About Jesus

It’s Narcissist Friday!     

 

Every so often, I have to go back to why I started this blog.  It actually did not start to be about narcissism.  It started because of the people I saw trapped in what I called “performance spirituality.”  That simply meant that they measured their spiritual health on the basis of their performance.  They were usually sad or angry and stuck on a treadmill that took them nowhere.  Some of them left the Christian faith, never having experienced the joy of a relationship with Jesus and never knowing that they were fully accepted in His love.  Some of them are still stuck in churches that demand performance in order to receive acceptance.

As I wrote about this idea of performance spirituality, which I called (and still call) “legalism,” I thought about the teachers and others who seemed to work hard to keep people under this burden.  I had learned about narcissism from counseling marriages, particularly among those who had lived and breathed this type of spirituality.  As I understood more about narcissism, and as I continued to try to understand this legalism, I saw a connection that made sense.  There are so many parallels between narcissists and legalists, and between the narcissistic relationship and the legalistic organization.

Quite surprising to me, my articles on narcissism hit a niche that needed to be served.  Many Christians have suffered from narcissistic connections in marriage, church, family, and friendships.  And many of those same people have found themselves part of the performance spirituality mindset.  They believed they had to perform in order to be accepted, to be loved.  But their best performance was never enough.  They paid for their failures with condemnation and shame and abuse.

This has always been a blog centered on the love of God in Jesus.  I believe the true gospel has been usurped by the idea of performance and the message of shame.  Most of those who have rejected the Christian faith, in my experience, have never even heard the truth about God’s love.  They have been told a lie, and that grieves me.

In much the same way, and not coincidentally, the victim of the narcissist has often not understood her/his own value as a person.  The insufficiency of their performance, and the shame and self-doubt that results from it, opens their hearts to the manipulation of those who claim to love them.  Growing up under the system that grants love on the basis of performance sets people up for narcissistic abuse, just like growing up under the teaching of performance sets a person up for legalistic abuse.

Now, I understand that the posts on narcissism are helpful for people outside the Christian faith, and I welcome you here and to our discussions.  It just seems important for me to state once again where the foundations of my heart and intent belong.  I believe that the unconditional love of Jesus is the answer for anyone.  Those who have never felt love without strings attached, who have never been accepted without performance, can come to Him and find both.

It isn’t about church or giving or commandments or measuring up—it’s about Jesus.  It isn’t even about your love for Him.  It’s about His love for you.

We are all broken and hurting people living lives of weakness and limitation.  We make stupid decisions and suffer the consequences.  Sometimes other people suffer the consequences of those stupid decisions.  Not only are we not perfect, we don’t really know what it means to be good.  All of us.

So we look to Jesus.  Our hope and promise are in Him, because we know very well that we can’t save ourselves.  I believe He loves me—One on one—a real relationship.  There is so much I do not understand, but I trust in His love.  And that makes all the difference.

I invite you to look to Jesus with me.  If I can help, send me a note.  I am already praying for you.

41 Comments

Filed under grace, Legalism, Narcissism, Relationship

41 responses to “About Jesus

  1. Lisa

    Exactly what I needed to hear at exactly the right time.

  2. Rebecca

    Amen and amen.

  3. Rachel

    Yes. Focus on Jesus at the start of the New Year. Start as we mean to go on.
    Thankyou.

  4. Becoming a Better Me!

    Thank you so much!

    Your blog is truly a blessing to me.

  5. Wow.
    Since my realization a couple years ago that I was in fact married to a narcissist, I’ve been on a journey of self discovery. One that has made me question in recent months what kind of belief system I held that would have led me down the performance path I was on. It hit me hard that I had made some very serious decisions for my life based on the “works” mentality.
    I have come to understand GRACE in new and amazing way while my narc husband, sensing my new found freedom, has redoubled his efforts to condemn and shame me when my performance doesn’t measure up. Not that it ever measured up enough for him, but for almost 20yrs I was invested and committed to earning his love.
    I just started reading the book “God is not mad at you” by Joyce Meyer. It essentially is saying this VERY thing, pastor Dave.
    It’s about Jesus….and HIS love for us.
    We love because HE FIRST loved us.
    So many implications when we consider Christ and his love for His bride, the church.
    My husband often tries to enslave me to this yoke of legalism. In a moment of anger I told him not long ago that he was the biggest pharisee I knew. It went over his head. Not a clue…often comparing how good his performance is as opposed to mine, all the meanwhile shaming and condemning me. The irony of it all.
    Thank you pastor Dave for your loving and gentle voice of reason and your prayerful and Godly support.
    I for one draw on the strength that comes through this validation….strength to continue in this difficult marriage until God tells me otherwise.

