On May 5, 2015, Kim Kardashian West will publish worldwide a book titled Selfish. Preorders have already made it a bestseller on Amazon. It promises to be a national sensation. What is the lure of the book? Kardashian is one of today’s most recognizable celebrities with a massive fan base. As noted on Amazon, Kim has “mastered the art of taking flattering and highly personal pictures” of herself which she shares with over 31 million followers on social media. A reviewer for Barnes and Noble noted that, “Her mother once pronounced her daughter ‘obsessed’ for taking 1,200 selfies in one day.” This book contains 352 of her selfies.
The book and its popularity tell us a lot about who we are as a people in this society. Some of us may be in love with Kim. Perhaps some of us envy her lifestyle of wealth and indulgence. Others of us yearn to be as glamorous and famous as she. Somehow we want our humdrum lives to be more fascinating, sensational, and dazzling. We want to be somebody.
If we were to step outside our cultural din, we could ask: How does God see all this? Is it harmless entertainment? Does it provide innocent escapism? Or is it Satan’s siren song to lure us away from holiness and happiness? Is it evidence that we, as a people, have suffered a moral inversion?
Woe unto them that call evil good, and good evil; that put darkness for light, and light for darkness; that put bitter for sweet, and sweet for bitter! (Isaiah 5:20)
We may have been so swallowed up in a culture of celebrity that we have forgotten many important things. For example, God loves quiet, unassuming service. He is more impressed by the parent who reads a story to a child than a star who leads today’s most popular movie. He likely doesn’t much care how many followers we have on social media, but likely does care a great deal when we offer kind words and loving service to others. That is the currency of heaven.
Further, we have been utterly deceived about the formula for happiness. Our media are brim with stories of celebrity divorces and addictions. There is hardly a more promising formula for unhappiness than universal adulation. Celebrities can be woefully unhappy. And celebrity is fleeting—those on the covers of magazines this year will be replaced by newer stars in another season. The research-based formula for reliable happiness recommends gratitude for simple blessings, using our talents, and being of service.
As a nation we are suffering historic level of narcissism with all the associated costs in the national spirit. Now we’re curing lead poisoning by doubling the dosage.
God has a simple and direct cure: unselfishness!
He that findeth his life shall lose it: and he that loseth his life for my sake shall find it. (Matthew 10:39)
Let’s make the Lord’s statement more contemporary. People who focus on themselves will lose it all. They will be lonely, miserable, and hopeless. In contrast, those who devote themselves unselfishly to serving and blessing others will find peace, satisfaction, and purpose beyond any comprehension.
It’s a timeless principle. Anyone who is reflective can clearly see the evidence. When we long for the life we see in the movies, we are being tricked. In real life, true satisfaction comes from finding our divine selves by simply serving the people God has placed in our lives in quiet ways.
I applaud the effort of my friend, Paul Parkinson. He has written a book to be released the same day as Kardashian’s Selfish. His book is titled Unselfish! It contains 99 inspiring stories of people who have turned the camera around—away from themselves—and are putting others ahead of themselves.
The stories come from around the world, and include people like:
Vicki Morrill who, along with her husband, has fostered over 90 children through the years.
Dut Bior, one of the “Lost Boys of Sudan,” who established a student orphan aid program.
Jon M. Huntsman, Sr., who was generous with people even before he became a very successful business leader.
Don Schoendorfer of Free Wheelchair Mission who left a successful career to build a company that donates wheelchairs to needy people around the world. He has donated over 822,000 wheelchairs to date.
Former Hollywood executive Scott Neeson who left a flourishing career and moved to Cambodia to establish the Cambodian Children’s Fund.
Formula for Happiness
I recommend that we not allow our minds and hearts to be hijacked by the culture of celebrity. We may go to movies but we should not imagine that the stars have a formula for happiness that is any better than our life plan. We may read magazines about prominent people but we should not aspire for fame.
I love the way Andy Rooney said it:
For most of life, nothing wonderful happens. If you don’t enjoy getting up and working and finishing your work and sitting down to a meal with family or friends, then the chances are you’re not going to be very happy. If someone bases his happiness or unhappiness on major events like a great new job, huge amounts of money, [great fame,] a flawlessly happy marriage or a trip to Paris, that person isn’t going to be happy much of the time. If, on the other hand, happiness depends on a good breakfast, flowers in the yard, a drink or a nap, then we are more likely to live with quite a bit of happiness. (Tribune Media Services)
I recommend that we follow God’s formula for happiness in our lives. I also recommend that we learn from great models of unselfishness. I have ordered the book Unselfish on Amazon and cannot wait for my copy to arrive.
I agree with Jean Twenge, maybe the country’s leading researcher on the narcissism epidemic:
In this age of rampant narcissism, the stories in Unselfish are a breath of fresh air, a relief, a joy, an inspiration, and a necessity. Thankfully, there are still people who are willing to put altruism first. If only there were more collections of unselfish stories, and fewer of selfies. Read this book to restore your faith in humanity.
If you would like some inspiration for a truly satisfying life, you may order Unselfish on Amazon by clicking here.