There are reports that the makers of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual (DSM), used by mental health professionals to determine appropriate diagnosis of patients, have decided to remove the diagnosis of narcissistic personality disorder. The obvious reason: our society has become so concerned with self that it is no longer considered a disorder, but rather the norm.
If we think about that for a minute, it is a scary prospect. It implies that we have all become so self-absorbed that it is no longer considered an unhealthy thing. What are the greater implications of this trend? If selfishness is considered normal, what impact will that have on marriage and family life? How about church and community? How does a “me first” attitude affect students’ respect for authority at home, school and religious ed?
The Church represents a different viewpoint. Christ himself was humble and obedient to the point of death.“Not my will, but yours be done” (Lk 22:42). “For man has no greater love than this, to lay down his life for his friends” (Jn 15:13). Jesus put himself in the smallest position possible — our Lord, our God, was born to us as a helpless infant in a cold manager!
Examples of the saints imitate this attitude of our Lord. St. Therese’s “Little Way” encourages us to be made little so that others could be made greater.This attitude is demonstrated by other holy people.
Quotes regarding thinking of others rather than self:
“Live simply that others might simply live.” — St. Elizabeth Ann Seton
“Our prayers for others flow more easily than those for ourselves. This shows we are made to live by charity.” — C.S. Lewis, Christian author
“Let no one ever come to you without leaving better and happier.” — Mother Teresa
So how do we live with the contradictions of a society in which Snooki (from MTV’s “Jersey Shore”) is idolized for drinking, partying and spending endless hours thinking of herself, and the Catholic Church’s teachings about charity and self-control? There is no easy answer, but we can start with disciplining ourselves against the temptations of the world:
• Fasting helps us control our natural desire to give in to all the temptations of food.
• Prayer helps us to focus on God’s will for us and the needs of others.
• Attending Mass and receiving the Eucharist encourages us to participate in unity with the other members of the faith community.
Furthermore, studying the Church’s specific teaching on charity helps us to be focused on others rather than ourselves. The Catechism of the Catholic Church states: “Christ died out of love for us, while we were still ‘enemies.’ The Lord asks us to love as he does, even our enemies, to make ourselves the neighbor of those farthest away, and to love children and the poor as Christ himself. The Apostle Paul has given an incomparable depiction of charity: ‘charity is patient and kind, charity is not jealous or boastful; it is not arrogant or rude. Charity does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrong, but rejoices in the right. Charity bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. ‘If I . . . have not charity,’ says the Apostle, “I am nothing.” Whatever my privilege, service, or even virtue, ‘if I . . . have not charity, I gain nothing.’ Charity is superior to all the virtues. It is the first of the theological virtues: ‘So faith, hope, charity abide, these three. But the greatest of these is charity’ (Nos. 1825-1826).
Dear Catechists, we are going to be teaching our students in opposition to the world, but it is an important task we undertake. May God bless you for your courage to stand against the tide and teach what is correct.