  6. Hephzibah

    Thanks, Pastor Dave, for a good reminder at the beginning of this new year that no matter what we have been through or are going through, our primary focus needs to be kept on Christ and his love for us. He is our only hope in this world and the next.

  7. Thank you for this, Pastor Dave! This fits me so well. I grew up with legalism in the church, and at home there was no possible way to earn love from an incestuous and abusive (though legalistic) father, and barely from a mother who was herself abused. I listened to sermons about the love of God, and my little girl heart embraced it with all I had. As a child, in my undeveloped self and with no understanding to make sense of the world around me, I did what children sometimes do and made a decision that would affect the rest of my life. Based on sermons about how husbands are to love their wives as Christ loves the church, I decided that I was waiting for adulthood and marriage to be loved, and then I would finally be happy. But is it much of a surprise that I married a narcissist (a covert one, unlike my father’s more overt narcissism), and then tried for fifty years to make that marriage work? It took that long for me to learn enough to properly assess my situation and for my ex to commit a last-straw event. Yes, he had been adulterous all along, though it took years for me to discover this and we had children by the time I knew. But there are legalists who tell women not to leave no matter what. And what do we do with verses about forgiving seventy times seven, and with the words in the love chapter that say that love “hardly notices” when others do it wrong? How do you live up to that in an abusive relationship? For decades, I didn’t even think I was abused because it wasn’t physical.

    Now I am 70 and divorced. I have lived my life with a broken heart, and my heart is still broken. With half of what would have been our retirement, I do not have enough to live on. Despite consistently waning strength, I will have to work for the rest of my days or, just humanly speaking, I don’t know what will become of me. If the Lord provides continued strength in my fingers, my eyes, and my brain, I will be able to do that.

    But God is good. His love and guidance throughout my life has saved me in every sense of the word. He taught me years ago that He is my primary relationship. I would not have survived without him. I trust Him completely. He is teaching me to look forward with excitement and anticipation to how He will take care of me. He knows exactly what He is doing.

    My big struggle continues to be learning to trust people. If I could pour my life into my spouse as I did, and get what I got, how can I trust anyone? My mind knows that some others are narcissistic like my ex, and that others are not, and I just need to pay attention to my own red flags, seek the discernment of the Spirit, and be wise, as scripture teaches. My heart is not so sure! As I said though, God is good, and He has provided women friends that are important to me, He has given me three wonderful granddaughters, and the damaged relationships with my two sons is gradually healing.

    I have made a distinction between happiness and joy, believing I could experience the joy of the Lord without being happy. The conclusion I came to as a child is that I would finally be happy when I was loved. I never felt loved for myself until the grandkids came along, and then things finally seemed to be working. I loved them unconditionally, and then, wonder of wonders, they loved me back. And finally, I didn’t feel that I had “earned” it. We just loved each other. I hope I can continue to feel more that way with my grown sons. And, if God should provide, I long for a spouse, even at my age, where there can be a God-honoring loving relationship. But if that is not what God has for me, then I want to learn to be happy anyway. God and I are working on that!

    • dianablackwood

      I am floored by your story MaryLee! I have so much respect for your strength and faith to embrace a new life after fifty years! I know God will bless you as you trust Him with your challenges. You are amazing! I’ll be praying for you as the Lord leads. -Diana

    • JD

      Tears and hugs sweetie. You exemplify Christ’s love. You are patient. You are kind. And you are very wise.

    • merieleslie

      You are amazing Marylee! I’ve read your post several times. Wish I could put my arms around you and thank you for your words!!

