The greatest threat we face

What is the greatest threat we face?

Maybe you want to narrow that down a bit. Although how could something be the greatest threat we face if it didn’t encompass everything?

What is the greatest threat our world faces? How about our nation? Our communities? Our churches? Our relationships? Ourselves?

I think there are many possible answers for these questions. Maybe your answer ecological catastrophe. Maybe it’s poverty, or racism, or ideologies, or partisanship, or money, or greed, or nuclear war, or war in general. Or who knows what else could easily fit in as an answer.

My own personal opinion is that the greatest threat this planet faces – regardless of what level we are talking about – is narcissism. Narcissism is defined as excessive interest in oneself. I think that is putting it mildly and misses the mark. Psychology Today has a pretty good list of the traits of narcissism that you can read here. Here’s the summation of nine traits officially recognized at part of Narcissistic Personality Disorder:

  • Grandiose sense of self-importance.
  • Preoccupation with fantasies of unlimited success, power, brilliance, beauty, or ideal love.
  • Belief that he or she is special and unique and can only be understood by, or should associate with, other special or high-status people or institutions. 
  • Need for excessive admiration. 
  • Sense of entitlement.
  • Interpersonally exploitive behavior.
  • Lack of empathy. 
  • Envy of others or belief that others are envious of him or her.
  • Demonstration of arrogant and haughty behaviors or attitudes. 

The sad reality is that narcissism has no cure. And it leaves a trail of destruction for all who come across someone who is narcissistic.

And I would argue that narcissism isn’t just an individual disorder. Systems and institutions can be narcissistic in how they behave. Which makes sense – systems and institutions are made up of people.

So would I argue that narcissism is the greatest threat we face? When narcissists obtain positions of power and influence, they don’t stop being narcissistic. They get worse. It’s like a drug addict who finds a gold mine of the drug they are addicted to. And they ruin everyone else.

When we have world leaders who are narcissists, then we end up with the possibility of expansion of war or even nuclear war and annihilation. When we have leaders of political parties who are narcissists, then we get narcissistic behavior becoming the norm and expected. When we have religious figures who are narcissists, then we get abusive theology and ideas about God that are used as excuses for abusing people. When we have people in positions of power who are narcissistic, then selfishness and self-preservation become of utmost importance. And that means the environment will suffer. The poor will suffer. The outcasts of society will be scapegoated. Anyone who doesn’t feed the narcissists sense of self-importance is at risk. And that’s putting it mildly.

In other words, I argue that narcissism is the greatest threat we face because narcissism has the unique ability to cause all the other catastrophes, abuses, and destruction as a means to feed the narcissist – whether we are talking about a person, a system, or an institution.

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