Dr. Keith Ablow has written a truly troubling article for Foxnews this week entitled We Are Raising a Generation of Deluded Narcissists. He documents how a study was conducted of freshmen at universities across the nation showing that a majority of freshmen believed that they were gifted and driven to succeed even though their grades and test scores indicated otherwise. The narcissistic tendencies among young adults has been increasing for the past 30 years.
Ablow says that this is not surprising at all, given the culture that we live in truly caters to the exaltation of the self. Ablow writes:
I have been writing a great deal over the past few years about the toxic psychological impact of media and technology on children, adolescents and young adults, particularly as it regards turning them into faux celebrities—the equivalent of lead actors in their own fictionalized life stories.
On Facebook, young people can fool themselves into thinking they have hundreds or thousands of “friends.” They can delete unflattering comments. They can block anyone who disagrees with them or pokes holes in their inflated self-esteem. They can choose to show the world only flattering, sexy or funny photographs of themselves (dozens of albums full, by the way), “speak” in pithy short posts and publicly connect to movie stars and professional athletes and musicians they “like.”
We truly do live in a world in which each one of us is the center of our own stories. We have our followings on Facebook, blogs, twitter, chat rooms, and even the games we play on the internet. There is a real temptation to find meaning in all these things, but the reality is that in the end, none of these things matter at all.
For instance, video games really do give someone a false sense of self worth in playing them. I remember playing Age of Kings while in seminary. It’s a game in which the player builds a kindgom using little men and warriors and takes over other kingdoms and warriors as he grows in stature and power in the game. One can obtain great levels of “power” in the game itself and really create a name for one’s self. The problem is, the moment that you shut off the computer, is the moment that reality comes crashing down on the player. He or she is no longer the great warrior or conqueror, just someone who spent hours playing a game. The false realities do come to an end.
Ablow points this out as well:
False pride can never be sustained. The bubble of narcissism is always at risk of bursting. That’s why young people are higher on drugs than ever, drunker than ever, smoking more, tattooed more, pierced more and having more and more and more sex, earlier and earlier and earlier, raising babies before they can do it well, because it makes them feel special, for a while. They’re doing anything to distract themselves from the fact that they feel empty inside and unworthy.
Distractions, however, are temporary, and the truth is eternal. Watch for an epidemic of depression and suicidality, not to mention homicidality, as the real self-loathing and hatred of others that lies beneath all this narcissism rises to the surface. I see it happening and, no doubt, many of you do, too.
We had better get a plan together to combat this greatest epidemic as it takes shape. Because it will dwarf the toll of any epidemic we have ever known. And it will be the hardest to defeat. Because, by the time we see the scope and destructiveness of this enemy clearly, we will also realize, as the saying goes, that it is us.
I agree with him. We do need a plan ready for the countless people who come crashing down with the realities that their false worlds truly are nothing but from the land of make believe. We need something that will give them true significance and true meaning. These things cannot be found on the psychiatrists couch or the pharmacists bottle.
These things can only be found in the One and His Kingdom that doesn’t pass away. Unlike Age of Kings, the Kingdom of Christ is eternal and so are those who belong to His Kingdom. To embrace the gospel of Jesus Christ means becoming significant based on the significance of another, namely Christ. We don’t find significance in ourselves, ever.
This is because we are fallen humans to begin with. We lost our true significance in the fall of Adam and all the false pretenses of life will never return that significance. This is why Christ is so important. He restores what was lost by Adam so many years ago and gives that significance to those who trust in Him for deliverance from these false realities.
But we must start with the premise that sin is real. Sin is not something we conjure up in our minds when we feel bad, but a true offense against a holy and just God. The very things that our false realities have been trying to cover up, must be exposed and dealt with. This is why Christ is so important to lasting realities. He dealt with the believer’s sin on the cross in a real and lasting way. The sin and debt He pays for are truly dealt with so that we can be reconciled to the Father. This is why Paul calls the gospel a ministry of reconciliation.
Once we are reconciled, then we truly can live a life of meaning and contentment because our meaning is found in Him, and not ourselves. There is no on or off switch to the real meaning and lives we have been given in Christ. While our lives may lack glamor or popularity, they have real meaning because the simple things we do throughout the day are things we do for Him.
Yes, we may be ignored in the false world of Facebook or Twitter. But our heavenly Father knows the struggles we will have and He gives us His Spirit to deal with them. This is far more meaningful than the number of friends I have in the social sphere. In Christ, we have One eternal friend who will never defriend us.