Self-preservation is one of the strongest forces that drives the way people eat, act, and survive. Before narcissism manifests itself, two characteristics exhibit themselves first: envy and vanity. This is the common chaos with which every human battles. The ability to control such urges is necessary to stabilize the social structure that surrounds the individual. As soon as the individual prioritizes their desires over the needs of the structure, stability begins to deteriorate.
Envy can plague the individual over the smallest thing. Without self-control, an individual will find ways to justify reasons to pursue and obtain the desired object at all costs. The result is vanity. An individual will elevate themselves inappropriately. As soon as they do, the well-being of those around them is compromised. The willingness to sacrifice someone else’s state of security to fortify one’s own is pure selfishness.
Things that humans usually attempt to preserve are either other’s perceptions of them or the state of security they currently hold. They usually surrender a level of liberty in exchange for the security they desire. As U.S. Founding Father Benjamin Franklin stated, “Those who would give up essential Liberty, to purchase a little temporary Safety, deserve neither Liberty nor Safety.” That type of “sacrifice” isn’t heroism, it’s manipulation. Those that sacrifice fundamental principles for “the sake of the greater good” are persuaded by their own vanity.
We are surrounded by depictions of mythical heroes like Superman, Wonder Woman and Thor. They became more relatable with characters like Batman, Ironman, and the X-men. They are admired for their fictional acts of valor and sacrifice. Their suffering isn’t aimed to position themselves for worship. That’s why they hide themselves. Those that antagonize the heroes are dead-set on their own self-admiration, worship, and domination. They are the villains.
There are few people willing to put themselves through levels of suffering to preserve others. Simply having opposition doesn’t make one a hero. What one is capable of sacrificing determines one’s merit.
The Judeo-Christian perspective asserts that vanity is a characteristic of corruption. It is never satisfied for long, and will soon consume all it touches. Unchecked vanity becomes narcissism where one emotionally starves oneself to the point one’s soul dies.
Author F. Scott Fitzgerald said, “Show me a hero, and I’ll write you a tragedy.” Someone who is willing to waive self-preservation, not just once but repeatedly, is heroic. Something has to die in order for something better, stronger, and more beautiful to take its place.
The same must be emulated within a social structure, even a small one such as a family. The truly vulnerable are to be preserved at the willing expense of the formidable. Any process that results in more detriment than virtuous success ought to be rejected. If ignored, societal decay is inevitable.
If one is going to attempt to be a hero, one ought to learn to sacrifice oneself. To expect it of someone else is foolish, and to demand it is fiendish.
By: Rosemary Dewar