“You’re one in a million. Which, of course, means there are over 6,000 people just like you.”
I haven’t a clue the source of that quote (nor the ones that are similar), but I love how it puts us in our place. Most Americans want to be unique … even more than we want to be awesome. We don’t care what makes us unique or famous, so long as we are so. Twenge and Campbell in their book The Narcissim Epidemic, highlight this trend:
“We are a nation fixated on the idea of being the exception to the rule, standing out and being better than others—in other words, on being special and narcissistic—and we’re so surrounded by this ethos that we find it shocking that anyone would question it. Fish don’t realize they’re in water.”
We’ve been told for years that we are special. The cartoons I watched as a child never failed in reminding me of my uniqueness. I was reassured that I could be anything I wanted to be. I easily recall lessons learned in school (and even church) about snowflakes and fingerprints to help me celebrate my uniqueness. That’s not all bad—it’s good for a person to know that God has knitted them together in their mother’s womb and that He has done so with precision and intention. That’s a good thing. But when this good thing is hijacked by our self-worshiping hearts, our uniqueness becomes a great tool for our destruction.
Consider a person that has been dealt a pretty rough hand, one that is filled with suffering. And not just your garden variety of suffering, mind you. I’m talking about the really intense kind of suffering—that looks to be absolutely senseless and unnecessary.
Such a circumstance provides a great opportunity for a heart bent toward narcissism to fulfill its twisted desires. In times of intense suffering, it is easy to feel that our affliction is unique and that we have been dealt a blow more weighty than other people. And so, somehow, even through our pain we find a way to worship. Sadly, our worship is not that of Job, who said from his ash heap, “Blessed be the name of the Lord.”
No, our worship is self-directed. Our wound the altar. Here, we pay homage to our uniqueness. And here, in that moment when the sufferer adopts the label of “special” or “unique,” the downward spiral begins, cutting him or her off from hope and help.
The one that convinces himself that he is special immediately disconnects himself from the rest of society. Nobody has ever walked in your shoes. Therefore, you can easily conclude that no person is fit to speak truth into your life. Until they walk a mile in your shoes, they have no way of understanding.
As Twenge and Campbell note, “Studies have found that teenagers who have a ‘personal fable’ of uniqueness believe that no one understands them.” Once you become misunderstood, then it’s only a short step to shut yourself off from godly counsel. Only those agreeing with you really understand what you are going through.
You don’t have to listen to any voice but your own and the ones that agree with you.