Unseeing Narcissus

I’m quite adept at hiding from cameras. Take a look at the thousands of family photos we have and I’m in the tiniest fraction of them. And check Facebook and you’ll see that I have very few photos with me in then (though lots of the kids!). Shoot, the few I’m in usually have my wife or kids in them, too.

For a very long time, I’ve used the ready-made excuse of millennial narcissism to explain this. I mean, how embarrassing is it that selfie sticks even exist? The selfie has been my long-time target of haughty superiority. I don’t need to keep taking pictures of myself. I’m not nearly that vain.

But in a recent conversation about the amount of weight I’ve lost, my perceptive wife noted to me afterward that I’d deflected any recognition of the thirty-plus pounds I’ve lost so far. My response was that it feels like so little when I have more than that still to go. She, with that annoyingly prophetic precision, asked me if I’d noticed how much thinner I look in pictures. Well, no, not really, because I’m not in many pictures. I wasn’t before and I’m not now. But why is that really?

Easy. Because I don’t like how big I look. I can still remember being way skinnier. My vain memory lingers and the present reality is denied. And so why I have I really been avoiding the camera for years? Because I’m vain. And I would love the opportunity to deny the many years of overweightness should I ever actually get down to the weight I want to be at.

Narcissism, anyone? Anyone? I’m giving it out for free here…

The selfie-obsessed people are easy to jab at. The camera avoiders like me are sneakier. We don’t broadcast our vanity. In fact, we keep our narcissism tucked inside our white-washed tomb exteriors. And the sole reason for doing so is to keep being stuck on vainglory while simultaneously denying that I am.

I’m beginning to catch a very strong string of legalism. I’ve suspected it was there but—gasp!—I’ve hidden it under an outward proclamation of free grace! But on the inside, the legalist is running gleefully around like a kid on Christmas morning. I really hate that guy. I really hate living two lives, one for my audience and one in reality. I’m actually reading a book about an obscure Scottish Presbyterian theological snafu that was about this very thing. I expected to read it finding new reasons to gloat over the folks I know and read that seem to me like incredibly obvious legalists. Instead, I keep finding the critiques of legalism and antinomianism landing right in my heart.

I think it’s time to face my true reflection, not the one I keep trying to convince myself is the image I see.

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2 thoughts on “Unseeing Narcissus

  1. Explain the legalism thing here – I know what it is – but how does it relate here?

    • Hey Simon! I read the post again and realized the link between my vanity and legalism was poorly made. It existed in my head, but I didn’t really explain it. I point out tendencies of legalism because I’m still wrapping my worth up in something other than Jesus himself. If I’m loved by the Father and covered by the blood of Jesus, what do I have to be ashamed of? The answer ought to be, “Nothing!” But for me, my weight is a sign of my lingering shame, which I need to hide. And it’s not until I clean myself up and lose some weight–once I atone for my sin of gluttony–that I can finally live without shame. That’s why I call it legalism: I’m putting my worth inside myself instead of in the risen Savior.

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