  8. Loved in Tennessee

    Powerful message. Thank you. I am a regular attendee/member and worker in God’s Church and I see the legalism in the one I attend. I have a Narcissist adult child who God so graciously moved 700 miles from me this year. Your prayers and blog have been God’s working in my life.

  9. Jodianne

    Pastor Dave, I had to google legalism in relationships to religion. I had a rough idea but I have only heard the term used here in your blog. A brief Wikipedia and Websters clarified it. It’s not a very Christian idea at all. I feel it is in complete opposition to it. What is the point of salvation without Christ’s blood, the last sacrifice, if one can accomplish perfection by obeying every law? Your life can’t be saved by obeying the laws. But your chances of leading a better life are increased.

    Some of the testimonies I read here about how churches and congregations brow beat and try to control each other, judging each other and punishing one another is bone chilling and shocking to me. It’s like tattling brats with sticks beating each other in the name of some mythical God by proxy. What’s the draw here? I don’t understand. To me, these are not churches of Christ. And they certainly aren’t the sort of families adults should willingly commune with. It’s frustrating to me. It’s sad. It hurts.

    My Christ is not a fear monger. I don’t fear death. And I don’t “behave” myself because I fear hell or eternal punishment. It’s between me and God. It’s VERY personal. I expect I do take it up with the big guy with no other human intervention on a regular basis. But I haven’t gone to church in years. I don’t miss it. And from the sound of things, I suspect most are man-made narcissistic inventions designed to line pockets and get egos stroked. It’s frightening.

    I wish you all Christ’s peace and love. May you find him in your heart. And please know that Christ is not a narcissist. He’s not a fear monger. And he didn’t appoint anyone to exact punishment upon you.

  10. Sabine Vlaming

    Amen, dear brother.

  11. Gratefully Yours

    Pastor Dave I love how God puts on your heart and ours similar feelings leading in the same direction. This year I’ve felt called to learn what it means to be accepted by Christ. Toward this goal I’m a few chapters into “The Blessing of Benjamin: Living in the Power of Your Father’s Approval” by Bill Mills and Peter Luisi-Mills. Struggling with the issue of being absolutely accepted and adored by God may be a natural consequence from being raised and surrounded by narcissistic parents, siblings, spouses and adult children.

    Yes, please teach us how to by-pass the narcissistic disapproval we sadly attribute to God. Though I believe I am saved by what Jesus did for me on the cross, I live with that thought that He would have wished a better life for me, that I don’t match up to His Biblical best (ie. live in a war-torn area taking care of orphans vs. living in a nice neighborhood homeschooling my teenagers and leading women’s Bible Studies). My heart truly goes out to those hurt children as I long to protect and care for them but right now I have my own to take care of. So I live with guilt and feeling like I’m going to be in trouble when I get to Heaven and learn I’ve disappointed God, that my guilt was really telling me I was supposed to be doing something else and I didn’t act on it, I blew it. Like my upbringing when my parents offered something then reneged, I’m afraid to find out I’m missing out bigtime in Heaven because I haven’t done enough here. My heart’s desire is not to miss out on anything with Jesus, while at the same time I’m afraid I disappoint Him not doing “everything” one could possibly do to be good.

    Missing in my life is the experience of being a baby myself and adored for just existing. My approval had to be earned. I give unconditional love to my children but don’t have a husband or parents give that to me. I’m grateful God stopped this generational sin as I have a heart able to adore another. But it’s confounding that I am so blocked from acknowledging this attribute in God. I know in my head if I can adore my children certainly God can adore me, even more so. It’s just so hard to trust that reality. I’m like the Biblical man who cried out to Jesus, “I believe, help my unbelief” (Mark 9:24).

    Pastor Dave, God bless you if you can help me (us?) break out of this mindset! What a glorious state of living that will be.

