Sunday Devotional: Narcissism, the first and greatest sin

James 3:16

Where jealousy and selfish ambition exist,
there is disorder and every foul practice….

Mark 9:30, 33-35

Jesus and his disciples…came to Capernaum
and, once inside the house,
he began to ask them,
“What were you arguing about on the way?”
But they remained silent.
They had been discussing among themselves on the way
who was the greatest.
Then he sat down, called the Twelve, and said to them,
“If anyone wishes to be first,
he shall be the last of all and the servant of all.”

Narcissus2

The above two Scripture readings are both warnings about Narcissism, the excessive love of self that expresses itself as selfishness, self-preoccupation, entitlement, and pride. The latter is “an excessively high opinion of oneself; conceit; arrogance” and as such, is rooted in an excessive love-of-self, which is narcissism.

Indeed, in a recent interview, Father Juan José Gallego, the exorcist for the archdiocese of Barcelona, Spain, says the Devil’s favorite sin is pride. C.S. Lewis, too, called pride “the great sin” and wrote that “it was through Pride that the devil became the devil: Pride leads to every other vice: it is the complete anti-God state of mind.”

In Sin of the Angel, Thomistic philosopher Jacques Maritain more fully described what happened.

According to Maritain, the instant after an Angel is created, he must choose either to love God more than himself, or he refuses the grace with which he initially was gifted and elects to love his own self more. In the case of Lucifer, the second choice was made. By “a disordered act of the will—knowing that he does evil and willing evil”—Lucifer falls in love with himself, despite knowing full well God is infinitely greater than all created beings, such that every similarity he may have with God “fades before the dissimilarity.” Furthermore, Lucifer also perfectly understands that he must love God above all, a love that requires him to submit his will at “whatever sacrifice it may impose on a creature’s nature.”

Despite knowing all that, Lucifer still selects to love “without measure” his own grandeur and, in so doing, effectively elevates himself to be “like God.”

The sin of narcissism of Lucifer, therefore, was the very first sin. It was also the sin of our first parents.

After God created the first man and woman, Genesis recounts, they were settled in “a garden eastward in Eden,” an earthly paradise that amply provided for their needs, being lush with “every tree that is pleasant to the sight, and good for food.” Our first parents were told they were free to eat from any of the trees save one, the tree of knowledge of good and bad. But God counseled them in no uncertain terms that if they were to disobey his command, they “shalt surely die.”

But the Devil appeared in the form of a serpent and said to Eve, “You certainly will not die! No, God knows well that the moment you eat of it your eyes will be opened and you will be like gods who know what is good and what is bad.”

The sin of Adam and Eve was thus more one of pride than of simple disobedience. Imagine the overweening conceit that could prompt creatures to breach the explicit command of their Creator—that inconceivably awesome being who made the universe, who is the uncaused cause, the alpha and the omega, omniscient, omnipotent, infinite, with no beginning and no end.
James 3:16 warns that “Where jealousy and selfish ambition exist, there is disorder and every foul practice,” as seen in the consequences of Lucifer’s and our first parents’ sins.
We are familiar with the consequences of Adam and Eve’s Fall. In the case of Lucifer, Maritain observed that when the seraphim commits his first sin, “his interior order would have been shattered.” Henceforth, “he has no rule other than himself; and an endless proliferation of all sorts of other sins would have followed thereafter.” Truly, as Ecclesiasticus 10:13 records, “pride is the beginning of sin.”
And so, from his first sin of grandiose narcissism, other sins rapidly followed: pride, deception, envy, contempt, and eventual rebellion. Coveting God’s powers and perquisites, Lucifer is consumed with jealousy because, notwithstanding his own magnificence, he knows how little he is in comparison with his Creator. Towards the remaining angels who freely choose fidelity to their Creator, Lucifer has only disdain, holding himself to be “better than the other Angels, whose obedience he contemns.” And so Lucifer rebels. For as Milton explained in Paradise Lost, “To reign is worth ambition though in Hell: Better to reign in Hell, than serve in Heav’n.”
Both Maritain and Thomas Aquinas emphasized that in choosing evil “in full light,” Lucifer reveals to us the frightening and infinite power of free will. Having elected evil with complete knowledge, the seraphim has no excuse for his disobedience and accordingly is denied redemption. Nor does he ask for forgiveness: Having made his choice, he harbors no regrets. As Maritain put it, once the angel loses his innocence, “he does nothing but sin” and, in so doing, “freely fixes himself in evil.”
But like all narcissists, Lucifer’s choice to love himself more than God condemns himself to misery. As Milton so perfectly captured it: Which way I fly is Hell; myself am Hell.”

