I often hear high school seniors’ worries in similar words: “Father, there’s so much pressure to go to college, to get good grades, to stay ahead and to be competitive because there are too many college graduates. Not only that, we’re pressured to find a good job after graduation. We’re expected to be successful because a lot of money and efforts were spent on us.” I also hear similar complaints from college students, as well as some of the things they have to do in order to be accepted and deemed as successful: “Sometimes, I had to stay quiet or silent to go with the flow even though I don’t agree with what’s being said by the professors and my peers. I had done some things that I didn’t agree with or I know are wrong with my faith but I just don’t want to stand out from the crowd or be rejected.”
It seems like many of our young people could share similar sentiments with what was described here. We often blame the culture and its pressures for success (at all costs), even if it means to change’s one values to conform to popular opinions. We often hear the excuses of “I have to (do this or that) to make it!” Yet, in a secularistic world that is grounded in objectification and manipulation of people with utilitarianism, pragmatism, and a Darwinian struggle for dominance, it seems like whoever can influence public opinions, manipulate and control popular thoughts are in control. It is easier to blame the culture and its pressures that require us to bend to its popular opinions and trendy coercions to deny our free will and character. It is easier to put honesty and values aside in order to reach the desired goal. Without a doubt, we have socially created for ourselves a culture of lies as we choose to live with the objectification and manipulation of people as “to do whatever it takes to get what I want” becomes the expected normalcy.
The initial pressure often starts within our own family and the education of our young people. They are taught that everything is subjected to their personal, subjective opinions, and everything of the past or are around them are simply elegant-sounding portrayals of opinions — not truths or facts. There is a real denial of everlasting, perennial, and transcendental truths because those things were just parts of all the different cultural, religious, or historical worldviews. We are better than the past so we do not have to subject ourselves to outdated standards and opinions as we are able to shape the current trends and opinions ourselves! Nevertheless, even though we think that we are smart and more advanced than people of the past, we are also products of manipulative popular ideologies and opinions as some of the educators and professional people have been using subtle, chronic manipulation of information through agenda-driven editings of past and present portrayals. It seems like we are so attracted to new, cutting-edge trends and ideologies to the point of willing all that we can to have a degree or position that is able to influence and pontificate what we think is best.
From the beginning of their lives, our young people have been introduced and manipulated by people and thoughts that are very narcissistic and were formed to accept them. Hence, we are not surprised when many have bought into those thoughts and made them their own to survive, stand out, and be successful in a secularistic world that often objectified people as instruments/utilities, treat them as pragmatic means that can be calculated to achieve one’s desired end goals, and to dominate over lesser voices with a dominant voice and sphere of influence. In Psychology Today, the publication explained the typical straits of Narcissistic Personality Disorder as such:
“People with narcissistic personality disorder believe they are superior or special, and often try to associate with other people they believe are unique or gifted in some way. This association enhances their self-esteem, which is typically quite fragile underneath the surface. Individuals with NPD seek excessive admiration and attention in order to know that others think highly of them. Individuals with narcissistic personality disorder have difficulty tolerating criticism or defeat, and may be left feeling humiliated or empty when they experience an ‘injury’ in the form of criticism or rejection.”
Biblically speaking, narcissism was first found in Adam and Eve when they chose to ignore the command that God has given them by doubting His goodness and relying on their own feeble, finite understanding. Ever since the Fall, each and every one of us struggles with narcissistic tendencies. Nevertheless, since many of us in few recent generations were taught to disregard truth in favor of a self-defined life, we have made everything subjective to consumerism. God and faith then simply become subjective as one is free to choose the flavors and teachings as he or she fits. Faith and its teachings can be omitted or truncated as we desired because the consumers are free to choose what he or she would like to consume. This invites a desire to lie in order to get the results claimed to be needed. Hence, many are happy to live with half-truths and ambiguity rather than risk not being in control or cut off from the herd.
As we habitually choose against the good for our own subjective version of what is beneficial for us, we grow numb to the truth and goodness as we learn to cope with the ugliness of self-serving “goods” and benefits. Slowly, with the manipulation of truths by the learned and influential class, the transcendental beauty of truth fades from our social consciousness and memory as we silent and edit it out of our lives. We end up believing our own subjective and self-made deceptions and lies because we have chosen to make truth into a consumer product of our own liking. Evil creeps in as it numbs the conscience by making up excuses for all of its actions and self-serving agendas. Evil works cleverly to cover up what is inconvenient for it. We become morally crippled as we justify ourselves that “I’m not that bad! I’m not like Hitler or those evil people!” as to say that we are free to do what we want because we are not breaking the law or hurting people in a mass method.
In a consumeristic society, laws change like trends. As long as there are enough people to buy into it, laws can be enacted by political pressure and by being vocal as to influence enough public supports and manipulate communal opinions. We make immediate or appealing laws to fit our lifestyle instead of believing in creating universally just laws that ensure and protect higher and everlasting values. We cannot blame the culture and society for we are the people that are called to form a society and culture that protect life, respect and work together for the greater good. We cannot simply be silent and cooperative with a culture that seeks to invent its own consumeristic opinions, bully and harass people who are trying to seek and live the real truth. The failure to cultivate true learning and respect for the highest good destroy our duties toward God and to one another as we simply manipulate and use the other for whatever goods we want to pervade. Deceits have replaced honesty, manipulation instead true transcendental freedom, consumerism rather than real God-given dignity, pragmatical and calculative objectification in place of the respect of universal and everlasting truth.
A society that is made up of narcissistic or hedonistic people cannot last because they only care about themselves or for the present moment. No one is willing to sacrifice one’s self for the greater good because they are too scared of losing out. It will destroy itself slowly as it chooses to use up its own resources for the present generation without learning to sacrifice to store up and care for the future. There is no sense of solidarity nor any incentive to sacrifice. A society cannot exist when it has too many people who only look and judge everyone else according to his or her own subjective standards, benefits, and self-centered sense of pleasure. We are made for more! We are made for something greater as our beings were formed by God in love and for love. Therefore, the only way to overcome the destructive and lying nature of a narcissistic society that teaches that we have to do anything and everything possible to get what we want is to ground ourselves in the never-changing and everlasting love of God that will set us free from our own created excuses and deceptions.
We have to learn to avoid and be easily deceived by laundered words and empty slogans. Dishonest language not only reflects lies but also destroy trust and respect as it justifies its own perverted corruptions and manipulative actions. Lies come in many forms, but they all will ultimately destroy society in the long run, even though deceptive measures are appealing at the present time. True freedom is the ability to align one’s self to do what is right as one chooses to sacrifice for the greater good. This freedom has to be aligned with something greater than immediate or temporary goods as it finds the courage and ability to stand up and protect what is right in the presence of God’s everlasting judgment and love. Even though standing with the divine truth will make us be at odds with others who are too focused on getting what they want here and now, the truth will set us free because it is not of this world. To be obedient to God-given truth is to truly be free from the fears and manipulations of this world! It hurts and it is costly as we will lose people who will leave us to find a more appealing and hedonistic way of life, but our reward to be called Christians — disciples of Christ — is more than what this world can ever satisfy or promise to give.