Friday, February 20, 2004

Desire and Temptation

Continuing to think about Karen Horney's NPA personality theory...I know this is only loosely attached to narrative but it is attached. I was writing in my journal this morning about the three characteristics: Narcissism, Aggression, Perfectionism. People with these characteristics predominating are seeking different things (so the theory goes):

  • People with strong narcissistic tendencies are driven by a desire for glory.

  • People with strong aggressive tendencies are driven by a desire for power.

  • Perfectionistic people are driven by a desire for perfection.

After further reading, I identified myself as an NP, a person with narcissistic and perfectionistic characteristics. Deep inside, I know my goal and desire is perfection. I see the narcisstic tendencies in myself too. But deep down, that quiet, unexpressed desire is to be as close to perfect as humans can reach (transformed into the likeness of Christ), and ultimately see and know God. Sounds grandiose, doesn't it? But I know it's true. :)

My thoughts continued on to the theological connection with all this. Each of us, no matter what type, are seeking something we believe we lack. But Glory, Power, and Perfection belong ultimately only to God, so in our unconscious (and sometimes conscious) seeking, we are trying to get for ourselves what really belongs only to God. It seems to me that this very seeking re-enacts the taking and eating of the apple, over and over again, deep within our very beings.
Yesterday when I reflected on letting God have the Glory, Power, and yes, even Perfection and then loving him and trusting him enough to give me whatever he chose to give me (we've all have circumstances in which we felt glory, power, and perfection), I felt a deep internal change, a profound peace.

This morning, I wondered where Jesus was in all of this. If he experienced everything we experienced, does that mean he struggled with his own desires for Glory, Power, and Perfection? I thought of the temptations. When the tempter said, "If you are the Son of God, tell these stones to become bread," it seems to me he was being tempted with Power. When the devil prompted him to throw himself down and let the angels save him, perhaps he was struggling with Perfection (perfect trust, perfect belief). When he was taken to the mountaintop and promised the kingdoms of the world, the temptation might have been for Glory. (This could also have been for power, but Jesus' words in answer: "'Worship the Lord your God, and serve him only'" say to me that he was saying "Glory only to God"). [Matthew 4:1-11]

Mark doesn't state the various temptations...he just says Jesus was tempted by the devil.

Luke reports the same three temptations Matthew gives, but reverses the order of the last two.

John begins with Jesus' public ministry and doesn't include the temptations at all.

Interesting thoughts...whatever their application might be. :) I like the idea that Jesus may have struggled with the same characteristics that divide us from true union with God. I like even more the knowing that he overcame them. (Yes, I hear my desire for perfection there!) :) k


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