It’s Narcissist Friday!
When we were kids, we wore tall rubber boots almost all spring. That way we didn’t get our shoes wet when we jumped into puddles. Mud, slime, puddles, these were all fair game, and fun, for us. And sometimes, out in the barnyard, well let’s just say it wasn’t mud we jumped in.
I think I am about to do the same thing with this post.
You might want to put your boots on.
One of my earliest memories is standing up in the back seat of the car (yep, did it and lived!) and listening to my mom and dad discuss the upcoming election. I said that I would vote for one of the names I heard them mention. It must have been the wrong one. Honestly, I don’t remember what I said, but I remember my dad’s answer. In his usual blunt voice, he said, “What in %#@& do you know about it?”
And that’s when I learned that it isn’t particularly safe to talk about politics.
It is worse today, but it has been bad for a long time. American politics has always been somewhat volatile. Politicians shot each other and beat each other with their canes. They called each other names, paid for votes, and lied about many things to get elected. We deceive ourselves if we think that American politics used to be tame and gentle.
But the common person experienced little of this. There was no evening news. Newspapers came to most homes only long after they were published. So, most people didn’t worry about Jefferson accusing Washington of treason or Lincoln being compared to a baboon. Don’t get me wrong, the common person of American history was neither illiterate nor uninvolved, it’s just that news traveled slowly and so did opinions.
Not so today. Now we know everything about people involved in politics. At least we think we do. We hear a lot more than the truth. Now we have so much information, but we don’t know what to believe. We are left to form opinions based on what side of the aisle we prefer. And a surprising number of people judge and hate based on whatever they have heard.
So what do we know? I always try to step back to what I know when I am faced with a puzzling choice or an uncomfortable position. What do we know?
- We know that anyone who enters politics, especially in higher levels, will face serious and often vicious opposition. There will be accusations, threats, lies, and intense scrutiny.
- We know that political positions are viewed as leadership and that people in those positions are often considered superior. You may notice that we refer to them as leaders, rather than representatives. We also elect them on a popularity basis, suggesting that only superior people will be chosen.
- We know that narcissists love that kind of position and challenge. For the opportunity to stand in front of everyone and receive applause and servitude, the narcissist will endure almost anything. The feeling of power in higher politics must be almost overwhelming.
- We know that narcissists are probably the only kind of people who could endure and navigate the gauntlet of public opinion today. Most of us would rather crawl into a hole for the rest of our lives than have everyone express their opinions on how we look or talk or act. Imagine that everything you say is recorded and criticized and publicized and twisted. Imagine that you can’t go out to eat, drive a car, go to a game or movie, or do anything in public without bodyguards and paparazzi. I know I would hate it, but narcissists would love it. It would be the ultimate in attention and influence.
- We know that it takes a great deal of money and popularity to accomplish anything in politics today. The old days of party manipulating are almost gone. Now, candidates must be actors and orators and heroes to the people. Party favorites have far less advantage than they used to. Regular people might as well not apply.
So, yes, politicians and narcissism go together. Always? In every case? I suppose not, but more than we would like to admit. How could you be a politician today if you didn’t want the limelight? How could you do it if you were afraid of what people think or say? How could you do it if you didn’t control a significant number of people around you? How could you accomplish anything if you actually said and did what you meant? The ability to lie, to entice, to promise without worrying about fulfilling, to gather people to you and push others away without concern or regret: these are all far easier for narcissists than for the rest of us.
I guess what I am trying to say is that we should not be surprised to learn that people in politics are narcissistic. Whether they are actually narcissists or not isn’t really ours to decide, but it would seem to take the strongest and most convincing just to survive. If someone says that a politician on my side of the aisle is a narcissist, I might not like it, but I have to admit that it is probably true. It does seem to me that the realm of politics has become so nasty that it at least smells a lot like narcissism.
Now, if politics has become a narcissistic game, we have to be extra careful. Narcissists will pit people against each other to accomplish their goals. Narcissists will tell convincing lies to separate us and control us. Those who have lived through narcissistic relationships should recognize the same tactics and effects in our society today. We are being manipulated. There are people who benefit from our anger and division.
So, what do we do? Stop playing their game! Don’t believe everything you hear, even from your own side. Don’t let political things separate you from your friends and family members. We have different opinions and different approaches to solving problems. Sometimes that puts us on different political sides. That has been okay in the past, and it should be okay in the future. We can still be friends. Believe it or not, there are more important things than politics.
Yes, there are some issues that are pretty important, important enough to divide friends, I suppose. But have you ever noticed that those issues don’t get solved by politicians? The ones who run on those issues never quite get anything done with them. We still have war, poverty, racism, drugs, abortion, unrest in the Middle East, abuse, high taxes, pollution, and almost all the rest. Nothing has changed for several decades, in spite of changes in the White House.
I have to be honest. I am firmly on one side of the political spectrum. I think it matters that you vote and who you vote for. I even get sucked into the rhetoric once in a while. But I don’t ever want to think less of another person for disagreeing with me. Not only could I be wrong, at least once in a while, but there may be more than one solution for a problem. It is more important that we remain friends and continue to talk with each other. Politicians will never solve the real problems the world faces. People who listen and care, they are the real problem-solvers.
If you have found yourself caught in the narcissists’ game, step back. Don’t feel bad. They are very good at what they do. But, as you step back, think about others. Maybe they have been caught up just like you were. Maybe they have something to say that you should listen to.
And, if you are a Christian, remind yourself that you are not of this world anymore. This is not your home. You care about all the people in it, but you have a Savior who is not a politician. You have a Lord who loves you and loves even those who disagree with you. That love is what the world needs—and will never find from the narcissists.
As always, I appreciate your comments. Your experiences and insights make this community work. However, please keep your comments on this post to the general topic. We don’t need to hear accusations against any certain politician. I know I stepped into it, but we don’t need to smear it around.