- The Washington Times - Monday, February 15, 2010

Culture Challenge of the Week: Narcissism

The love of self is in full bloom this Valentine’s season. Deeply embedded in today’s culture, narcissism has crept into our children’s mentality like a thief in the night, actually robbing them (and everyone around them) of much dignity and happiness.

Young people spend hours every day updating their Facebook pages, post and e-mail countless pictures of themselves, and plug their ears with music to create a self-indulgent existence, shut off from everyone around them. I recently went online and viewed the page of a friend-of-a-friend-of-a-friend of my daughter’s on Facebook and discovered hundreds of pictures of the girl posing like a super model.

Where are our children learning to be so obsessed with self? From adults, of course.

In 2006, Time magazine voted “You” as the “Person of the Year.” And why not? Peruse the covers of popular magazines, and they are all about indulging in your own desires and fantasies. Just watch television for a couple of hours, and you’ll walk away feeling as if you owe it to yourself to have an affair, spend lavishly on yourself, and be your “own man” at the expense of everyone else.

And then there’s the American obsession with pornography — the ultimate objectification and degradation of other human beings. Men, women, girls and boys are all there for your personal pleasure in millions of Web sites, advertisements, shows and publications.

Just look at the economic mess we are in. Too many spent way beyond their means on trinkets and toys and demanded the best when their budgets could afford what was only good enough. They bought homes and cars and gadgets aplenty, with the swipe of an interest-only loan or a “special low introductory rate” credit card. America is largely an entitlement society, where we demand that the government provide us with health care, retirement and a comfortable life, with no concern of who will pay for utopia.

And then there is the phenomenon of abortion on demand, without apology, through the ninth month of pregnancy. Have all the sex you want, with whomever you want, and if you get pregnant, just “terminate” it, regardless of how the father may feel. And the baby? What baby? It’s just tissue — remember? How convenient.

Our kids see our selfish, irresponsible ways and learn the lesson, “It’s all about me.”

How to save your family from “My, my, my!”

When our culture is all about “My body, my career, my choice, my, my, my,” what is a parent to do?

Thankfully, we’ve known the answer all along: Practice the Golden Rule. “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.”

The wisdom in this biblical admonishment is so self-evident that it is universally admired — but tragically, rarely followed. It is the basic tenet for successful human relationships, the economy, personal finances, you name it. Imagine the good that can be accomplished, the human suffering that would be replaced with human achievement, if we treated others with the dignity and thoughtfulness we ourselves crave.

The two greatest gifts we can give our children are to teach them to love God with all that is within them, and to love their neighbors as they love themselves.

Here are five easy ways to start:

• Invest time in your kids, rather than being obsessed with your own career, hobbies or whims.

• Be a role model. Considerate, well-mannered, thoughtful children come from parents who exude those behaviors themselves.

• Share stories of kindness. Start seeking media that teach what is highest and best, that glorify human decency instead of depravity.

• Be generous. You may not be rich, but everyone can be generous with their time and talents. There’s nothing more selfless than giving to someone who can’t possibly ever repay you.

• Practice “Random acts of kindness.” Think of something nice to do for someone else — and then do it. Consistently.

Narcissism eventually leads from self-love to self-loathing. But living the Golden Rule is a powerful way to spread joy, improve the human condition and develop true self-respect.

Rebecca Hagelin can be reached via e-mail at [email protected]

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