It’s Narcissist Friday!
Pain causes most of us to turn inward. We begin to see the world through the feelings we experience. What that means is that we are less likely to empathize or even listen to others. All we know is that we hurt. If we know the cause of the pain, we see little else.
I recently got an email from someone (anonymous) who accused me of incompetence and ignorance because I didn’t portray a narcissist like the person he/she had experienced. That narcissist was a “vampire” and a “monster” apparently. I was doing a disservice because I suggested that some narcissists are less than that; at least that’s what I think the person was trying to say.
I sympathize. Once this person understood that the cause of the pain was a narcissist, then a narcissist was defined by his/her experience.
In my last post on formula spirituality, I talked about the problem of making general statements based on individual or a small number of examples. It’s easy to do, especially when it is something you have experienced in pain. If I were to describe a classic narcissist according to the first person I identified as being narcissistic, the classic narcissist would be a soft-spoken, gentle, manipulative man who managed to put others down and control them by using calculated words and ideas. In other words, the classic narcissist would be covert. However, if I were to describe the classic narcissist by the second one I recognized, he would be loud, cruel, and boastful. He would be a leader without any heart and you would bow down to him or suffer serious loss. In other words, overt.
What would the classic narcissist be like according to your experience? Judging from the comments here, we would have some disagreements. So, of course, we don’t define narcissism according to our limited experience. We try to look past our pain to understand the basic motivations and failings of the narcissist. We recognize that narcissists come in different shapes and sizes and act in different ways. Some are men and some are women. Some are family and some are bosses and some are neighbors. Some are friendly and some attack and some do both so that you never know what to expect. Some are young and some are old and some are the same age as you.
There are things we know about all narcissists. All lack empathy, even though they can trick you into thinking they understand and care. All manipulate for control, even those who make you think they are helping you. All abuse and, ultimately, hurt those who love them.
And, because we are all different people, the narcissists in our lives affect us differently. Some can work for a narcissistic boss—without thinking about killing him. Some can stay in a marriage to a narcissist. Some want to try even though they know what they are getting. Some are able to leave and shake the dust off their feet. Some are hurt deeply by a friend.
If you think of all the possible permutations, with different narcissists causing different responses in us, it is a wonder we can talk with each other about this. But one thing we are learning: there are no simple answers. You can’t just tell someone to get a divorce, even though that what you had to do. And, in the same way, you can’t tell someone to stay, even though you think it is right. Instead, we can listen and pray and love.
Someone once told me that Job’s friends offered the best counsel until they opened their mouths. They just sat with him for something like a week, saying nothing. They were good friends. Then they started telling him what to do and why these things had happened to him. Suddenly they became accusers and experts. Then they weren’t good friends.
The goal of my heart is to bring hurting people to Jesus. He’s the only One who truly understands. I know that narcissism often comes into our lives in the context of religion and I grieve for that. The truth is that the healing comes from Jesus. It comes as we take our own pain and our own situation to One who knows us better than we know ourselves. He knows your loss. He knows the change that has taken place in your heart because of the abuse. He also knows the person you really are. Others may not understand, but He does.
Be patient as He works his love into your life and shows you the way to strength and peace.
And, along the way, be patient with others whose walk may be similar, but not the same.