Narcissism & the True Self: Deliver Us From Me-Ville

Ah, self. Such a wonderful, complicated idea. Does the ‘self’ even exist? Descartes says yes; many postmodern deconstructors say ‘no.’ Even amongst spiritual people, who in the main affirm the idea of ‘self,’ there is much dissonance as to its overall value – is it something to be ‘denied,’ or celebrated, or transcended to reach what Thomas Merton and others call the ‘true self.’
IVP’s Likewise editor Dave Zimmerman pulled a crossover special and published a book with David C. Cook (One way to separate public vocational and personal life, I suppose) addressing this enigma head-on, in what should take the prize as 2008’s funnest title – Deliver Us from Me-Ville.
In it Zimmerman (a heck of a nice guy, by the way) takes a sympathetic look at western culture’s paradoxical obsession with and loathing of Self. As he recently said on his personal blog,
In writing Deliver Us from Me-Ville I took great encouragement from Dietrich Bonhoeffer´s description of Christ as pro-me. It´s a nice foundation on which to build a critique of self-absorption: Jesus is for us enough to become us and join with us, then separate our sin from us and die for us, then resurrect to us and go on ahead of us to prepare a place for us.
Honoring God’s view of human selves as created in the imago dei but in need of maturation puts us at odds with prevailing culture’s praise of the individual, ambivalent virtues like pride and self-esteem.

How are we best supposed to function? Can we peer throough the mystery into God’s heart? Zimmerman takes readers on a guided tour through Scripture to show how God has changed people who thought it was all about them. Throughout the book he shares practical steps to help us take the focus off of our ‘false self’ and onto others, as a lens pointing to God as subtext and context of a grounded self-with-others.

Here’s a great video intro of the book, by Zimmerman. In it he tells the story of how he married his niece – oh my!

2 Responses to Narcissism & the True Self: Deliver Us From Me-Ville

  1. ded November 9, 2008 at 11:47 am #

    I have in the last few years come to realize that sometimes even focusing on others is for selfish reasons. Though others may benefit, the person who is “loving” for selfish reasons is still bereft of the true benefit.

    I think the true self is the new creature living fully from a conscience tuned sharply to the in-dwelling Presence of God.

    Such a one, who then learns to exercise the will in obedience to that Presence, becomes the fullest expression of an individual identity living from the purest motivations.

    Beautifully in God’s plan, such a condition cannot be discovered either alone or by group association. It must be found by moments alone in the prayer closet balanced by living within a community of believers.


  1. Some Hard Questions about God for Thanksgiving | - November 20, 2008

    […] whole week is beginning to remind me of a book Mike Morrell sent me to look at recently for The Ooze. I’m talking about Dave Zimmerman’s book […]

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