    • Toby

      Gratefully Yours: This is so much everyone’s dilemma! Coming to terms with the fact that I have been acting out of NPD all my adult life (I’m 59 now!) and in the process of seeking God’s face in prayerful silence and humility, two passages have deeply impressed me in Scripture: 1) Psalm 139…all of it (even vv 19-22 which act as a catalyst for legitimate anger). Reading and re-reading this Psalm is to begin to know the intensity and intimacy of God’s love, care and affection BEFORE we ever were! And 2) Paul’s (and our) dilemma resolved in Romans 7:24, 25 and 8:1,2.. The Gospel distilled down for us! God has always loved us, loves us and will love us eternally.

  12. Adele

    This is the first time I’ve heard of a similarity between legalism and narcissistic abuse; they are both performance based. Wow! You’ve given me a lot to think about. It sure makes a lot of sense. I look forward to your postings each week. God bless you.

  13. Thank you for posting this and sharing how you initially started this blog. God does indeed work in mysterious ways in order to encourage those who are weary and downtrodden; those who love the Lord. God bless you. ❤

  14. Thanks for encouragement ..I am 55 and have struggled all my life with a very difficult relationship with my mum.She detested the fact I gave my life to Christ as an 18 year old student.I used to think the problems stemmed from this but I now realise it began as a young child. I have been the scapegoat.I am now getting counselling….very difficult as my mum is in complete denial of all the events throughout my life and she does not acknowledge the relationship causes me stress.After “cancelling” all my wedding plans 32 years ago I forgave her (and for everything…..)and have struggled on in a relationship of sorts. I praise God that my sister a year and a half ago began to believe me ….this was after another overdose my mum took.
    The medics do not see any mental health issues with my mum so this is difficult. I have been advised to walk away from my abuser but do not feel it is appropriate and I am attempting more boundaries this year…..tried last year but failed!
    I have read extensively and it seems narcissists cannot change….however I hold on to the hope until she dies that she would call on the name of the LORD and repent.
    I am presently reading Job and realise I need to keep looking upwards and believe God will give me grace to endure.
    I am also not very good at making decisions and perhsps this is partly why I cannot walk away.
    This started as a thanks….it is a sincere one …so much written seems to be full of hatred and I do not believe this is the way God wants my thought to be.I appreciate your sharing in light of biblical truth.

  15. Laura Strait

    It’s like you wrote my life.

  16. AB

    Thank you so much Pastor Dave!!! What a refreshing focus on Jesus. Also, I thank you for your prayers over Christmas. I have been asking God to accomplish in me what He will after I got over the confounding realization that as my narc dad had left for good my husband & I saw that his Mom is a covert narc who targets me. I had thought I was finally free of this abuse.
    It’s been a longer journey than I can speak to here, but I wanted to share thanks because I had an interesting experience personally when we were in her house over Christmas. Before Christmas I felt God preparing my heart that we would be staying with her, that He wanted us to stay there. I was so reluctant I didn’t share that with my husband until after because my preference would of course be to avoid as much abuse as possible. I prayed Lord let me see Your glory. And I don’t know quite how to describe it. She was her normal passive aggressive syrupy deceitful superior self who still targeted me, but it was as if I had duck oil on my back. I hardly even noticed her arrows. My focus was primarily (somewhat) on seeing God’s glory. I say it that way because I didn’t accomplish this. And I wasn’t expecting this. I find it very interesting & I don’t fully understand it. But I think it’s tied up in prayer & walking with Jesus, neither of which I’m great at but I desire to grow in both.
    Anyway, thank you for your prayers & encouragement & teaching. God bless you in a tremendous way this year.

  17. Sandra C Martineau

    God recently opened my eyes after 24 years with my H. I knew something was deeply wrong but didn’t know what it was so I did what we all do – I tried harder. We had called it The Wall….that thing we could never get past between us. God calls it Narcissism and that’s what He showed me. I began to journal writing down all the pain of those years, working through it. God has released me from that. But I am still here. He has not released me from my marriage. I am standing in faith, weak as it is some days, that my H will break. I have given him to God for a 2nd time in my marriage. The first time, my H got saved. If God could do that, He can do anything. I don’t know if He will choose to fix my H. I don’t know if my H is so broken, he is powerless against this so in the end, my job is to stay, is sacrificial so I care for this broken being knowing fully what is going on. I know, if that is the case, God will protect me. He already is from the little punishments they do to us. I am becoming the woman who called my H on things who he did not like – the woman I was when we met. Stronger. I don’t know if my H has it in him to face what he must face to be healed. He is going to have to want it bad to seek God’s face. He says he asks why but he isn’t surrendering as far as I can tell. I just know I have to stay away, he has to do this himself. And you know how we Narc Partners are, we want to fix everything! So I am walking forward, trusting, believing God and what He’s shown me, that whatever it ends up being, it will be the best thing for me and I will be so glad I did what I did now. (Doesn’t mean it’s not scary and I am not hanging onto God’s coattails for all I’m worth. It is and I am. Some days are just better than others. I wondered what I was going to do on the way to the Apocalypse…)

