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Wednesday, April 6, 2022

A Selfish Slap Reverberates

Young people now score high on narcissism and low on empathy

The first sentence in the book, “A Purpose Driven Life,” perhaps says it best: “It’s not about you.”

And yet, never before have so many been focused on themselves and their own needs. The prevailing passion of the day is to live for the moment – to live for yourself.

Our culture, and all of the marketing within it, promote this life as being all about us and what’s in it for us: “Have it your way,” “You deserve a break today,” or “You’re worth it.”

But are you? Do we all deserve a break? Can we all have it “our” way? Is it all about us?

Now, there’s a certain degree of selfishness or self-centeredness in all of us. Narcissism has been around for more than 2,000 years, after all. It’s the term used in psychology to describe a preoccupation with self. It’s taken from Greek mythology – the name of the mythological Narcissus, who fell in love with his image and was destined to die because he would not turn away from it.

Many might say this describes too many in our culture today – those who seemingly cannot turn away from their own image (however manufactured it may be). Those who see everything from a perspective of “how does this affect me?” You know, you should take care of yourself, focus on your needs, be good to yourself, and put yourself first.

Take the Academy Awards, for example. Will Smith’s slapping Chris Rock is a sobering reflection of ourselves, our culture and what we’ve become.

Don’t like the message on my T-shirt or hat and want to haul off and hit me or censor me on social media? Don’t like how I’m raising my children or what I’m teaching them at home and want to indoctrinate them in the classroom? Maybe you don’t like the kind of car I drive because you say it’s “destroying the planet” and want to eliminate fossil fuels, so I can’t drive it at all.

So, sure. Go ahead. Because it’s all about you – just like it was all about Will Smith at the Academy Awards.

It was all about what made him feel comfortable at the moment, regardless of how good or comfortable he made others feel that night. He completely ignored the example he was setting for millions of viewers, including children, watching him as he slapped another human being for saying something he disagreed with. Smith ignored the lifetime of sacrifices and hard work – bad breaks, lucky breaks – of all the others in that ballroom who were also nominated and attending what should have been a night spotlighting them and not him.

Forget about all the volunteers and workers whose blood, sweat and tears were poured into planning and producing that event all year long – just so that he could make a spectacle of it all.

But Will Smith isn’t alone. Narcissism is on the rise, and some say social media is to blame. Others say it’s a result of “feel good” parenting where everyone got a ribbon or a trophy as a child, just for participating (but not necessarily for winning or achieving anything).

Compared to 30 years ago, 70 percent of today’s students score higher on narcissism and less on empathy. Regardless of why narcissism is on the rise in our culture, it isn’t making us any happier because there are also epidemic level increases in anxiety, depression and suicide.

Maybe being focused on ourselves – to live for the moment – with little remorse toward using or hurting others to get what we want is not what we are called to be. In the Bible, Jesus says one of the two greatest commandments is to “love your neighbor as yourself.”

How different would our world be if we remembered that more often than not?

After all, it’s not about you.

Louis R. Avallone is a Shreveport businessman, attorney and author of “Bright Spots, Big Country, What Makes America Great.” He is also a former aide to U.S. Representative Jim McCrery and editor of The Caddo Republican. His columns have appeared regularly in 318 Forum since 2007. Follow him on Facebook, on Twitter @louisravallone or by e-mail at louisavallone@mac.com, and on American Ground Radio at 101.7FM and 710 AM, weeknights from 6 - 7 p.m., and streaming live on keelnews.com.

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