It’s Narcissist Friday!
Over and over I read about how narcissism can be a good thing in our lives. I know that business and leadership seem to favor the narcissistic style because it gets things done. But most of those who talk about “healthy narcissism” mean we should all have a little of it.
I have written about this before, but it does bear repeating. If all we mean by narcissism is self-esteem, then of course it is healthy for all of us until it gets out of hand. But narcissism means something far more dangerous and destructive than self-esteem. Even if we mean self-interest or self-protection, there is a healthy limit for us. I believe the Bible teaches us a healthy self-love.
But narcissism is necessarily cruel and abusive. Narcissists don’t care about others, at least not apart from using them. Narcissism destroys marriages, families, businesses, churches, and more.
Years ago I was visiting with a group of pastors and noted that a few people had left our church to go to another. I was thankful they had left because they were disruptive and divisive. The church they went to was quite large, so I thought they wouldn’t be so much of a problem in that church. One of the pastors, a wise older man, said, “So, what you are saying is that a little cancer is okay, as long as the man is a big man.” I hadn’t thought of it like that before.
Narcissism devours relationships and victims much like cancer. A little can go a long way. A little fire can lead to big problems. Even the Scripture speaks of a little leaven/yeast making the whole batch of dough rise. One narcissist can destroy a church. A little narcissism can ruin a relationship.
I find it hard to see the good in narcissism of any kind. Yes, narcissists get things done, almost always at the expense of others. Yes, narcissists can make quick decisions, almost always without regard to the effect it will have on people. Anyone who is willing to think long term will see that narcissism is a negative.
So when you hear people say that narcissism can be a good quality, that there is such a thing as healthy narcissism, ask them which of the nine characteristics of narcissism is healthy. Ask how a disorder, one that is defined by consistently negative terms, can be positive. Ask them how a disorder that has destroyed so many marriages and families, that has caused victims so much depression and despair, can be good.
We don’t talk about a healthy murderous rage, or a healthy manipulative abuser, or a healthy inveterate liar—so why should we talk about a healthy narcissist? And if there isn’t such a thing as a healthy narcissist, then how can there be healthy narcissism?
Again, this is a popular way to affirm self-esteem or self-affirmation. But that’s what it is, not narcissism. Narcissism is evil.