A Generation of Narcissists

Sometimes you have to wonder. We have all these eggheads holding major conferences to weigh in on significant issues, but, the truth is, much of this is already glaringly obvious. We don’t actually need academics and elites to tell us these things.

Anyone half awake can see that these things are going on. Do we really need another international conference to state the obvious? At best all these talkfests are doing is confirming what we all already knew by simple common sense. But at least they are verifying what we knew all along.

The latest example of this was mentioned in the press today. There is a conference on in Melbourne about personality disorders and today a psychology professor was to have given a talk on how we are experiencing an “epidemic of narcissism,” especially among young people.

This is how, in part, an Age article covers the story: “Jean Twenge, professor of psychology at San Diego State University, said a study she conducted of 16,000 university students across the US showed 30 per cent were narcissistic in psychological tests, compared with 15 per cent in 1982. ‘They are all 18 and 19-year-olds, so this is clearly a generational shift,’ she said.

“Professor Twenge said the finding built on another study based on interviews with 35,000 people of varying ages, who were asked if they had ever had symptoms of narcissism. ‘Usually the oldest people have the highest rates, because they have lived for more years, but this data showed the opposite,’ she said. Only 3 per cent of those over 65 had had symptoms, but for people in their 20s it was 10 per cent.

“‘These were shocking numbers because you can only diagnose this starting at age 18, so there weren’t that many years for people in their 20s to develop this, yet their rate was three times as high as people over 65.’ In a keynote address to the International Society for the Study of Personality Disorders Congress, Professor Twenge will say that permissive parenting, celebrity culture and the internet are among the causes of the emerging narcissism epidemic.

“She said telling children they were special to build self-esteem could foster narcissism. Narcissists had an inflated sense of self, lacked empathy, were vain and materialistic and had an overblown sense of entitlement. Some resulting social trends were a greater interest in fame and wealth, more plastic surgery, and an increase in attention-seeking crimes – for example, ‘beating someone up and putting it on YouTube’.”

Now why is none of this very surprising? We are now living in the most secular period in the West’s history. Everywhere our young people are indoctrinated with atheistic and evolutionary fundamentalism, and it is beginning to sink in.

Our young people have been convinced that the universe has no meaning, there is no ultimate purpose to life, and we are simply here by accident. They are assured that there is no God, and if anything, they need to create their own reality and forge their own destiny.

So instead of teaching the young that they are not in fact the centre of the universe, we are doing the very opposite. We have kicked God off his rightful throne, and foolishly thought we could put ourselves there in his place. This is a burden too great for any human being to have to bear.

The idea that I am the centre of the universe, that I am the fount of all wisdom, knowledge and morality, and that I am the one who must call all the shots, is very heady stuff indeed. We are telling our kids that they in effect are the source of all truth and all meaning.

Instead of a personal eternal God who we all must give account to and find our very meaning in, we instead are told that we are now the source of all reality, and that we now must determine truth and falsehood, right and wrong. We are now the replacement of the creator of the universe.

Whereas in the past all glory went to God – and rightly so – now all glory goes to self. ‘Look at me: I am the most high being. I am the one to whom all eyes should look and all voices cheer.’ Indeed, the death of God in the West has been coupled with a disastrous emphasis on self in recent times.

Today all the attention is on self. We are all to luxuriate in self-esteem, self-awareness, self-glorification and self-improvement. Everything is now centred on self. Self is now king. Self is now God. No wonder we are seeing a generation of narcissists. We have sought to kill off God and have enthroned self as the centre of all things.

Of course since human beings were not designed to carry that burden, we are unravelling and crumbling in the process. We were not meant to be the creator, but the creature; not the leader but the follower; not the lord but the servant; not the source but the recipient; not the initiator but the responder.

It is not surprising at all that secular psychologists and psychiatrists are witnessing all this social, emotional and mental dysfunction. That must occur when we deny who we are by design, and seek to usurp the role of our creator. That is a weight and a burden which none of us can bear.

So thanks to the academics for telling us what we already know. What they will have much greater difficulty with is telling us what can be done about this. Most of them wouldn’t have a clue. So let me help them out here. If we put God back where he belongs, and we put ourselves back where we belong, a lot of these problems will be greatly lessened.

Indeed, in gospel terminology, we need to let God be God, and we need to submit to him. This begins with repentance and turning from self, and turning instead to him. When we do this, we start to become who we were created to be. Nothing less than such a major turnaround will suffice.

