospel promises that God will empower you to unleash your unique and individual character in the world.

This Easter, celebrate more than the cross and resurrection. Celebrate the resurrected life you have been promised.

Live free, friends.

Jesus is alive.



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