self-absorbed: /ˌself.əbˈzɔːbd//-ˈzɔːrbd/ adj usually disapproving . Only interested in yourself and your own activities (http://dictionary.cambridge.org/)
I don’t know what it is, society, the culture, the sign of the times, whatever. But people seem much more self-absorbed these days. Now, I think all of us are a bit self-absorbed at times, but there are definite degrees of self-absorption (and not in a Sponge Bob sort of way).
I rate the degrees as follows:
Extremely Self-Absorbed: This would be movie, TV and music stars (Reality TV personalities rate very extreme), Athletes (mainly professional), Politicians, High level business leaders, etc. Some obvious examples might be Paris Hilton, The Kardasian Sisters, Colin Farrell, Jamie Foxx, all NBA basketball players, Sean Combs, most Hip-Hop Stars, Rush Limbaugh, GLENN BECK, all political ideologues ( like the Tea Party movement), almost every Politician on the face of the planet, etc. You get the idea. Some individuals of these types might not be, but they are the rare exception. There are also, of course, “regular” folks who also fall into this category. The Extremely Self-Absorbed know they are, believe they deserve to be and, wouldn’t want it any other way.
They have their own websites; update it regularly with their exploits, their thoughts, answers to critics, and all manner of detail about their personal lives. They hold to the adage that no attention is bad as long as they spell the name right.
In a religious sense, many extremely self-absorbed types (who claim to be religious) believe that God is somehow directly and personally responsible for their success. For example, at a recent Grammy award show, many award winners would start off their speeches thanking God. Which would be OK, except you wonder if God really supports a singer who is homophobic, misogynist, racist and just plain foul? And that God would care who wins a Grammy, Oscar, Tony or any other award such as that. Those award shows are the direct evidence of an extremely self-absorbed industry and people.
Normally Self-Absorbed – Most people fall into this category. We all have a “feel sorry for me moment,” Over worry about our appearance, what kind of an impression we might make, how we feel physically at any given time, etc. This is all within the bounds of normal, in my view so long as it is not continuous. A warning sign might be if someone asks you, “How Are You,” you spend the next 20 minutes actually telling them without finding out how they are and listening for the answer.
Religiously, you are, of course, concerned with your own eternal progression and salvation (since we are all responsible for ourselves first), but are also very willing to extend yourselves in the service of others. Not for the glory of it, but for the joy of serving and helping others.
And lastly, we come to what I call:
Dangerously Self-Absorbed – These folks are dangerous because they are self-absorbed, do not know it, and thus can’t help themselves. Some might call it insecurity, but these dangerously self-absorbed do not typically consider others. They are so wrapped up in their own lives, their own problems, their superior knowledge and experience, and their everything, that they cannot or do not care about others that much.
Any conversation with those folks inevitably turns to themselves. “How are you, they might ask.” But as soon as you give an answer, it is a launching pad for how they are, either good or bad. If you feel bad, they feel worse, if you feel good, they’ve never felt better. If you have family problems, theirs are or were worse and on and on. It is always a competition.
This group tends to use social networking to an extreme. They document their every thought, action and circumstance on “Facebook,” as an example. They use it as a sort of a journal, except that everyone can read it.
How do dangerously self-absorbed people manifest themselves in Church? They are the ones who openly aspire to a calling, usually a higher calling, and the one who can do the “job” better than the person called to do it. In Sunday School, they don’t just have the answer, they have the lecture about the answer.
In testimony meeting, these folks are usually always up to give their testimony, which is seldom a real testimony but a “Blessing-amony,” (“The Lord truly blessed us with a great house, five wonderful kids, all served missions, married in the Temple and 25 grandchildren…”). Or an “Update-amony,” “Robbie is in jail again for selling drugs, please pray for him.” Just two common examples.
I sometimes think that some of those who have issues with the Church in the manner of doctrine, leadership, both general and local, history and such, also have this problem. While I am sure that many struggle with it, there are many who almost seem proud over their disaffection. I often wonder if those members who leave the faith really think of their spouse and family and the big picture rather than their own desires. Again, for some, I am sure it is pure agony to find themselves on the outside looking in, yet for some, it is a proud moment and the effect on others is just a mere consequence.
The prophets have warned us against becoming too self-absorbed. The Book of Mormon documents time after time where the people became too prideful and forgot the Lord. President Benson, in his excellent address on Pride said this:
“Most of us think of pride as self-centeredness, conceit, boastfulness, arrogance, or haughtiness. All of these are elements of the sin, but the heart, or core, is still missing.
The central feature of pride is enmity—enmity toward God and enmity toward our fellowmen. Enmity means “hatred toward, hostility to, or a state of opposition.” It is the power by which Satan wishes to reign over us.
…Our enmity toward God takes on many labels, such as rebellion, hard-heartedness, stiff-neckedness, unrepentant, puffed up, easily offended, and sign seekers. The proud wish God would agree with them. They aren’t interested in changing their opinions to agree with God’s.
Another major portion of this very prevalent sin of pride is enmity toward our fellowmen. We are tempted daily to elevate ourselves above others and diminish them. (See Hel. 6:17; D&C 58:41.)” (Ezra Taft Benson, “Beware of Pride,” Ensign, May 1989, 4)
We all have a bit of this self-absorbed attitude in us and it is a constant battle to overcome it. Some do it quite successfully and for the rest of us, we work it on a daily basis. For others, they are oblivious to it and need to work harder. For those who are worldly and proud, while they are never hopeless, it will be a tough road to travel to humility.
One answer to this problem is service to others. To lose yourselves in the service of others is to find peace and happiness outside of ourselves. It is hard to be self-absorbed when you are serving others.
The Savior gives the answer quite simply:
He that findeth his life shall lose it: and he that loseth his life for my sake shall find it. (Matthew 10:39)