It’s Narcissist Friday!
God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change,
the courage to change the things I can,
and the wisdom to know the difference.
– Reinhold Niebuhr
I used to think that New Year’s resolutions were a foolish waste of time, that one day was as good as any to make changes in my life. Then I began to understand that the New Year offered a milestone of sorts, a traditional and cultural point where change is considered and even enabled. So I decided that the turning of the year offered a great opportunity for a new beginning.
But change usually doesn’t happen on a certain day. I know a man who stopped drinking in a day and another who stopped smoking with one decision. I marvel at both of them. But I don’t know anyone who lost the weight they wanted in a day or became a better person in a day. To become strong, to make lasting life changes, takes time.
The old metaphor is that of the fork in the road. A single decision to take a certain path is lived out step by step. We look back and remember the choice that was made, but we look forward to see that choice made again and again. Every moment after is an affirmation of that choice.
For most of us, change is made in two ways: outside and inside. There are outside things we can change. We can move our location. We can decide not to have contact with certain people or go certain places. We can change jobs and cars and clothes and many other things in our lives. Some are harder than others, but outside change is possible in many areas of our lives.
It is also possible to change ourselves inside, to think and feel differently. We can change the way things affect us by changing how we view ourselves and the life around us. We don’t have to believe the lies we have been told about ourselves and we can choose our reactions and responses to the things people say or do to us.
You see, there are some things in life that are not possible to change. We cannot change who our parents were or what has happened to us through our days. We cannot change the actions or attitudes of the people in our lives without removing them from our lives. But we can learn to think differently about even those things we cannot change.
I began this blog as a way to communicate a message that is new for many people, yet as old as the gospel itself. That message changes us from the inside. Recently I received a note that chastised me for telling people to find emotional help in Christian faith. I understand this. But I have never suggested that the things of the faith are the things that save us or help us. The one thing that helps is a Person—Jesus. I believe that those who know Him and His love will find that inner strength to face circumstances with power or to change circumstances with success.
As most readers will know, my primary concern was legalism and the bondage so many felt because of the kind of Christian faith they were taught. I set out to bring a message of hope and love to those who were in the church but felt damaged and betrayed by Christians and the whole system. As time went on, I discovered that legalism was so often tied to narcissism and I began to write about narcissistic relationships. The same love that made a difference to those bound by legalism gave strength and hope to those in these difficult relationships.
So, at this beginning of the new year, let me offer some words of encouragement. Some of you are in situations that are so difficult you cannot see any choice but to make outside changes. You will end relationships or change locations or find new jobs and friends. Others will seek strength to keep going, perhaps because you believe in your heart that you should. But any change must come out of truth about yourself and the world. Believe that you are of great value and are greatly loved. Believe that you are not suffering because of your wickedness or foolishness. Believe that the narcissist or the legalist is responsible for his or her own cruelties. Believe that you have the right to stand up and be a person, no matter what anyone says. Believe that you can find peace and joy in life because peace and joy are meant to be yours.
Find the truth. Grab onto it and never let it go. Then begin your new path. Each step down that path is an affirmation of what you have learned. If that path leads you to make those difficult decisions, then trust that you are being led in the right way. If you are led to stay where you are, then believe that you can be victorious where you are. Find people who will support you in your decisions and your path. Find words of encouragement and believe them.
You are loved. I believe that there is One who calls you to His love. My prayer for all of you this new year is that you will find in Him your peace and your answers.