It’s Narcissist Friday!
Do you like yourself? Most of us were brought up to think that was a prideful and, therefore, sinful idea. If you grew up in a family or a church where you learned that even God didn’t really like you, then how could you like yourself?
In the culture of my growing years, the focus was on mistakes and sins. How many did you get wrong on the math paper? What happened on the bus today? What did you do while we were gone? Why can’t you do better? Those words came not only from family, but from school, church and community. The only thing most of us knew about ourselves was that we didn’t measure up. We were not good enough.
Add to that the culture where popularity was the goal. Put any twelve to twenty people together and watch how someone becomes the leader, someone becomes the funny person, and someone else seems wise. Look around to see how many people are just quiet. We remember that in school. The popular kids knew who they were. The rich kids overlapped significantly with the popular kids. Sports and physical appearance and money seemed to measure value. The rest of us were just there. We may have had friends, but we usually didn’t think of ourselves as having value.
Eventually, people started talking about the need for self-esteem. Young people dragged through life with no goals, no energy, no hope. Some of them ended their lives through suicide, drugs, or dangerous behavior. All because they didn’t like themselves. After all, no one else liked them.
But I remember being told that self-esteem was just another word for pride. Liking yourself was the beginning of self-worship, turning away from God. Believers, we were taught, should not like themselves. They should accept the fact that God loved them in spite of themselves. Then they should work hard to be worthy of that love.
Some of you might remember the old movie, “Shenandoah,” with Jimmy Stewart. A sad movie in many ways, but I will never forget when a young man comes to ask for the hand of the daughter in marriage. Stewart, her father, had a question for the young man. He asked, “Do you like her?” The young man answered, “I love her!” Stewart asked again, “But do you like her?” And again the young man said, “I love her!” But Stewart pushed the point. Liking and loving were not the same. He wanted to know if this young man would look forward to being with his daughter, put up with her idiosyncrasies, and enjoy her personality through the years.
We grew up with this mixed message that God loves us but doesn’t really like us. Because of that (and because of the same message within our family) we never felt that we could like ourselves. And, because we don’t like ourselves, we open ourselves to narcissistic abuse. We accept criticism, derogatory words, even cruelty, because we agree that we deserve it.
Narcissists know how to choose victims who already dislike themselves. That makes the narcissists’ work easier. But even those who grew up in supportive homes and encouraging cultures often find that their self-esteem is gone at the end of the narcissistic relationship. So many times I have heard: “I hate the person I have become.”
The good news is that God not only loves you, He likes you. Why did Jesus come? To restore a relationship. You were worth that sacrifice. The joy of the relationship brought Him to the cross. He came because He liked you and wanted to be with you.
I realize we don’t usually talk like that in church, but it is still true. Start there. Believe that God is not angry with you, doesn’t hate you, doesn’t want to punish you. Believe that He is reaching out to your heart with acceptance and love because He wants you to walk with Him for the rest of eternity. The message of grace is a message of companionship.
And look around. There are people who like you. Some have stayed with you through some pretty challenging times, even when you have been so confused or hurt or angry that you couldn’t have been good to be around. Those people like you. Accept their “like.”
If you are likable to God and likable to others, maybe you should just accept their acceptance and begin to like yourself. I am not even sure what that would mean in your life. No more self-condemnation. No more words of deprecation. No more: “I’m so stupid; I’m so ugly; I’m so fat; I’m so unlikable.” None of that for someone you like. Instead, words of affirmation. “I am valued and loved and capable. God likes me. My friends like me. I am somebody.” And listen, if there is someone who doesn’t seem to like you, believe that they just don’t really know you. You have it on good testimony that you are likable.
PS: I just want to say thanks to those who support this ministry. Now, more than ever, your gifts are important. I have been greatly blessed over the years to be able to offer counsel and teaching freely, and I want to keep doing that. It is possible because of your gifts. I am truly grateful!