It’s Narcissist Friday!
“Narcissist love themselves. Don’t be like them.”
We get that message from people who understand neither narcissism nor the Good News. They say that narcissists love themselves too much, so much that they can’t see others. They also say that the Bible teaches us not to love ourselves. That would be the sin of pride, they say. Humility is putting others first, they say.
Well, that’s a lot to unpack. First, let’s talk about the narcissist. The narcissist works hard to get you to love him. Why? Because he doesn’t love himself. Only when you love him (which means to serve and honor him) will he begin to feel something like love. Even then, he doesn’t believe it and can’t receive it. That’s why he has to work so hard.
Think of it this way. We were made to live in community with others. Others have a strong influence in our lives. We learn about ourselves as we interact with others. What others like, we want to like. What others dislike, we want to dislike. We want to fit in with the group, because we get our identity from the group.
If others don’t love you, it is easy to you to accept that you are unlovable. You can’t even love yourself if you are unlovable. The more you are pushed away by others, the more you accept their judgment against you. This is how the narcissist grew up. They focused on the unlove, the rejection and criticism and abandonment, from others and believed themselves to be unworthy of love. Instead of slinking under a rock in depression, the narcissist learned that he could get something like love from attention and loyalty. When others looked up to him, praised him, it felt like love. Believing himself to be unlovable, the narcissist learned to cultivate the adoration of the people around him. Those who would not adore him, or who came to know him too well, he would find ways to control so they would serve and honor him anyway.
And who would the narcissist find to give him what he wants? People who needed love. People who also thought of themselves as unlovable. The narcissist learned to shower attention and kindness on someone who needed to feel loved but expected that investment to be repaid through adoration and service. Many victims of narcissistic abuse have also suffered from rejection and criticism. They try harder to be accepted and sometimes compromise normal boundaries to gain good feeling about themselves.
So, I would have you love yourself. Yes, it is good for you to love yourself. The Bible never tells you to hate yourself. In fact, the people of the Lord should accept the fact that they are lovable simply because He loves them.
When Jesus taught the two great commandments, the first was to love God. It is easy to love God when you accept that He loves you. The second commandment, Jesus said, is like the first.
And the second is like it: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’
Notice that it does not say that you are to love others “instead” of yourself. Nor does it say that you are to love others “more” than yourself. It says we are to love others in the same way we love ourselves. You can’t love others if you don’t love yourself.
When you believe that God loves you, that He loves you so much He was willing to sacrifice and suffer for a relationship with you, then you must see yourself as lovable. When you realize (and this comes as your relationship with Jesus grows) that God loves others, then you can see others as lovable. In other words, only when you accept that God’s love is the defining love can you relax and see that you and others are to be loved.
So, love yourself. Accept that you are lovable. No matter what message you get from others (who are also struggling with this), know that you are loved and therefore lovable. Then, look at yourself with love. Value yourself. Don’t let others use you or abuse you. Love yourself enough to push away those who see you only as a way to make themselves feel good. Love yourself enough to speak up or to walk away when others use you or abuse you. Love yourself enough to look to good things for yourself. And good relationships.
You should be with people who lift you up. You should minister to people who need lifting up. You should not welcome into your life people who push you down in order to lift themselves up. You are worth more than that. You are greatly loved by the One whose love defines love.
Don’t call yourself bad names. Don’t think evil of yourself. Treat yourself like someone you deeply love. Don’t accept the unlove that comes from others. Say to yourself things you would want to say to someone you love.
Read 1 John 4 7-21. Yes, it calls you to love others, but it also shows you how God loves you. You can only love others when you believe that you are also loved. Love yourself.
7 Beloved, let us love one another, for love is of God; and everyone who loves is born of God and knows God. 8 He who does not love does not know God, for God is love. 9 In this the love of God was manifested toward us, that God has sent His only begotten Son into the world, that we might live through Him. 10 In this is love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins. 11 Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another.
1 John 4:7-11