And what’s the antidote to narcissism?

The antidote is the Greatest Commandment of all:

To love God with our whole heart, our whole mind, our whole soul, and with all our strength.

For this is how much He loves us, wretched little beings that we are:

jesus_crucifixion

May the peace and love of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you!

~Éowyn

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17 responses to “Sunday Devotional: Narcissism, the first and greatest sin

  1. Romans 1: 25: ” Who changed the truth of God into a lie, and worshipped and served the creature more than the Creator . . .”
    We see in the Scripture above the sin of pride and narcissism.
    I was hitchhiking through Nebraska a number of years ago and this Christian truck driver picked me up. We talked about the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah. He said that most people think that the sin of Sodom was homosexuality and other sexual sins. He said that homosexuality was one of the many sins that led to the destruction of Sodom. The truck driver said that the real sin of Sodom was earth worship.
    Look at the United States in 2015; look at the all the earth worshippers (enviro-pagans) that defile our land because of their pagan earth worship—they would run over a thousand human babies to save an eagle egg or a wolf cub. The wildfires in the western United States are no accident.
    “‘Do not defile yourselves in any of these ways, because this is how the nations that I am going to drive out before you became defiled. Even the land was defiled; so I punished it for its sin, and the land vomited out its inhabitants. But you must keep my decrees and my laws. The native-born and the foreigners residing among you must not do any of these detestable things, for all these things were done by the people who lived in the land before you, and the land became defiled. And if you defile the land, it will vomit you out as it vomited out the nations that were before you.’”
    –Leviticus 18:24-28
    “John Milton: Writer and Revolutionary”
    https://hitchhikeamerica.wordpress.com/2012/10/14/john-milton-writer-and-revolutionary/

     
  2. Great points, Dr. Eowyn!

     
  3. How does one humble himself, especially if he is alone in life?

     
    • Dear Steven,
      I’m at a loss as to what humility has to do with being alone or not. Humility is about self-regard: how a person regards him/herself, esp. in relation to God. In fact, I submit that the grandiose narcissist is an individual who is very much alone because he is his own god. For such a person, there really is no room in his heart, mind, and soul for anyone else!

       
  4. Amen. Excellent food for thought, Dr. E.!

     
  5. our society encourages narcissism (instead of looking at a reflection in the water, people today take “selfies” and are into all types of addictions which purely involve the self)…
    to become a lover of and to oneself is the antithesis of Christianity…satan’s influence is rampant in our country/world. I pray people turn from the devil’s inclinations and towards Jesus where true love resides…before it’s too late.

     
  6. What you wrote about here is idolatry, not pride. They worshipped a false god. Whether it was themselves or another. Adam and Eve chose to do what a false god told them to do. The same goes for satan himself. He rejected God as his final criteria for his choice and placed himself in that position. Idolatry.
    Pride in this case is a byproduct of idolatry just as all other sins can be.
    Blessings:-}

     
  7. Could it be that pride leads to narcissism, then to paranoid fear of others not recognizing and respecting you, the center of the universe?
    Satan was narcissistic and is vainly seeking overthrow and domination of his creator and judge.

     
  8. Dr. Eowyn: Your explanation of Narcissism is outstanding. There is a type of narcissism that seems to be growing in this world, called “malignant narcissism” and there seems to be no cure or therapy for it. As you stated, narcissists really are alone; only they don’t realize it, because they become their #1 god and there is no humility in them. What is happening in the world today, is what the Bible speaks of; being lovers of themselves. I believe this is the hedonist generation. In reply to Steven: We are never alone. Christ is always with us and we must humble ourselves before Him.

     
    • Thank you, leeann, for your kind words and especially for the reminder of St. Paul’s 2 Timothy 3:2: “”But know this, that in the last days perilous times will come. For men will be lovers of themselves.” Indeed, we have empirical evidence that Americans are more narcissistic: psychiatrists say more and more of their clients/patients are narcissistic; college students also are increasingly narcissistic.
      Malignant narcissism is a self-love that’s vicious, the most dangerous kind of narcissists who wishes and exacts ill on others.

       
  9. Thank you Dr. Eowyn for this most exceptional and magnificent post. Your analysis of narcissism and the first sin is superb and right on point.

     

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