A Narcissistic Culture?

It’s Narcissist Friday!   


Are there more narcissists today? Perhaps. Perhaps in a day when extended family provided support beyond stressed parents fewer children grew up rejected by everyone around them. Perhaps when people lived in homogeneous communities, where everyone had almost the same life as everyone else and we didn’t see anything to the contrary on television, perhaps the competition was less. Perhaps when the enemies in the real world forced people to seek help from each other, people could find strength in relationships.

I am not an anti-modernist. I do not think everything new is bad, nor do I think all old things are good. But I do think our world is less caring and less supportive. The structures of family and community, of class or national identity, offered something that seemed more understanding or sympathetic. We were part of something, and we learned about ourselves in that context.

But our culture today seems to have found more loneliness as it has striven for more independence. Young people are getting married later and later in life. Older people have been taught to think of themselves as having less value or place. In spite of our increased connections with people who used to be different from us, we are more separated than ever.

The expression of our culture through media has certainly reflected this. How many television shows have carried the theme of “Friends”? Single people living together, but yet alone. Our stories about relationships are so often troubled, and the ideal often lifted up is that of “Cheers,” where people come together and promise an environment where everyone knows your name and you are accepted, but then all separate again to their own homes and jobs and lives. Concepts of family and community have changed.

And the desire to be somebody accepted by but not controlled by the world is the heartbeat of social media and reality television. It isn’t new. Some of you might remember the old songs:

From Sammy Davis Jr.

Whether I’m right or whether I’m wrong
Whether I find a place in this world or never belong
I gotta be me, I’ve gotta be me
What else can I be but what I am
I want to live, not merely survive
And I won’t give up this dream
Of life that keeps me alive
I gotta be me, I gotta be me
The dream that I see makes me what I am
That far-away prize, a world of success
Is waiting for me if I heed the call
I won’t settle down, won’t settle for less
As long as there’s a chance that I can have it all
I’ll go it alone, that’s how it must be
I can’t be right for somebody else
If I’m not right for me
I gotta be free, I’ve gotta be free
Daring to try, to do it or die
I’ve gotta be me
Songwriters  MARKS, WALTER   Published by  Lyrics © Warner/Chappell Music, Inc.


Or how about this one from Frank Sinatra:


And now, the end is near;
And so I face the final curtain.
My friend, I’ll say it clear,
I’ll state my case, of which I’m certain.
I’ve lived a life that’s full.
I’ve traveled each and every highway;
And more, much more than this,
I did it my way.
Regrets, I’ve had a few;
But then again, too few to mention.
I did what I had to do
And saw it through without exemption.
I planned each charted course;
Each careful step along the byway,
And more, much more than this,
I did it my way.
Yes, there were times, I’m sure you knew
When I bit off more than I could chew.
But through it all, when there was doubt,
I ate it up and spit it out.
I faced it all and I stood tall;
And did it my way.
I’ve loved, I’ve laughed and cried.
I’ve had my fill; my share of losing.
And now, as tears subside,
I find it all so amusing.
To think I did all that;
And may I say – not in a shy way,
“Oh no, oh no not me,
I did it my way”.
For what is a man, what has he got?
If not himself, then he has naught.
To say the things he truly feels;
And not the words of one who kneels.
The record shows I took the blows –
And did it my way!
Yes, it was my way.


Many years ago John Donne wrote:


No man is an island,
Entire of itself,
Every man is a piece of the continent,
A part of the main.
If a clod be washed away by the sea,
Europe is the less.
As well as if a promontory were.
As well as if a manor of thy friend’s
Or of thine own were:
Any man’s death diminishes me,
Because I am involved in mankind,
And therefore never send to know for whom the bell tolls;
It tolls for thee. 


And Simon and Garfunkel answered:


A winter’s day
In a deep and dark December
I am alone
Gazing from my window
To the streets below
On a freshly fallen, silent shroud of snow
I am a rock
I am an island
I’ve built walls
A fortress, steep and mighty
That none may penetrate
I have no need of friendship
Friendship causes pain.
It’s laughter and it’s loving I disdain.
I am a rock
I am an island
Don’t talk of love
Well, I’ve heard the words before
It’s sleeping in my memory
And I won’t disturb the slumber
Of feelings that have died
If I never loved, I never would have cried
I am a rock
I am an island
I have my books
And my poetry to protect me
I am shielded in my armor
Hiding in my room
Safe within my womb
I touch no one and no one touches me
I am a rock
I am an island
And a rock feels no pain
And an island never cries


© 1965 Words and Music by Paul Simon


So, yes, I do suspect that there are more narcissists today, that narcissism is defining our culture and our relationships more and more. I think more people are lonely and afraid, more are separate and distant. And I don’t think the problem is going away soon.

But there are things we can do. We can smile more and accept others more. We can learn not just to look past our differences but past our fears. We can be a little more patient, a little more generous, a little more empathic. We can thank people, even when they have just done their jobs. We can assume something better of others. If trust is a problem in our day, we can at least be kind.

And, one of my favorite lines (which I often forget) is sometimes referred to as Hanlon’s Razor:

Never attribute to malice that which is adequately explained by stupidity.

