It’s Narcissist Friday!
Medieval castles and fortresses were developed along similar lines throughout Britain and Europe. In Britain, the names given to parts of the complex are still recognizable to us. We know about the moat around the castle, which was originally the trench around the motte, or mound, on which the castle itself was built. You might know someone named Bailey, or talk about someone’s bailiwick, both of which referred to the flat area where the common people lived and the market could be found, usually surrounded by a wall of some kind, a palisade. And you know the word, keep, which meant the inner tower of the castle or fortress, the place where the valuables were kept and the rulers’ families would either live or use for refuge in times of danger. (By the way, in French the keep was called the donjon. Since prisoners were often kept in the tower, either at the top or in a basement area, the English began calling the place where the prisoners were held the dungeon.)
Okay, now you know more than you wanted. But I have always been blessed by the idea of a keep being a place well-guarded, the last place of refuge, defended to the uttermost. In fact, the noun became a verb, meaning to guard or protect. When we keep something, we hold it close. The castle or fortress keep was the place where the most important and precious things (and people) were protected.
The King James version of the Bible came shortly after the medieval years and uses language based on well-known concepts of that time. So, when we are told in Proverbs 4:23,
Keep your heart with all diligence, for out of it spring the issues of life.
…we know what it means. We are to guard our hearts, protect them from the influences around us, particularly in the time of attack. Nothing is more precious to us than our hearts. If the enemy breaks into the keep, and overcomes our hearts, we are lost.
I don’t have the time here to give a long definition of what the heart is, but you know. Your heart is where you know yourself. In your heart lies your identity, your courage, your hopes and dreams. Your heart is the core, the most precious part, of you.
Narcissistic relationships, particularly if they are close, always attack the heart. The narcissist goes for the heart almost immediately. This is why the narcissist wants to pull your daughter away from you and other support. This is why he wants to have a sexual relationship so soon. This is why he demands exclusive loyalty. Whereas others will be content to win your heart over time, the narcissist wants to own it as soon as possible.
This is why the narcissist quickly learns your fears and regrets and dreams. Those are things you hold in your heart. (By the way, you don’t need to keep regrets and fears in your heart, but that’s another post.) Using those things allows the narcissist to control you. Reminding you of your pain, threatening you with your fears, tempting you with your dreams—these are ways the narcissist manipulates you.
This is why the narcissist quickly learns your triggers. What words will discourage you and take away your hope? The narcissist knows and uses them. He/she knows how to make you angry or sad or defeated or confused.
So, guard your heart! Don’t let the narcissist in. You will be able to handle the cruel and cutting words as long as they stay outside your heart, but once you take them in and believe them, let them change your dreams or define you, you lose. Once you begin to think of yourself the way the narcissist thinks of you, he/she wins. So, guard your heart.
You don’t have to believe what you hear. You don’t have to accept the criticisms and discouraging words. You can hear them and not own them. Just because it is your boss or your parent or your lover—that doesn’t mean you have to agree. You may be saddened that they think of you that way, but you don’t have to think of yourself that way. You may have to deal with the boss’s assessment of you, but you don’t have to agree. There may be no way for you to protest or change their opinion, but you still don’t have to let their words into your heart.
Keep your dreams and your identity tucked away and don’t let people play with them. The only opinions that matter are the Lord’s and yours, and even yours is second to His. He loves you and accepts you. He knows you are valuable and good. He knows you belong to Him.
But, but, but… What if it’s too late? What if the damage is already done? What if the narcissist got in and ransacked your heart?
Listen: It is not too late! It’s time to rebuild. Tell yourself the truth about you and reject the lies. Rebuild the keep, sweep out the mess, set it all up again. Who are you in Christ? What gifts did the Lord give you? What dreams still exist? Gather these things and put them into the safe place.
Then, set a guard at the door. What guard? Well, the Scripture tells us what guard is supposed to be set at the door of our hearts.
Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God; and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus. Philippians 4:6-7
Trust in the Lord who loves you. He will keep you safe as you look to Him. The attacks of the narcissist and the evil one will not destroy you. Let His peace stand guard at your heart. If your heart is secure, you will be okay.