Monday, February 19, 2007

20 Narcissistic Love Songs

Jeff Crabtree (above piccie) is a Pastor at CCC Oxford Falls and also head of their Creative Arts School. He is also a suberb musician and one night in concert, he did a hilarious segment on the (fictional) album he is working on: 20 Narcissistic Love Songs. It was brilliant ... the melodic strains of "You Are So Beautiful" flowed out from the piano and then he began to sing with the utmost sincerity and passion. "I ... am ... so beautiful ... to me ..." Look at his picture! People started to laugh and he continued, "I'm everything I hoped for ... and everything ... I've dre-e-amed ... I ... am ... so beautiful ... to me". He flowed from one love song to another ... changing all the lyrics to be "I" ...

Think of these examples and sing along ...

Always on My Mind – Willie Nelson
"I am always on my mind … always on my mind ..."

You’re Beautiful – James Blunt
"I’m beautiful … beautiful … "

Saving All my love – Whitney Houston
"Yes ... I'm ... saving all my love ... for me"

You are the sunshine of my life – Stevie Wonder
"I am the sunshine of my life ..."

I Got You Babe – Sonny and Cher
"I ... got ... me babe ... "

You're the One That I Want - Olivia Newton John and John Travolta
"I'm the one that I want ... ooh ooh ooh ...

By now you get the drift. What is my point here? Well, I am just thinking about how hard we find it to get the right balance betweeen self love and self obsession! Jesus tells us to love our neighbour as ourselves. Often this is problematic because we don’t always love ourselves. We aren’t comfortable with the way that we are wired. Perhaps it’s that we don’t fit the dominant culture of what is acceptable or popular. I remember this in my 20s at church. I did not fit the stereotypical lovely woman image in our church … which was pretty … delicate … and oh yes, of course. SUBMISSIVE! These women shone and had a glow and a grace. There were times that I felt like the proverbial bull in the china shop. I asked questions that made people squirm … I challenged status quo at church … I just could not help myself!

Things changed one day, when I challenged a street preacher. I was upset because of the image of Christ I was seeing displayed and how people were reacting to this. I felt like people were switching off to Christianity and making that decision on a completely wrong picture. I quietly spoke with the man afterwards and the conversation went, “excuse me sir, could I ask you a question?” “Yes … what?” “Well I was wondering if you believe in what you are preaching?” Crossing his arms defensively across his chest, he responded a tad aggressively, “Yes, WHY?” My response was, “well, you are talking about love and I don’t see love. You are talking about joy and I don’t see this.” He was upset and interrupted me with, “do you think JESUS always walked around with a SMILE on his face?!” I responded with, “no, of course not. The bible says he wept. But when he talked about joy, he showed joy. When he talked about love, he showed love.” Our conversation did not last too much longer as I did not want an argument and he was getting angry with me. As I walked away, I had the impression of God’s still quiet voice saying to me, “you see Sarah? There is a reason why I made you the way I did. Those lovely women who you are hung up about not being, would not have had this conversation. I made you the way I did so that you would. You are made on purpose for a purpose, so stop worrying about others and just get on with being who I made you to be.” This was a life defining moment for me. A huge step in self-acceptance. At the same time, it has taken me many years to learn some tact, gentleness and wisdom and I am still learning!

The other side of the self rejection coin is narcissism. Fancy word – what is it exactly? One dictionary I looked in, defined it as, “excessive self admiration and self centredness.” It can also be defined as an overestimation of one’s appearance and abilities and an excessive need for self admiration. Hmmm … is that the sound of clanging bells I hear in the distance … ding … ding … DING! It seems to me that this is the way that popular culture is moving. The cult of SELF. Hmmmm.

Let me illustrate this one for you. American Idol auditions are a primary example. How many people have you seen who in no way, shape or form can get near to singing in just one key … in fact, they can’t sing – PERIOD. When the judges tell them this, they are shocked, outraged and furious. Some of them even have their singing coach with them telling them that they are brilliant and the judges don’t know squat! They storm out with loud protests about how rude and incompetent the judges are … with their family, friends or vocal coaches trailing in their wake saying, “that’s right. Yeah. You’re brilliant. What do they know? …” A wee verse from Timothy (2 Tim 4:2) springs to mind … how people will gather around them those who will tickle their ears with the things they want to hear.

How do we find our balance in all of this? Jars of Clay have a fantastic song called Art In Me. There is a line that keeps repeating throughout the song, “see the art in me”. I love this. Ephesians 2:10 tells us that we are God’s workmanship. When I looked up the greek for the word workmanship, there is an implication that we are his art pieces. Don’t you love that? We are God’s art pieces. People who know art can look at a Renoir or Picasso and identify it by style. Likewise, they could hear an unknown Beethoven symphony and say, “Oh yes. No doubt. That one is definitely a Beethoven.” How do they know this? It’s because the essence of the artist is impregnated in their art piece. People should be able to look at us as God’s art pieces and say, “oh yes. That one is definitely a God one. No doubt about it …”

So the trick to finding the balance between self rejection and narcissism is to have the right perspective. Psalm 139 tells us that we are fearfully and wonderfully made. Right there is the answer. If we grapple with self hate or rejection, we need to stop the negative self talk and remind ourselves we are fearfully and wonderfully made. Yes … as God’s art, we are even told we are wonderful! Now … before we slide on down the slippery slope of narcissism, lets remind ourselves. We are fearfully and wonderfully MADE. Therefore, we have a MAKER. We are God’s art pieces. Can the painting say, “I am wonderful and I sure did well splattering paint on myself?” Do the people listening to the music say, “gosh that violin has great ideas” or … “that manuscript sure was creative in where it placed the dots (notes)?” Nope … the glory and praise always goes to the creator. Therefore, we do not have the right to beat ourselves up or to get overflated egos. We are HIS workmanship. This perspective stops us falling into the trap of self obsession. Dr Larry Crabb says, “I must surrender my fascination with myself, to the character and purposes of God. I am not point. He is. He does not exist for me. I exist for him." How's YOUR balance?

1 comment:

Danifesto said...

The point that struck me most was realizing the command (to love your neighbour as you have loved yourself) assumes that you love yourself already. It's past tense. So if you haven't already done that work, you aren't really able to fully show/give God's love to those around you.
This wasn't emphasized at all when I was brought up. It was always someone else first (Church, missions, God, family, friends) and then toward the end, ah yes. Yourself. The way we looked at God was like Isaiah- so aware of our utter unworthiness. We forgot that God deems Isaiah (and us) worthy to be in His presence. (Isaiah 6)
Yes I agree. In this day and age, balance is certainly important and very necessary. There seems to be too much extremes on both ends of the spectrum.