The Age of Narcissism
We’ve been living in the age of narcissism for some time. And that’s had a detrimental effect on both our individual and collective characters. Aspects of culture fostered rampant egocentricity and attitudes of entitlement. And such things take a heavy toll on our relationships and other interpersonal affairs. They inevitably invite callousness, exploitation, and abuse. (See: Character Disturbance, pp. 11-18.)
I’m certainly not the first call attention to or name our age of narcissism. And I’m not the only one trying to bring its costs to greater awareness. However, I do want to be among the first dedicated to ushering in a new age. And I’d especially like my written work to be instrumental in facilitating that process. That’s why I worked for so long on Essentials for the Journey. I wanted it to touch hearts and to invite a change of perspective. I’ve come to appreciate that that’s the only way the world can change: one heart at a time.
Understanding Our Interconnectedness
We’re all connected, whether or not we properly appreciate the fact. But just how we perceive our connectedness matters. And the manner in which we choose to connect with each other matters, too. In fact, it matters more than anything. Shallow, exploitative, dishonest connections inevitably destroy. (See: In Sheep’s Clothing, Chapter 7.) Genuinely loving connections create, build, inspire, etc.. And the human quality I call character is largely about developing the capacity to lovingly connect. Of course, to lovingly connect with another we must first be lovingly connected with ourselves.
In the end, all things come down to the nature of relationships. Toxic relationships have their roots in narcissism. They’re based on need, desire, etc., and are inherently self-serving. (See also: Wants and Needs Are Not the Same.) Loving, creative, productive relationships involve putting ourselves at the service of something bigger. And doing so inherently benefits everyone and everything. But having the heart for this doesn’t come naturally. Most of us have to experience a radical change of heart (i.e. “metanoia“.) First we have to come to know that hard-to-define something bigger. Then, we have to have the heart to put it before everything else. But when we do, everything changes.
It should seem pretty clear that for culture to change, hearts must change first. Happily, however, as they do, this age of narcissism will come to an end. And, hopefully, the mindset we put in its place will place us on track to grow, thrive, and prosper again.
Fostering Loving Connections
Learning to love is both difficult and complicated. First, you have to know what genuine love actually is. And, sadly, too many things masquerade as love. In next week’s post, I’ll be talking about some of those things and how they fostered the rampant narcissism we’ve witnessed for so long and trapped so many in unhealthy relationships. And you can find the first Character Matters podcast of a series on the subject on this YouTube link.