We live in an era of unprecedented narcissistic entitlement. There are many reasons for this. First, ours is a time of plenty, at least from a material standpoint. In fact, we have so it’s easy to take it all for granted. We’ve also achieved a lot. Advances in science and technology have helped us do that. And they’ve given most of us a comfortable standard of living. We seem to be pretty enamored of our accomplishments, too. We’re impressed with what we have and what we’ve done. Moreover, we’ve come to expect a lot. For all these and for various other reasons It’s hard to see this precious life we enjoy for what it fundamentally is: an unearned gift.
As I’ve posted about before, we all start out as egocentric, narcissistic creatures. To become persons of noble character, we have to grow out of our inherent self-centeredness. That’s an inherently daunting task, to be sure. And some among us never succeed in mastering it. Moreover, cultural factors have made the task increasingly difficult. So, all too many folks fail to grow properly in character.
Now, many factors can arrest character growth. Trauma can do it. So can dire or impoverished circumstances. Either can make us make us stick with or revert to more primitive ways of coping. But indulgence can stunt our growth, too. And a climate of indulgence and expectation of immediate, substantial gratification can easily foster a sense of narcissistic entitlement.
Growing in Character
We have to learn and embrace some crucial lessons in life to avoid developing a sense of narcissistic entitlement. (See also: Outgrowing Natural Egocentricity and Spiritual Growth Inspires Character.) First, we have to see ourselves as part of something bigger. That’s the first “commandment.” (For more on the commandments see Character Disturbance, Chapter 4.) Recognizing that the universe is certainly not of our own making helps. So does coming to believe in some kind of “higher power.” You don’t have to be particularly religious about this. Still, it’s an inherently spiritual matter.
Scientists tell us that an existent infinitely small “singularity” possessing unimaginable potential energy gave birth to the universe billions of years ago in a veritable “big bang.” There are other theories, too. But there’s one thing we know for sure: we certainly didn’t bring ourselves or this creation into being. It brought us into being. And it sustains us, too. Over the years, I’ve become more acutely aware of a most sobering psychological reality: our lack of respect for the miracle and gift of existence lies at the root of most of our problems.
So how do we come to a place of grateful reverence? We have to recognize our inherent indebtedness. And there are many spiritual disciplines to help us do this. There are several psychological avenues, too. And perhaps the path we take is less important than the level of commitment we bring to the walk.
Trials and Hangups
Many things can hang us up on our path to greater spiritual awareness and character health. Life is a series of trials. And most of us fail when put to the test. Solid character is much like a type of immune system. It affords us some protection from the spiritual and psychological “diseases” that can infect us and stunt our growth. (See: Character as a Psychological Immune System.) But forging such character is arduous and takes time. Moreover, we can’t do it alone. We need the support of a growth-oriented community. How to build such a community in an age of narcissistic entitlement? That will be the subject of discussion in an upcoming post.
Special Wishes for the Season
I know I have much to be grateful for. The support of the readers of this blog is principal among them. So, my sincerest thanks to all of you who continue to recommend my books and blog articles to others. And I wish you all the happiest of holidays. And my thoughts and prayers are with all who, for various reasons, might be experiencing hardship.
Next week I’ll be posting a special New Year’s message.