The Dangerous Pit of Uniqueness

“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 hi-jacked 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 towards 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/her off from hope and help.

The Spiral

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.

Passages of Scripture that were once helpful no longer have bearing on your life. After all, you can reason that those Scriptures don’t apply because the biblical authors aren’t walking in your shoes.

Now every sinful response to your suffering is excused—at least in your mind. It’s not you, it’s the suffering. When the afflictions keep piling on (and usually a great portion of it the consequence of your sinful response to suffering) you conclude that God has forsaken you.

It is here that you will make your bed in ashes. You’ve spiraled into depression and self-pity. Here you will become jaded and your conscience seared. You, and you alone, have been abandoned and forsaken by the God who said that He wouldn’t forsake anyone. You’re stuck in this pit with no rope. You even lack the fingernails to claw your way out. You are hopeless.

There is only one way out…

If you are wallowing in the mud of despair and you feel all alone as if nobody understands you, the only way out of this pit is to turn away from such narcissistic malarkey. And the only way to be convinced that you aren’t unique and that you aren’t special, is to look to the Lord Jesus.

One particular place to find rescue is in Psalm 88. Here we see that no matter how deep in the pit we descend the Lord Jesus has sank further.

The One whose only companion truly was darkness plunged the depths so that this Psalm would never actually be true for me. It only feels like darkness is my sole companion. It’s not. Jesus is there. In the darkness. In the midst of my deadness. Fully present in His love and conquering grace.

He conquered the lonely grave. I can’t. And thankfully I don’t have to. (From Conquering the Lonely Grave)

You aren’t unique. You aren’t special. Jesus is. The sooner we realize this the better. Yes, you have great worth. Yes, you are dearly loved. Yes, you matter. Yes, you have a purpose. But so does everyone else. And they suffer too. Maybe not as much as you have. But you aren’t unique. You aren’t alone. Jesus has plunged further. Throw your despair upon Him.

Only in His uniqueness can you find rescue from the pit of yours.

  • Anonymous

    This was a very edifying piece. I wish greatly to praise God for helping the author to write it, and for the courage to put something like this out for people to read. God bless you!!!

  • jimpemberton

    Very true. There is an unhealthy focus to seek our own unique mark or legacy that pervades the Church in individualistic cultures.

    As a balance, it’s healthy to recognize how we are each gifted somewhat differently within the Body of Christ and learn to rely on each other (and be reliable ourselves) in order to proclaim Christ as part of a larger whole.

  • jimpemberton

    By the way, I love what you did with the com box in this new site. It’s uber-functional.

  • Pingback: The Dangerous Pit of Uniqueness | Truth2Freedom's Blog()

  • Pingback: Thursday’s Links To Go | Tim Archer's Kitchen of Half-Baked Thoughts()

  • http://www.faithmeetsworld.com/ Rob Grayson

    Mike, you have articulated very well something that has become an idolatrous trap for many.

  • Pingback: Top 13 Posts of 2013 - Borrowed Light()