It’s Narcissist Friday!
For Christians, Good Friday reminds us of the day Jesus went to the cross for us. We who were sinners, broken and hurting others in our brokenness, needed something more than we could ever get for ourselves. Although we needed a change of thinking, we needed more than new ideas. Although we needed forgiveness, we needed more than just cleansing from our sin. We needed new life.
When Jesus came, He came to give us life. The primary message of the passion is the message of the cost of that life. Jesus suffered, bled, and died to give us life. His life. Life in relationship with Him.
Thinking Christians are aware of the great love our Lord has for us. We are only able to come into His presence, to seek what we need, because of that love. That love makes all the difference. We who deserve nothing from the Almighty God, receive everything because of that love. No matter what we have done, He loves us. No matter what we are doing or will do, He still loves us. That kind of love humbles us.
Then we look at the people around us and we are impressed that we, who have received such love, ought to love them. Even the most difficult people in our lives. Even the narcissists. And then we feel guilty.
Fairly often someone asks me how to love a narcissist. I flippantly answer, “From a distance!” I am not being facetious, though. Sometimes the only way to keep loving is to keep that distance.
So how do we, as Christians, love the narcissists? How do we show them the kind of love Jesus showed us?
1. You are not Jesus. You will never be able to give the narcissist what he/she needs. Your love will never be enough. The best you can do is bring the narcissist to Jesus for His love. But even that result is not in your hands.
2. Love does not always demand your presence. I am impressed with how often Jesus withdrew from the people. He was human and needed rest and space. (Luke 5:16) He took care of Himself. How can you get by with less?
3. Jesus did not entrust Himself to the people. (John 2:24) That means that He did not allow them to command His time and energy or to decide His purpose. He did not allow them to define Him. Narcissists are driven to control. You don’t have to let them control you.
4. Jesus knew the truth and spoke the truth about people. (John 8:44) He said hard things that people did not want to hear. Then He allowed them to accept or reject His words. He knew that some people lied when they expressed their affection for or interest in Him. He knew they just wanted to use Him.
5. Jesus understood that there was a time to walk away. (Mark 6:11) Those who did not want a relationship with Him were free to go their way without Him. Let Him lead you to know when that time will be. It may be that He tells you to stay longer, and He may give you freedom to leave.
Now, my point with all of this is to say that the One who is love most amazing, who loves most generously, who gives and serves most sacrificially—even He allowed limits. There was nothing He would not do for them, but only if it would truly help them. He didn’t walk around giving money to everyone or even healing everyone. He reached out to those who wanted what He offered. He would forgive them, empower them, set them free—if they wanted. If they didn’t want it, He would respect them and Himself enough to walk away. And, all the while, He was loving them.
When we talk about unconditional love, we often think that means putting up with anything no matter what the outcome. But when it becomes clear that it is not helping for us to continue and that the person we are trying to love is not willing to receive what we offer, then there comes a time to walk away. And, even then, we can love them. We can continue to pray for them, to bring them to Jesus. We can do that from a distance. We can be safe and productive and never see the person—and still love them. But we don’t have to continue to put up with their abuse.
Narcissists may say they want a relationship with you, but they only want someone to serve them. They need people to use. Allowing them to use you is not love. They want your service, loyalty, and energy–not your love. Your love offers relationship.
It is not love that moves a person to become passive and victimized in a relationship. Love means offering something of yourself to another. If you have no more to give, or if what you give is never enough, perhaps the problem is not yours. Perhaps what keeps you in the abusive relationship is guilt or shame or fear or desire, but it isn’t love. Duty is not love.
Over the past few years I have worked to respond to a movement in the culture that says God saves people even when they don’t want Him to. There are teachers who say that God will somehow, someday, make everyone respond to His love. But that is not love. That is control.
The One who went to the cross for you and me, offers His love freely and allows us to accept or reject what He wants to give. The truth reminds me of a t-shirt I once saw: “Not all sinners want to be forgiven.” And there it is. Jesus offers forgiveness in a relationship. Those who want the life He offers, will find the forgiveness that comes with it. There is no end to the love of God and no limit other than respect, respect for the will of those who want no part of relationship.
Sometimes people just want to take your time, money, loyalty, service, and anything else they can get. They don’t want your love, your life. They just want to use you. They don’t want a relationship with you as a person. Love is relationship. Love is sharing. That’s what Jesus offers to all of us. That’s what you offer to the narcissist. But when it is clear that the one to whom love is offered really doesn’t want it, it may be time to move on.