Friday, April 20, 2012

Christian Narcissism: Walking the Line

Let me start by saying, "I get it!"

"Get what?" you respond.

I get that our society has changed and that a volume of competing messages fight for our attention constantly.  As a result, student ministers (any minister and church for that matter) need to be as creative as possible in assuring their "message" is one that grabs the attention of those we are trying to reach.  Furthermore, if you write books, speak for a living (more than the usual minister responsibilities), and/or produce any kind of product you need a level of self-promotion (publishers want this from their clients). Still, is it possible to cross the line between healthy self-promotion to Christian Narcissism?

Time for some definitions.

The fabled Wikipedia defines narcissism this way:

 Except in the sense of primary narcissism  or healthy self-love "narcissism" usually is used to describe some kind of problem in a person or group's relationships with self and others. In everyday speech, "narcissism" often means egoism, vanity, conceit, or simple selfishness. Applied to a social group, it is sometimes used to denote elitism or an indifference to the plight of others. In psychology,  the term is used to describe both normal self-love and unhealthy self-absortion due to a disturbance in the sense of self (definition accessed 4/19/12).

The not-so-fabled Fraze definition for Christian narcissism (wow, was that narcissistic?--does David have his own dictionary?  Easy--just a point folks):

 Except in the sense of primary narcissism  or healthy self-love "Christian narcissism" usually is used to describe some kind of problem in a person or group's relationships with self and others. In everyday speech, "Christian narcissism" often means egoism, vanity, conceit, or simple selfishness usually noticeable in a minister's over promotion of self and his or her ministry. Applied to a social group (or ministry), it is sometimes used to denote elitism or an indifference to the "others" (those not in the inner circle--yes, I borrowed that line from LOST). In (addition mine),  the term is used to describe both normal self-love and unhealthy self-absorption due to a disturbance in the sense of self in relationship with the work of the Spirit in making the name of the Lord famous (definition accessed and manipulated to make a point on 4/19/12).

I think anybody who weighs into the social media fray gets a kick out of seeing their blog, tweet, comments, article, interview,, talked about and/or create "hits" on the internet.  That is the point isn't it?  Yet, there are times, usually when I am on my Twitter account, that I get this feeling that a line is being crossed.

"David, how do you know a line is being crossed?" you ask.

"Well, is more of a feeling really" (I know--a bit of a cop out answer).  There are just times when a person's effort to be noticed in cyber space is a little too obvious and their desire to be seen as a player in various social circles painfully noticeable. it comes..."I have been guilty of line I can recognize it plainly."
Yes, I read some of my own tweets or see where someone has referenced one of my articles and can say I have experienced a "feeling" that a line has been crossed.

"Hello, my name is David Fraze and I am a battling, recovering Christian Narcissist."

With this truth on the table, let me give you a few questions and a statement I use to assist my walk between the line of healthy self-promotion and Christian Narcissism:
  • What is my "consuming" motivation? As stated earlier, self-promotion is not bad in and of itself and needed in a message saturated world.  In my opinion, self-promotion crosses the line when validation of self and/or "product" is a dead end pursuit.  What?  When you care more about getting your "name out" than the message a line is crossed (I know, it may take deep searching, but the two are not the same).  The Apostle Paul would often give his "credentials" BUT it goes without saying that his "consuming" passion was Christ--even when challenged by critics, this fact could not be denied.  Spend time reflecting on motivation before promoting.  
  • Can I celebrate the success of other ministers/ministries?  There are a lot of clever bloggers, tweeters and status posters (is that a word?).  There are even a few fwd. e-mails that are actually worth reading and spread across the world like wildfire.  I ask myself regularly, "David, is it alright if your blogs, tweets and status posts gather little or no attention?" "Is it alright if God uses your words to impact one instead of thousands?" "Is it alright if another ministry grows while yours doesn't?"  Asking yourself these questions and focus on celebrating other minister's/ministries' wins is a must for battling Christian narcissism.  Remember, we are on the same team!
  • Whose attention am I trying to attract? Why?  Again, a tricky question.  The point of sending a message is to attract attention--that is what we do in ministry.  However, do you seek the attention of the "inner-circle" (ministers/ministries with wide influence) because you have a message to share or because you want to be seen as a "player"?  Again, tricky question.  One that I am confident all have struggled with at one time or another.  Still, such questions are necessary to keep our promotion motivation in check.
  • (Statement) God has his own promotion department! I value the story of the Apostle Paul.  He appears to have walked the line of self-promotion and Christian Narcissism very well.  He used his "credentials" when needed but kept the focus on Christ.  As a matter of fact, in comparison to knowing Christ, he considered his "credentials" rubbish (actually, Paul used a very colorful Greek word that means the substance animals leave behind when relieving themselves).  He would say things like, "Follow me as I follow Christ" to indicate all that he had of value (and worthy of promotion) belong to the work of Christ in his life.  I firmly believe that it was Christ that made the name of Paul great among the Church and the nations so that His name would be glorified and the Kingdom advanced.  Here comes the fine line--be careful with self-promotion and leave room for the Lord to expand your ministry.  Oh...just a appears that many of those whom Christ made "great" their name paid a high price for their fame--suffering and/or a martyr's death.  Is this the kind of "fame" we seek when promoting our ministry and/or products?  I know this is a somewhat morbid line of thought, but it helps me walk the line
I hope these questions and statement help with your line walking.  Now, if you will excuse me, I have to hurry and post this blog, tweet it up, change my Facebook status and anxiously wait and count how many people are reading this post--Just kidding.  


  1. David, this is the best treatment of this important topic I've read so far.

    Well said.

    (I hope and pray these compliments don't feed any narcissistic tendencies)

  2. :). Thank you and thanks for the accountability:). Blessings, d

  3. Kudos, David. Good stuff. Appreciate the authenticity as well. Blessings, Susan Thomas

  4. You are very kind Susan. authenticity is always better:)
    Blessings, d