It seems like it is about time for me to make the connection between my message of grace and thoughts on narcissism again. When I began to understand what life apart from grace looked like, that attempt to live the Christian life under the law, I saw narcissism. Not all of my teaching on narcissism has been in the context of the Christian faith, but that’s how it started for me. I knew people who were cruel and manipulative, extremely insensitive to the feelings of others, who claimed to be believers and lovers of Jesus. Some of them fell into the category of narcissistic.
But there was another common thread among these folks. They tried very hard to look right, do right, and be thought of as right. They were impatient and unkind toward those who didn’t measure up and simply dismissed those who didn’t try. Their lives were frustrating and, often, angry. I began to understand that they simply could not rest in Jesus. The concepts of rest and trust were foreign to them.
It was no coincidence, of course, that they followed teachers who fed their drive to do more. It was also no coincidence that those teachers took advantage of their feelings of inferiority and taught them systems and formulas that promised success in life if followed perfectly. When the formulas didn’t work, the people were to blame—and they accepted the blame and the shame as they always had.
I began to understand that the narcissist was very weak, in spite of his ability to be so cruel. I realized that narcissists were addicted to praise and attention because they were so afraid that people would judge the real state of their lives. And I saw the victims of the narcissists, usually wives or children, who lived defeated and confused.
So now, as I write about living in grace, I find myself thinking that the activities of those who are under grace are the very things the narcissists lack. Rest in the Lord. Trust in His love. Accept that you are accepted. The narcissist suffers and hurts others because he doesn’t do these things. He is truly stuck under the law—a law he has accepted and believes is still for him (and the rest of us).
Under the law there is no hope. There is only the frustration of never being able to measure up. Under the law it is all about me. My definition of good. My standards. My measurements. My success. Under the law, we have little choice but to be narcissistic.
But under grace there is love and acceptance. I no longer have to measure up. I seek only to walk with the Lord who loves me. And I can learn to love others.
Is there hope for the narcissist? Only in the grace of Jesus Christ.