As Jesus said, “I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full” (John 10:10). That can only come about when we agree with God and get ourselves off the pedestal and put him back up there instead.


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8 Replies to “A Generation of Narcissists”

  1. CS Lewis: man is a rebel who needs to lay down his arms and surrender to the King of Kings.
    Francis Schaeffer: when man declares “god is dead” then man is dead, too.
    John Angelico

  2. If older people are less narcissistic than youngsters then it is because they have matured. And you can’t write off youngsters just because they score high on a personality dimension. After all, they would also score high on a test for immaturity if there was one. I have my doubts about taking mass snapshots of “narcissism” in a population. Nothing like the careful time-consuming probing of genuinely disordered narcissistic personalities in a clinical setting.

    You are right to criticise the culture, though. Never trust a culture that mocks virtue.

    John Snowden

  3. With increased secularisation since the 1960’s, many people have grown up in an atheist environment, knowing nothing about Jesus Christ or the Christian faith. For such people, or those who may be hostile to all things Christian who may check into this website I would invite them to read the words of the translation of the prayer Jesus taught us 2000 years ago and see how they feel.

    Our Father, who art in heaven,
    hallowed be thy name.
    Thy Kingdom come,
    thy will be done,
    on earth as it is in heaven
    Give us this day our daily bread.
    And forgive us our trespasses,
    as we forgive those who trespass against us.
    And lead us not into temptation,
    but deliver us from evil.
    For thine is the kingdom, the power and the glory. for ever and ever. Amen

    Rachel Smith

  4. Evelyn Waugh, by all accounts, was a very disagreeable man. He admitted this, and said that he would have been much worse had he not been a Christian. He saw that the so-called “permissiveness”, advocated by influential intellectuals, would lead to the de-Christianisation of society. The moral discipline traditionally imposed by Christian values would be replaced by the universal pursuit of pleasure. Our civilization would be coarsened and even brutalized by the social agenda prescribed by the intelligentsia.

    Waugh died in 1966, but the “intellectual revolution” he deplored continues. Eggheads are still giving advice to humanity that is godless and destructive of virtue. Who knows how it will end?

    Alex Anderson

  5. I have come to the conclusion that if you are searching for examples of concentrated high quality codswallop, associated with any subject matter,and don’t wish to spend that much time looking, try academia first. Professor Twenge made me twinge with her statement that telling children they are special will foster narcissism. I don’t know how many times I’ve told my grandchildren they are special, because they are. They thrive on it, they know I mean it and the rewards a grandparent receives for such displays of affection could not be calculated in ordinary values. And who could put a price on knowing you’ll receive a broad smiling welcome, whenever you pay them a visit, or hear them say on the phone that they can’t wait until you come down to visit them. Speaking in broad rather than individual terms, the best methods for raising children never come from academic theories. They come from using common sense, but it certainly helps if it is obvious to them that you have a “special” love for your children and your grandchildren in the first place.
    Frank Bellet, Petrie Qld

  6. As a youth worker with High risk adolescents it is obvious We are as a generation failing to give proper direction to our youth off today. They are violent and often so self absorbed they fail to listen to those close to them such as family and choose to go their own ways. Now more than ever we need to be on our knees praying for our children & grandchildren.Lets learn to speak positive reinforcement into their lives Words of Life. Not death !!! Train up a child in the way he should go and when he is old he will not depart from it ……Proverbs.
    Kerry Etherington

  7. Dear Bill

    Take a read – 2 Timothy 3: 1 But mark this: There will be terrible times in the last days. 2 People will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boastful, proud, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, 3 without love, unforgiving, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not lovers of the good, 4 treacherous, rash, conceited, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God— 5 having a form of godliness but denying its power. Have nothing to do with such people.

    This sounds so much like what we are talking about. We should not be surprised at this epidemic/pandemic but rather we should be raising the standard of the love of God and praying for this generation. It is worrying but the Lord is not surprised and is well and truly able to show Himself to them.

    Deborah Lorkin, Perth

  8. Yes but I think there’s a big difference between a granddad telling his grandchildren he loves them and thinks there great and the kind of parenting i see every where.
    It consists of, your better than them darling – your turn darling – push in darling. My own mother thought i could do anything which of course i cant.
    Daniel Kempton

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