Am I an ethical narcissist?

I’m a summer baby through and through. Hayfever aside, I generally much prefer the sunny weather. While in the winter my wardrobe is pretty functional and ready to battle the elements, in the summer I find myself having more fun with different colours and styles. The other day I was wearing a particularly colourful shirt and a friend asked me where I got it from. My reply? A charity shop… but I wouldn’t tell him where.

Now it wasn’t really a big deal, but when I think back I realise it was a missed opportunity. My friend wasn’t really into charity shopping, because the ones he’s been to haven’t been great for menswear. In that moment there was a chance I could’ve directed him away from fast-fashion high street stores and into more ethical options. Something I had decided to do for myself a while ago. But that’s the problem – I was thinking about myself.

Me, me, me

It’s difficult to escape the individualism of our society and culture. We are the self-proclaimed selfie generation and it only takes a scroll through instagram to reveal it. Pretty much every other post is about showing off how amazing our individual lives are. Even most ‘inspirational’ posts are just badly disguised brags to the masses. But it’s not just our fault. Western culture has grown increasingly inward, as neoliberal pipedreams have us running to compete with each other. Who can be the best? And who can buy the best? It’s in this process that we lose our sense of community and chase our own selfish ambitions.

Unfortunately this has crept into the way we think about justice too. And I feel like it manifests in two ways. Firstly you have those who look down their nose at others, declaring themselves to be the ethical paragons the world needs. For them, being seen as an ethically moral person, is more important than actually helping others. Secondly, a trap many of us can fall into, are those whose ethical concerns are pure, but end with individual action. For them, they can sleep easy knowing that at least they are doing their bit to end injustice. So how can we avoid these traps?

The greater good

Throughout the Bible, God constantly draws our attention to those around us. While the Pharisees of the time would boast of their moral high-ground, Jesus called them ‘whitewashed tombs’ (Matthew 23:27). Instead of tallying up ethical points for ourselves, we should be pursuing justice for all through the Kingdom of God. I don’t know about you, but I can’t remember the last time, a kingdom only had one person. So while we should absolutely be doing the most we can to see an end injustice, we should also be inviting others to do that alongside us. If you look back in history, any great social justice movement had multiple people behind it. Like Micah Bournes said, the civil rights movement wasn’t just Martin Luther King Jr. 
So as we pursue justice, let’s be wary of falling into the traps of our individualistic culture. The reality is, the injustice that plagues the world is far too big for any one person to stop by themselves. If we are truly going to make a difference in this world, we’ll need others by our side. So let’s do everything we can to invite those around us to join a life of justice. Whether it’s hosting an ethical party, spreading a rubbish revolution, or even just telling a friend where you got that cool shirt from.

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