  18. Sandra

    Thank you, Pastor Dave!

  19. Postbellum

    Marylee, I identify with your description of your life. I too thought that marriage would heal the wounds of childhood. I recently left my 20 year marriage to covert N husband. Although I am greatful for freedom, I’m still contending with fallout including children have to go on visitation with disordered dad, watching them suffer, I was put out of my church (smear campaign), lost friends, family and financial security, no support system, and now face working forever. I have followed this site weekly for 2 years and wanted very much to participate but I lived in fear because everything in my world was “under observation “.
    He continues his secret war against us all while maintaining the charismatic façade to church, workplace, and family. I have learned that I must be content knowing that my Father in heaven sees everything and knows the truth of what happened to us, even if no one else does.

    • UnForsaken

      Postbellum – Thank you for sharing. 🙂 You are not alone, and you are free to comment and speak as often as you like here. This is a wonderful, healing place.

      BLESS YOU. Many of us know what it is to be ‘under observation’ and completely distrusted by those who should know our true character well. But they believe a convincing dog and pony show, not our proven track record. It’s psychological warfare, with us as the targets. The Narc took our reputation and our friends and often our family. The Narc has no conscience and our pain is the living proof.

      Thankfully, their ‘charismatic facade’ does not fool Dave, it does not fool God, and it doesn’t fool us anymore either. We need this place of safety to speak and recover and learn… The healing does come, as I’ve learned over time. Pain is sometimes an awful catalyst to beautiful growth. HUGS.

    • merieleslie

      Every single word you wrote could have been written by me.

  20. Saya

    Pastor Dave, thank you for your blog. It has been a such a blessing to me the last few years. Having come out of a N marriage, and growing up in a N-legalistic “Christian” family, I still struggle with being as close to Jesus as I would like to be, because I was taught growing up that God was a Narcissistic Father (as defined by my mother and my church), and my job as a Christian was to be a good codependent. I was taught to interpret the Bible that way, and I STILL see that in Christian teachings, even though I know now that it is not correct. Such as the teaching that we to be “empty vessels” to me means that having a “self” is evil, and I am to crucify all my needs, opinions, desires, dreams, etc. I understand the N issue now, but I still struggle in how being a good Christian differs from being a good codependent. And even though I realize Jesus wants a real relationship with me, and you can’t have a relationship with a self-less shell, I still get tripped up when I hear certain sermons, and read certain scripture passages. Then I find myself once again in “no man’s land”, stuck between not wanting to be a weak and distant Christian, but not wanting to go back to being a good codependent either. This is my current struggle, and your blog and articles such as this one have been such an amazing blessing. May God bless you as you continue to bless others!

  21. merieleslie

    U saved my life!! THIS POST HAS SAVED MY LIFE!! There is another site by a woman named Kim Saeed (sp?) that has also been helpful. And the word helpful doesn’t come even remotely close in describing how much you and Kim’s blog has done for me. You literally saved me from the bowls of hell. So thank you from the bottom of my heart. ❤️🙏❤️

