What should I make of the following observations?
For 11 years, I’ve enjoyed an assigned parking place at work. Apparently, my organization prefers that its executives don’t wander the garage in search of their cars.
The space next to mine is an unassigned, reserved spot. Interestingly, during the past couple of years, that space has been used by, well, whomever. And, if I leave during the day, when I come back, usually someone is parking in that marked reserved space of mine.
My office window of 11 years overlooks a four-way stop. It’s been my habit during phone calls to stand and look out the window.
In recent years, it’s common for me to see someone running the stop sign. I don’t mean slowing down and rolling through it; I mean, 35-plus mph without any slowing down. I used to be surprised; now, I accept it as the thing that happens.
Maybe you see it too.
A store sign says, “Mask Required,” but some believe their preferences trump those of the business.
Have you noticed that people stop then go at a red light? This happens to me almost weekly.
The list goes on. What’s going on?
Quite possibly, it’s a consequence of the increasing “me-ness” coursing through our society. Increasingly, people assert that their belief, viewpoint, preference or whim is sacrosanct.
How did we get here?
Perhaps the attitude is illustrated by the “inspirational” quote that recently popped up on my phone: “The No. 1 Rule for Life …”
Expecting something important, I took extra notice.
The rule: “Do whatever makes you happy.”
Really? That’s it?!
It’s wrong on so many levels that it’s hard to know where to begin. Is anyone else concerned that such an attitude puts every person at the center of the universe?
And it’s really difficult to square that rule with Jesus’ call to “take up your cross and follow me,” or with Paul’s reminder to the Christians at Corinth that while an act might be permissible, our freedom should be tempered by whether it is beneficial or edifying to the broader community (1 Corinthians 10).
Wondering if my anecdotes were “special” to me, I Googled “rise of narcissism in America.” It seems a lot of people are asking and studying this, and their findings are jarring.
Narcissism is on the rise. This “me-ness,” “You can’t tell me what to do,” “Get out of the way of my happiness” attitude is pervasive.
Narcissism, like a drug, requires more and more “me-ness” in order to feel satisfied. Quite simply, our society is addicted to it.
Like an addict in search of their next fix, some will knock grandma down to get the next thing that “makes me happy.”
Is there a way back? Yes, but it’s going to require reformatting some of our basic instincts.
Immanuel Kant asks us to govern behavior by this categorical imperative, “What if everybody did what I do?” Ironically, “Would I be happy if everyone behaved like me?”
In commenting on the parable of the Good Samaritan, Martin Luther King Jr. focused on the motives of the three that came upon the beaten man.
King noted that the first two probably wondered, “If I stop and help this man, what might happen to me?” (Ahh, that “me-ness.”)
Then he pointed out, the Good Samaritan asked something very different, “If I do not stop and help, what will happen to him?” And Jesus asks, “Who was the neighbor?”
The antidote to our addiction has been around a long, long time: “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.”
Let’s each agree that, indeed, each of us is special – just like everybody else.
Let us also agree that the Golden Rule is the medicine we need to save ourselves from ourselves.