The Love of ‘Selfie’
‘This know also, that in the last days perilous times shall come. For men shall be lovers of their own selves…’ (2 Timothy 3:2)
Various passages in the Bible describe specific events people are instructed to watch out for indicating that we are getting closer to the return of Christ. These include natural disasters and significant changes in global politics and economics, but they also include a range of more subtle phenomena, such as that described in the verse from Paul’s letter to Timothy above.
When talking to his disciples about the last days, Jesus warned that: “because iniquity shall abound, the love of many shall wax cold.” (Matthew 24:12). It is easy to see the relationship between the growth of Self-love promoted by the world today, and the reduction in real Godly love, as taught and demonstrated by Christ.
‘In Greek Mythology, Narcissus was known for his beauty and for being proud, in that he disdained those who loved him. Nemesis, the spirit of divine retribution against those who succumb to arrogance before the gods, noticed this behaviour and attracted Narcissus to a pool, where he saw his own reflection in the water and fell in love with it, not realising it was merely an image. Unable to leave the beauty of his reflection, Narcissus drowned. Narcissus is the origin of the term ‘narcissism’, a fixation with oneself and one’s physical appearance.’ (Wikipedia)
We live in an age of transparent obsession with outward appearance and decadence. Our collective psyche has been pervaded with deceitful catchphrases, like that of the “beauty” label, ‘L’Oréal’, who market their products by telling us: “Because you’re worth it!” Another recent brand, ‘Urban Decay’, sells women a line of “beauty” products, featuring “Perversion” mascara and “Blackheart” Gothic nail polish. The Beast appears to be describing his own image in increasingly honest terms!
Many forms of Self-love are prostituted in society today, but arguably the most widespread and socially accepted of these is the “selfie”. Wikipedia defines a selfie as: ‘a self-portrait photograph, typically taken with a digital camera or camera phone held in the hand or supported by a selfie stick. Selfies are often shared on social networking services such as Facebook, Instagram and Twitter. They are usually flattering and made to appear casual. Most selfies are taken with a camera held at arm’s length or pointed at a mirror, rather than by using a self-timer.’
People everywhere, from celebrities to politicians, kiddies to grannies, have jumped on the bandwagon of taking individual or group selfies. It is not necessarily wrong to take a photo of oneself, but the culture that is developing around the “selfie” seems increasingly unhealthy. The extent to which some people are willing to go to obtain and show off one of these, to real and ‘virtual’ friends alike, is quite unbelievable. With worrying frequency, we hear of yet another poor soul who has been seriously injured or killed in the pursuit of taking a selfie, through climbing on top of a train or hanging off a bridge somewhere. What madness (and sadness) would incite someone to risk their eternal livelihood in order to obtain a temporary snapshot of themselves?
Oscar Wilde’s novel, The Picture of Dorian Gray, reveals the outcome of a soul when obsession with beauty and sensual fulfilment is taken to a logical extreme. Dorian’s outward beauty is captured in a full-length portrait but as he understands that his beauty will fade, he decides to sell his soul in order to ensure that the picture, rather than he, ages and fades. The wish is granted, and Dorian pursues a string of varied, amoral experiences; all the while his portrait ages and records every soul-corrupting sin. The story ends with Dorian attempting to destroy the portrait, the image of his disgustingly corrupted soul, which haunts him like a conscience.
If we take a closer look at the lives of the people paid to promote the lie of “Self-love”, we see just how much of a lie it is. Often these same people’s lives are extremely sad, tainted by marital problems, financial woes, drug and alcohol abuse, depression and even suicide. Love of Self leads to a perpetual state of spiritual emptiness because it is impossible to fill that emptiness through obsession with Self, especially when this relates to what we look like or how we come across to others. To any thinking person, the outward form is fickle and changeable, here one minute and gone the next, even if it was applauded and coveted just a few minutes ago.
What people (especially the youth) urgently need to be reminded of, is that so much of the worldly philosophy of Self-love is based on a damnable fallacy. Self-love that is dependent on external ratification and self-projection, as opposed to intrinsic self-worth, is not real love. The “Golden Rule”, taught by Christ, is that we should treat others the way we wish to be treated ourselves. (Matthew 7:12) This is the only way we obtain self-worth. Without this, our ‘Self-love’ is fleeting, based on insecurity and, ultimately, self-contempt, which will leave us feeling spiritually malnourished and unfulfilled.
In his book, ‘Purity of Heart is to Will One Thing’, Soren Kierkegaard wrote: “… at each man’s birth there comes into being an eternal vocation for him, expressly for him. To be true to himself in relation to this eternal vocation is the highest thing a man can practise, and, as that most profound poet has said: “Self-love is not so vile a sin as self-neglecting.” Then there is but one fault, one offence: disloyalty to his own self or the denial of his own better self.”
In the quote above, Kierkegaard appears to be inspiring the reader to look into a deeper mirror, where we stand before God as an individual with the camera of eternity focused on us. This provides a whole new slant on the self – namely the need to discover the truth about oneself and our reason for existence. Kierkegaard’s thought is similar to the Apostle James’s reference to the man who beholds his face in a mirror and immediately forgets what manner of man he was. (James 1:23-4) Being true to ourselves is refusing to get caught up in the superficial values of the world. On first glance these values may sound attractive, but it is not long before their ugliness shows through.
The Apostle Paul used another mirror analogy in his epistle to the Corinthians. He wrote: ‘For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I have been fully known.’ (1 Corinthians 13:12) Mature love has integrity and this integrity inspires the beholder to look deeper than outward appearance: it leads to us not just being a ‘hearer’ but a ‘doer’ of truth as well. The “knowing and being known” also speaks about relationship, between love and action, and the interconnectedness between people, which is the heart of the “Golden Rule”. If our love isn’t shared, then how can it be love?
In the Book of Revelation, there is a description of a serpent [the devil] who casts water out of his mouth as a flood in an attempt to drown a woman [the Church]. The earth helps the woman by swallowing up the flood. As a result of this, the devil is very angry with the woman, and goes to make war with the remnant of her seed, which keep the commandments of God, and have the testimony of Jesus Christ. (Revelation 12:15-17) It is interesting – the similarity between the story of Narcissus, who ends up drowning as a result of listening to a lie – and what is described in The Revelation, where the devil attempts to destroy people with a flood. It seems quite likely that this flood could represent a flood of lies, which includes the lie of Self-love.
The devil (aka “The Father of lies”) knows that his time is short (Revelation 12:12). Between the lines of what we see and hear today in the marketing slogans of the countless false prophets paid by the Beast’s system is a demonic strategy to twist us against our selves. It is an attempt to make perdition sound like salvation. Conversely, Jesus and other prophets sent by God throughout the ages, showed that real love for our selves in the eternal sense is to live a life of self-sacrifice in the temporal realm, putting other people’s needs above our own (Luke 9:23-5; Philippians 2:3). When we do this, we are filled with a good spirit and we experience the fruit of this, both in this life and the next.
In conclusion, being good to our selves means doing good to others – something we would do well to reflect on the next time we find ourselves standing in front of a mirror.