Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Having a God Complex

On a message board frequented by yours truly, I was accused a couple of times (by the same poster) of having a "God complex."

It would be easy to vociferously deny such a charge.  I think most of us readily would.  But, instead of denial, perhaps it might be worthwhile to think such a charge through.

First, let's ask: what is a "God complex?"

Googling the term brings up some interesting definitions.  Apparently, there is no one settled definition:

This website defines it as Malignant Self Love - Narcissism Revisited.

The FreeDictionaryA popular term for a personality flaw commonly seen in physicians, especially surgeons, who perceive themselves as omniscient—i.e., God-like—and thus treat others as mere mortals.

Definitions: God complex--A god complex is an unshakable belief characterized by consistently inflated feelings of personal ability, privilege, or infallibility. A person with a god complex may refuse to admit the possibility of error or failure, even in the face of complex or intractable problems or difficult or impossible tasks, or may regard personal opinions as unquestionably correct. The individual may disregard the rules of society and require special consideration or privileges. God complex is not a clinical term or diagnosable disorder, and does not appear in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders. The first person to use the term god-complex was Ernest Jones His description, at least in the contents page of Essays in Applied Psycho-Analysis describe the God Complex as belief that one is a god

Wikipedia cites the definition.

It's intriguing to think about these definitions and perhaps put them together in some sort of fashion.  I will do this to formulate my own definition of a "God complex."

Definition: An unshakable belief that one knows how the world operates and should operate, and that others who do not share the same thoughts are unintelligent, ignorant, and contemptible.

How's that for a working definition?  If you do not agree with this definition, then the rest of this post probably will not make much sense.  I invite you to offer your own definitions in the comments section.

For those of you still reading, I now invite you to ponder the accusation as I will.  Do I have a "God complex?"  Do I believe that I know everything and how everything should work.  Do I hold others in contempt when they do not share my view of the world?

Immediately, most of us, including myself respond, "Absolutely not!  I do not know everything.  I profess my ignorance!"

(Yet, do you say this because deep down you know this to be true, or do you say this because you know it is the right answer that one must speak in public?)

Despite my initial rebuke of the accusation, I must also give myself pause.  For do I not oftentimes believe I have the answer to what ails the world?  Do I not believe I have the correct interpretation of data?  Do I not believe if everyone else simply did as I did and thought as I thought, then the world would be a better place to live?

Be honest with yourself.  Brutally honest.

How many of us are guilty of doing exactly these things?  How many of us would like to write a prescription for the world and have it followed to a tee?  How many of us become angry or upset when others refuse to consider our prescription or point of view?

No one that I know escapes doing this.  No one.  

Do I have a "God complex?"  I most certainly do.  I would argue every one of us does, and our self-righteousness is deadly to our relationships, to our society, to the world.

The Christian view of humanity starts with the notion that each and every one of us are trapped by this innate selfishness--this innate desire to be God ourselves.

It was not the action of eating the forbidden fruit in the Garden of Eden which was the Original Sin.  Rather, it was the desire to be "like God," and not in a good kind of way.  Being "like God" in our ability to love unconditionally, forgive when spit upon, be creative, and so on is a good thing.  But wanting to be "like God" and function as the be all and end all is not.  It is the latter which gets us into mounds of trouble and has gotten us in trouble for generation after generation after generation.

But is there a way out of such behavior?  Is there a way for us to escape our "God complexes?"

Not if you aren't willing to see that you have one.  Not if you aren't willing to see that you try to place yourself as God and tell everyone what to do.  Not if you aren't willing to acknowledge that you at some level believe you know what is best and believe everyone else should be just like you.

Only when you are willing to acknowledge this and believe that it is wrongheaded--and that you are broken in this selfish desire are you ready to hear the message of grace.

And that is another lengthy post. 


Anonymous said...

Would St. Paul fit the category? Could he be accused of having a "God Complex?" In my reading of him, I would say, yes.

There is right and wrong. Obviously one has to choose a side. I don't believe it is possible to be truly "neutral" or non-combative or non-committal on all issues. After all, does not the Bible reveal God and His will to us? How can we read that and not take a stand? Does the Holy Spirit dwelling within us allow us to acquiesce on matters that are clearly defined in Scripture? Or even things that may not be so clearly defined, but are still not that hard to dig out?

Maybe you do have a God Complex, Kevin, as you say we all do. But I still like what you say. And forgiveness applies when we do say or do something amiss. Just like the Gospel teaches.

Unknown said...

hmmmm The god complex as the original sin. good point. I just became aware of this blog today. I find it informative and well reasoned. Provocative in a very thoughtful way.


Kevin Haug said...

Thank you, Carl and welcome aboard. You've stretched my brain numerous times before, and I hope you will do so here.