It’s Narcissist Friday!
I just saw a television show where a man had given his girlfriend his precious teddy bear. When they broke up because she wanted someone else, she kept the bear. It had been his for a long time, and he wanted it back. She refused. He acknowledged that he had given it freely, but he had expected the relationship to last. He had not expected to be thrown over for someone else. And he missed his bear.
For the most part, narcissists choose people who give freely. We have been taught that love gives. That extra time, that money, that hard work: they all come from the idea that love gives. Even the praise and admiration, the special attention and care, all come from love. And they all cost us something. Giving to others always costs something. We may consider the cost small, especially when we love, but we give something of ourselves.
We expect a relationship to be reciprocal. Love given and love received. Not every relationship, of course. And not always in kind. Often what we receive is satisfaction or the joy of seeing a smile. But in most relationships, we give and we get. It’s an imperfect, but necessary balance.
Narcissistic relationships are not like that. Oh, in the beginning , we appreciated the fact that the narcissist even noticed us. A pat on the head or a word of welcome was enough. But narcissistic relationships prove to be surprisingly one-sided. We give and the narcissist takes. It isn’t long before the narcissist demands.
If you have been in such a relationship, let me assure you that the feeling of being drained is normal. The victims of narcissists often report feeling used up, empty, and confused. The sense that something is missing is common. The nature of the narcissistic relationship consumes anything the spouse, employee, friend, church member, or family member has to offer.
So, how do you get it back?
Well, you don’t, right? What you gave has been consumed. Used up. Maybe wasted. It’s gone. I don’t mean to sound harsh, but what you gave was not like a teddy bear that can be returned. Nor would the narcissist even consider paying you back. You might get some money or property in court, but most victims find they can’t even get that.
Instead, you have to replace what you gave. The love, the time, the commitment, the loyalty, the forgiveness. Those things can be hard to rebuild, especially when you have given away your trust. Another relationship might seem impossible, at least undesirable. How can you replace these things if you are afraid to open yourself to another relationship?
Other things, like money or property or support systems, can be rebuilt as you become healthy. Through determination and purpose, you can value yourself enough to build again. But your value was something the narcissist tried to take from you to add to his/her own. How do you get that back?
There is a Source of love that never changes, never goes away. That Love the narcissist could not touch. The love you need today, love that you can feel, love that pours warm comfort for your heart—that Love is yours from the Lord who loves you. It’s real, and it’s free. The narcissist might have succeeded in making you forget, but he/she could never take it away. You have a supply that can never be exhausted, and it is deeper and stronger than anything the narcissist has ever known.
From that Love, you draw your health. Through it you find your way back to what God made you to be. In that Love, you can rest and rebuild. Trust in the Lord, the Scripture says, and He will renew your strength. All that the narcissist has taken will come to you again.
The narcissist betrayed your love. He/she took from you with no intention of giving or even truly appreciating your sacrifice. But you are not forgotten. The Lord knows your pain. He is patient, forgiving, gracious, because He loves you.
There is a wonderful word in the Old Testament book of Joel about the Lord rebuilding His people after a time of discipline. The whole chapter is a blessing to read, but these words stand out for me:
“So I will restore to you the years that the swarming locust has eaten, the crawling locust, the consuming locust, and the chewing locust. Joel 2:25
Perhaps we have a new word for the narcissists in our lives (wink), but whatever they have consumed the Lord can and will restore. The Lord did not discipline you, don’t get that from my use of this passage. Evil used you. You were hurt by uncaring and unkind people. But the Lord loves you. If He rebuilds those He disciplines, how much more will He rebuild you when you were the victim of cruelty?
The way to health is through love. Love is found in Jesus. Seek His love and find restoration.
Narcissism in the Church
Many of our best friends are in the churches we attend. Yet, church friendships often end abruptly when one leaves the church. The flavor of the friendship can seriously change when one person disagrees with how a church situation is handled. We get the impression that church friendships exist only as long as we are acceptable to the church. What kind of friendship is that?
This new book explains how a church can create a narcissistic culture where relationships exist to serve the image of the superior organization. It explores how a church can become a narcissistic organization, using people to serve an image of superior spirituality.