It’s Narcissist Friday!
Throughout the New Testament, there are statements about people and how they handle life. Often, there is a negative statement about some unfortunate decisions or lifestyles followed by: “but you…”. You, according to the Lord, are supposed to be different. You have the tools, the internal strength, the wisdom, and the motivation to be different. You are not the same as you were and not the same as those who do wrong. The Christian is expected to be different.
Last week I wrote about “Trickle-down Narcissism,” a phenomenon we see in many organizations and relationships where narcissistic leaders seem to produce such a strong culture that others follow their footsteps. These others, not narcissists, act like narcissists because they mimic the leaders.
But you… Now, I know that most of us can identify narcissistic behaviors in ourselves. I am not making excuses, but those behaviors are not who we really are. In fact, we hate seeing that in ourselves. Most of our awareness comes from the intense search we made to understand the narcissists in our lives, or from the projections of the narcissists of their behaviors on us. What that means is that they blamed us for the things they did, convincing us that we were the problem. But we were not the same as they were.
I am not going to say that we are better than the narcissists. That kind of comparison almost always takes us down the wrong path. Instead, let’s just honestly say that we don’t think like they do. Nor do we want to think like they do. The truth is that we don’t want to act like narcissists.
But you… Sometimes it seems that we are surrounded by narcissists, doesn’t it? More and more, almost everywhere we go. Sometimes the relationship with the narcissist is so consuming that it seems to be our entire world. Those manipulations, those contorted values, those devious and treacherous ways—they fill our world and begin to feel almost normal. It doesn’t take long for us to begin to justify narcissistic behavior. “It was cruel, but she deserved it.” “It was harsh, but he had to hear it.” “It’s the way business is done today.” “If you can’t take the criticism, maybe you shouldn’t be in the job.” We begin to find it easy to make excuses for the cruelty.
But you… You are different. You don’t have to do what they do. Not only can you resist the creeping narcissism, you can overcome it in your heart. You can choose to be kind and caring. You can succeed where the narcissist fails. The gentle thoughts can lead to gracious acts. Your way does not have to be lost in the narcissist’s influence.
You can and should be the person you want to be. No matter how long you have been with the narcissist, no matter how intimate the relationship has been, you are a separate person. You are you, not him/her. Even when you find yourself acting the way he/she does, you are still an independent person. And you are free to act differently.
Narcissism might trickle down. It might be contagious. But it doesn’t have to be. Yes, there might be a price to pay for maintaining that difference between you and the narcissism, but the price of compromise will be greater. You may have to find a new job. You may have to stay away from that friend or group. You may have to refuse to participate in whatever actions hurt others.
But you… you can do this.