It’s Narcissist Friday!
As late as the 1600’s, scientists were still defending the idea of spontaneous generation. The methods of scientific observation were still being invented and it wasn’t hard to believe that spoiling meat actually created maggots or aging fruit created fruit flies. One scientist actually had a recipe for making your own mice, simply by putting together the kinds of ingredients that constitute a favorable mouse environment.
Well, I don’t know whether a legalistic organization actually creates narcissists or if narcissists are simply drawn to legalism, but the two are certainly found together often.
It isn’t only the teachers. In fact, some teachers of legalism are just as deceived as the people they teach. They just pass on what they have learned and they try to do it in new and better ways. And it isn’t just that narcissistic husbands drag their wives into these organizations. Surprisingly often, the wife is the one who pushes to connect with what she believes will help the family.
In any case, narcissism and legalism often go together. I suppose the control and authority that legalism demands are part of it. Narcissists love to control others. But I suspect that the opportunity for spiritual measurement is even more important.
Narcissists need to know where they stand against others. I have sais that legalism is a system where the participants know they are never as good as they should be, but they also know they are better than you. Legalists never measure up to the standards of the system, but they always know where they stand.
In much the same way, narcissists know their own weaknesses and inadequacies. They are filled with fear and worry and they feel constantly inferior. That’s why they try so hard to push others down. A narcissist always knows where he or she stands against the others in the room. This positioning is part of the self-preservation they have developed throughout their lives.
Legalism is a wonderful environment for positioning. If you have ever been a part of a legalist congregation, you understand what I mean. Comparisons, boasting, lies, even spying and tattling are all part of life in the legalist church. All for the purpose of appearing to be better than others.
So, like the legalist, the narcissist is keenly aware of his shortcomings. But he is also quite certain that he is better than you.
(Note: Perhaps I should give a quick definition of legalism, at least of the way I use the term. Legalism is the idea that spirituality can be achieved and measured by the keeping of laws or standards of behavior. I believe that Christian legalism does not represent the message of Jesus and is a perversion of truth. Christian spirituality is based on a relationship with the Lord who loves us, not on rules and standards of behavior.)