Pope Francis Warns of Dangers to Unity: Narcissism, Victimhood, Pessimism

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ROME — Pope Francis urged Christians Sunday to work for unity and warned them of the triple threat of narcissism, victimhood, and pessimism.

In homily on the feast of Pentecost, which commemorates the coming of the Holy Spirit upon the apostles, the pope said that there are three main enemies “always lurking at the door of our hearts: narcissism, victimhood, and pessimism” and each of these has been present during the coronavirus pandemic.

“Narcissism makes us idolize ourselves, to be concerned only with what is good for us,” he said in St. Peter’s Basilica. “The narcissist thinks: ‘Life is good if I profit from it.’ So he or she ends up saying: ‘Why should I give myself to others?’”

This temptation has been especially evident during the health crisis, he suggested, where selfishness and a retreat into one’s own concerns has been in evidence.

“In this time of pandemic, how wrong narcissism is: the tendency to think only of our own needs, to be indifferent to those of others, and not to admit our own frailties and mistakes,” he said.

“But the second enemy, victimhood, is equally dangerous,” the pontiff continued. “Victims complain every day about their neighbour: ‘No one understands me, no one helps me, no one loves me, everyone has it in for me!’”

Like narcissists, professional victims are self-centered, but this malady reveals itself in a slightly different way.

“How many times have we not heard these complaints! The victim’s heart is closed, as he or she asks, ‘Why aren’t others concerned about me?’” he said. “In the crisis we are experiencing, how ugly victimhood is! Thinking that no one understands us and experiences what we experience.”

The third enemy is pessimism, according to which nothing is going well in society, politics, or the Church, Francis said. “The pessimist gets angry with the world, but sits back and does nothing, thinking: ‘What good is giving? That is useless.’”

This temptation has also manifested itself during the pandemic, the pope concluded, and shows itself especially in exaggerating the problem and believing that nothing will ever return to normal.

“At this moment, in the great effort of beginning anew, how damaging is pessimism, the tendency to see everything in the worst light and to keep saying that nothing will return as before!” he said. “When someone thinks this way, the one thing that certainly does not return is hope.”

These three enemies disguise an unnamed idolatry, the worship of a false god, Francis said.

The narcissist’s idol is the mirror, the “mirror-god,” he said, while the victim worships the “complaint-god” and the pessimist worships the “negativity-god,” each of which leads to a loss of hope and of appreciation for the gift of life.

“We need the Holy Spirit, the gift of God, he said, because He “heals us of narcissism, victimhood and pessimism” and heals us from “the mirror, complaints, and darkness.”

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