Defining Authority

It’s Narcissist Friday!

Who’s in charge?

People want to know who is in charge. Kids want to know when Mom and Dad go out. Employees want to know when the boss is gone. Knowing who’s in charge gives structure to our lives and allows us to predict or adapt to the change of situation.

Of course, the narcissist thinks the answer should always be him. He should be in charge.

Now, before someone objects too strongly, I understand that covert narcissists don’t want others to think they are in charge. They want to look like they are supportive and encouraging—then they can manipulate the one who thinks he or she is in charge. But the overt narcissist isn’t so crafty.

Over the past two weeks, I have suggested better ways to define or understand trust and control. I said that trust is always connected to a person, rather than a position. Control over others, I think, may be the goal for the narcissist but should not be a goal for anyone. That brings me to this idea of authority: Who’s in charge?

To understand the narcissist, it is important to remember that the narcissist expects to be trusted. He expects that his superiority will be evident and his charm will win your trust. Then he will use that trust to control you and move you to do what he wants. (Or she, of course!) But the narcissist thinks that positions of authority demand both trust and obedience.

So, it is very important to the narcissist that he is placed in a position of authority if one is available. If he is not, he will grumble and complain about whoever is in charge. If there is no position available, he will either campaign for one to be made or create one himself by beginning to tell others what to do. It won’t take long (unless the real authority slaps him down) for the rest of the group to understand that they should do what he says.

Authority, for the narcissist, is still about getting others to do what he wants. It is still about control. It diminishes the personhood of anyone who works with or lives with him. The point of authority is to make the narcissist look good, even more superior.

Let me be blunt: every position of authority is an opportunity for a narcissist to control others. That’s why narcissists are drawn to those positions. The one who gets to be “up front” looks like the one “in charge.” The one who gives the orders. The one who makes the decisions. The one who leads.

What the narcissist does not understand is that all authority is derivative. That means it is given by someone higher. Every position of authority is under another. The Scriptures teach that God delegates authority, sometimes through position and sometimes through relationship. In other words, any church or government authority based on position has that authority only because God has made it so. And with that authority comes responsibility. With it should also come humility.

Once again, the narcissist finds himself dissatisfied and unfulfilled. Every time he reaches a level of authority, he finds that someone or something (an organization or a law, for example) is above him. Even the highest level national dictators know that the world community has a responsibility of oversight. They may chafe or even rebel against that oversight, but they know it and fear it.

The narcissist cannot be content until he has supreme authority, until there is no one above him. Wives and children, employees and church members, all know this to be true. He is still angry. He still feels the pressure of authority above him.

But how high does the narcissist go to get this supreme authority? This one fact causes many people to suspect that no narcissist could ever be content in submission to God. If God can still judge the narcissist, then the narcissist is not in charge. If God can change the system, then the narcissist is still under mastery. And the narcissist fears the One who is in charge.

So, pray! If you struggle against the manipulations of a narcissist, pray to the One who is still higher. He does hear you, and He does care. Trust His decisions and rest in the peace of knowing that He is greater than the one who torments you. In fact, take some comfort in knowing that there is One to whom the narcissist must answer.

2 Comments

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2 responses to “Defining Authority

  1. It isn’t easy trusting God, but my life was better when I learned to give the person to God. It didn’t change the person; it changed me. The responsibility my mother placed on my shoulders shifted from me to God. Thanks for helping me discern the insight, Pastor Dave. I really needed it right now. Giving the insanity to God, for Him to handle, again.

  2. “…take some comfort in knowing that there is One to whom the narcissist must answer.” What a comforting thought, indeed!

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