Isn't searching for the God within just an excuse for narcissism?

Written by Margaret B. Gunness

I believe that if our search for the God within becomes narcissism, the seeker has somehow gotten off the track. I surely recognize, however, that the self has an uncanny knack for getting in the way. Yet I also believe that God yearns for us, yearns for us even more urgently than we yearn for God, that God desires to dwell within us, in our hearts, our minds, our very soul. I believe that God wants to be known by us in these depths. So in this sense, to seek God within our own selves, within our own depths, is to seek God where God most wants to be found.

So how can we do this then, without stumbling over ourselves, our needs, our pride, our ego? I offer a few suggestions and invite you to try them out. One way would be to begin with trying to name a particular need or a particular secret pride and then to imagine a dialogue between that need or that pride and Jesus, who knows how hard it can be to live as a human.

It could go something like this: "Friend Jesus, I seem to be caught between two sides of a battle inside myself. Either I feel so inadequate and so weak that I can't seem to stand up for anything or do anything of consequence. Or else, when I feel more certain of myself, then I become proud, as if all my strength is my own creation. So I'm constantly tossed back and forth between these two extremes, and each one is just as painful as the other. How can I escape this tyranny of my own extremes?"

Or, I often like to pray to the Spirit of God. That dialogue might go something like this: Spirit of God, I know that you are everywhere; thank You for also finding a dwelling place in me. And since You are in me, help me to know You there and help me to know myself. Help me, please, to honor your indwelling, and help me also to honor the strengths You give to me and not to claim them as my own, but to recognize You as their source and sustainer. Please, never let me take the credit that belongs to You. Yet at the same time, help me to love myself as your creation. Make me an instrument, strong and supple, in your hands, and may I feel great joy and blessing in doing your work through my life.

Narcissism is an over-indulging love for ourselves. In searching for God within us, it is God we seek to find, and with God, to enter into dialogue. And when we lose sight of this is when we've gotten off the track, Look honestly and deeply for the God within, and pray to that God that you not be led by your own ego. Listen for what God's response to you may be, for what God's needs of you might be, God's hopes and desires for you. The indwelling God is real, and is longing for you to discover the signs and wisdom of his presence within you. Listen, and you will hear.

—The Rev. Margaret B. Gunness

How can one go within oneself to find God? Isn't that just a glorification of the ego? I believe not. I believe that going within one's own being is a path to finding God.

As a child and well into adulthood, I believed that God, like a loving father, was "out there" above and beyond our world—all knowing, judgmental, yet caring. "He" was accessible by prayer. Through prayer, God would look over us, take care of us and guide our lives, if we but ask.

By mid-adulthood I could no longer experience God in this anthropomorphic male image. I struggled, but through meditation and study, I came to experience God as the vital loving force, the primary energy of all creation. God is in all things. God connects all of life. This means God is within me. It means God is within every human I meet. We are connected in a profound way, but all too often we ignore or never establish that connection. The stories of the Bible and other world religions are metaphors and guides to help us understand this.

My search for God within is an effort to align myself with the loving force of reality, which I believe can only occur at a deeply personal level. If I connect with God within, I am connecting to all of life in a spiritual dimension beyond material explanation. With this intent, going within does not lead to glorification of one's own ego in narcissistic contemplation. This would be impossible. Rather it promotes community, connection to others, and a sense of oneness with God.


I suppose searching for God within could be an excuse for narcissism if a person looked only inward, focusing solely on personal experience. But I believe we often discover God's presence in our lives when we stop to reflect on the events of our lives and our relationships with others. When that happens, we are not "admiring our own image," but awed by a new awareness of ourselves and how God loves us.


To say that God is in us is to say, really, that God operates through us. As C.S. Lewis said, "We are the fingers, muscles and cells of His body."


Our search for God includes our prayer that He relieve us of our narcissism.