We understand stupidity. We all make stupid decisions and foolish mistakes. Malice offends us and troubles us. Maybe the other person is just having a bad day.

You see, narcissists don’t, perhaps can’t, think like this. We can. We can seek to build relationships by kindness and acceptance, just for the sake of what is good. And, in doing so, we may truly be a blessing to others.


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12 responses to “A Narcissistic Culture?

  1. crystal1969

    Thanks 😄
    Being kind to others does make a difference; being kind to ourselves enables us to do this 💜

  2. Rachel

    But Dave, can we be kinder and smile more and be more accepting to the Narcissists too? Or do we need to keep a better distance from them?

  3. L D

    I’m quite sure Usher, Jermaine Dupris, and Seal all had nothing to do with writing “My Way” (they were either kids or not born yet in the 60s, right?). Wiki says Paul Anka wrote it for Sinatra…http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/My_Way From: Grace for my Heart To: wonderingif1@yahoo.com Sent: Friday, June 5, 2015 9:31 AM Subject: [New post] A Narcissistic Culture? #yiv6038888254 a:hover {color:red;}#yiv6038888254 a {text-decoration:none;color:#0088cc;}#yiv6038888254 a.yiv6038888254primaryactionlink:link, #yiv6038888254 a.yiv6038888254primaryactionlink:visited {background-color:#2585B2;color:#fff;}#yiv6038888254 a.yiv6038888254primaryactionlink:hover, #yiv6038888254 a.yiv6038888254primaryactionlink:active {background-color:#11729E;color:#fff;}#yiv6038888254 WordPress.com | graceformyheart posted: “It’s Narcissist Friday!    Are there more narcissists today? Perhaps. Perhaps in a day when extended family provided support beyond stressed parents fewer children grew up rejected by everyone around them. Perhaps when people lived in homogeneous ” | |

  4. Still Reforming

    Wow – I can hear that Simon and Garfunkel song now in my head. I remember that one. I didn’t “get it” at the time, but now, decades older, I do. But I feel … not sad, but a sense of pity for the author of the lyrics. Perhaps for both of them. I read a recent article about Garfunkel. He seemed bitter about Simon. I feel sad mostly because the author of the lyrics (like Garfunkel) valued feeling no pain or shedding no tears above relationships. And that’s a pity. The great gain of relationships is worth the pain we occasionally suffer in them. The risk is worth the leap, given the alternative. If you don’t try, you’ll never have it. But if you do try and lose, well, it happens. If you try and win, it was all worth it.

    • Still Reforming

      Oops – just read “music and lyrics by Paul Simon.” So it was he and not Garfunkel.

    • “I Am A Rock” seems more like a sad commentary on those who protect themselves this way rather than a literal account of the songwriter’s world view. So does “The Boxer.”

      • Still Reforming

        I agree. I see the lyrics more reflective of the author’s view of personal relationships, not a worldview.

  5. AES

    I have been reading a lot in Proverbs and seems to talk a lot about the behavior characteristics of narcissism and is very very insightful and helpful in many ways. I came across a particular verse that really stands out which is Proverbs 18:2 stating “A fool hath no delight in understanding, but that his heart may discover itself.” This verse sounds like its talking about the way the “N” is into his own image or self centered ways?? There are also several scriptures in Proverbs talking about a froward heart or ways and the word froward has a meaning of: difficult to deal with; turning back to ones own ways; backsliding or turn away from!! ……..Just thought I would share this. God is really been helping me a lot in so many ways through all this and even though these times are tough and depressing I am thankful at the same time as have been brought to a certain point of dependance on God and trusting more and more in Him and being more open to things about my own self. I pray God helps everyone here and gives that peace within that surpases all understanding!!

  6. Sandra

    Thank you, Pastor Dave for your great article.

    If I may add my two cents, I think the world is becoming more materialistic, overshadowing more the spiritual side.

    When I was growing up there was still definitely a boundary, a respect or an allowance for existence of the spiritual. Judgement was suspended by those who perhaps did not believe, at least recognizing a limit to their position for the existance of others who did believe. This boundary has eroded, as if deservingly so in light of the advances in science and technology. There is an acceptance that life will soon be “discovered”, like some “god particle”. Therefore, we can let go of spirituality because, in the same wat that cheap shoes made shoemakers obsolete, what use is spirituality if technology is making us know everything?

    True poverty is the spiritual bankruptcy of the human heart, I feel. But they who eliminate spirituality from their lives think they are just being smart and listening to “reason”.

    Best regards to everyone here,
    Your fellow soldier in the battle to come to terms with our N.

  7. Mark

    It seems that the pendulum has swung both ways towards narcissism. The “seeker-centered” churches seem to cater to narcissistic individuals by providing a gospel of feeling good about yourself. The reaction is that more “leader-centered” churches are drawing narcissistic individuals into leadership positions and teaching members to blindly obey their narcissistic leaders. Where I came from, you would get the people who were encouraged and steeped in their narcissism, but found that not enough people hung on their every word, so they would quit their liberal church and join our church where they could become narcissistic leaders

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