    Sent from my iPhone

    >

  22. merieleslie

    THIS BLOG HAS SAVED MY LIFE!!!! Pastor Dave I am so thankful …. ❤️🙏❤️

  23. Hello. Oh where to begin…. I was married 17 years and left about 2 1/2 years ago after deciding that I couldn’t take it anymore. I’ve asked and begged for several years for us to get help. His response was that I’m not a strong enough Christian, I’m not a good enough wife or mother, no body cares about me or my problems etc. I left still leaving him the choice to get help or we will be divorced. After 2 1/2 years he still will not acknowledge any wrong doing on his part, only how evil I am (and my church for supporting me) for leaving. I’m a phony Christian. It goes on and on. He now accuses me of this very same thing of expecting a perfect performance of him. That I’m merciless and don’t understand forgiveness or grace. So yes, I do expect certain “behaviors” to happen or the unhealthy ones to stop. So where is this line that I do not want to cross myself. I am so frustrated with being confused. I’m so tired of everyday being beaten down verbally and emotionally both at my staying and my leaving.

    • prayers for you and your ex husband. your name says it all. god gives us beauty for our ashes. but we have to be willing to give him the ashes. we cant have both. if you feel like you are doing the right thing then give it to god. its easy to be confused, remember that we have an enemy and he loves to confuse us and he loves to make us feel bad and he doesnt want us to find comfort in god. Gods with you and he loves you and he forgives us of our past mistakes. pray for your ex husband and then give it to god and watch him work. sending love your way!!

  24. OnlyByGod'sGrace

    I was a member of a church that enabled my abusive husband to continue his mistreatment. I left that church and am no longer a member- by God’s grace. Should I just move on or is there something I can do, take it to the Baptist Convention or something? From the pulpit, the pastor declared there were numerous families struggling which means they are poisoning other marriages, families and children. My own child has been put in the middle and they are currently trying to turn him completely against me.

    Thank you for the refreshing post. A bird’s eye view of what you are doing here is most thoughtfully presented. Prayers for you!!

    • OnlyByGod'sGrace

      I have just been digging through your website and have found some very useful articles that I think helps guide me in the right direction. Especially the one about why God doesn’t change the heart of a narc. Thank you for such a comprehensive website!

  25. MeganC

    Perfect. Sharing on our Give Her Wings FB page.

  26. Pamela Kay Shalom

    Pastor Dave, I so enjoyed this post. This is GRACE and I love it and Need it. I am SO GLAD that GOD is GRACE to us, and that we can Love Him because HE First LOVED us. I enjoyed hearing how this site came about and how it turned a corner to meet a strong need. The answers to all of Life Center in JESUS. Thank you so much for writing this post. Blessings…

  27. It is my belief after spending most on my life in leadership in organized Christianity, the spirit of religiosity is behind narcissistic and legalistic teaching/behaviour in every religion of the world. To reject this and free oneself of this bondage is both difficult and terrifying yet necessary to truly know Christ and His purpose in coming to this realm.
    Thanks for your encouragement!

  28. Gloria

    Hi I just read your blog and it’s exactly what I needed confirmation I was married to a narcissist and all of the churches that I belong to remind me of my husband. I’ve been out of church and the marriage for several months now and I am just now beginning to experience God’s love for me. I now realize that I do not have to perform to get him to love me. When I look back over my life I see that as a little girl I always performed to get my mom to love me. Growing up every relationship that I’ve been in I felt that I was not good enough so I had to work to be loved . An now I am sitting back trying to experience the love of God will not working for it or performing. Breaking the Habit of working for love is not easy but with God’s help and prayer I believe that I will completely experience the love of God one day.

  29. Great post…as you’ve said faith not works is key. If you get time please pop over to my page and let me know what you think

  30. Wow, love this keep up the good work!

  31. merieleslie

    My ex frequently would tell me “you are constantly the poor victim”. I now know it was his way of continuing to control me and get away with his wrong doings to me. He knew that I would see it as a personality flaw and would want to be better by not complaining. He even once told me after giving me a bloody nose (because he was upset after getting a speeding ticket — I didn’t say a word to him even though I wanted to say “I told you to slow down” because I knew his temper.; seems it didn’t help) “I didn’t hit you that hard. You just bleed too easy.” That was 25 years ago …. and I remember very detail of that day.

    • Cecilia K

      Merileslie, How disgusting of your ex to blame you for bleeding too easy. That is one of the most absurd things I’ve ever heard. I’m glad you recognize that he is the one with the issues, and not you.

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