Category Archives: Book Reviews

Disarming the Narcissist – Behary

It’s Narcissist Friday!

It seems to be generally agreed among the professionals that narcissism is something left over from the childhood of the narcissist. For some reason, the child learned to hide his/her vulnerable self and project a superior image. During the trauma that created that deception, the child lost (or never learned) the ability to empathize with others. In fact, he/she never developed the understanding of others as persons, independent and valuable in their own right. Usually this is considered to be the result of parenting issues.

The concept of “re-parenting” people who struggled with severe personality or emotional issues got a bad reputation from those who used questionable techniques such as regression therapy and recovered memory. Those who promoted re-parenting also had a tendency to blame the parents for any and all aberrant or destructive behavior in the child, even when that child was an adult. These techniques and assumptions often had the effect of producing the results they were supposed to reveal.

However, the idea that the narcissist could return to his/her childhood and revisit the trauma from a new and adult perspective would seem to have some potential. Could the narcissist see and acknowledge the pain and fear of abandonment or the confusion of ever-changing standards and boundaries and find a way to personal peace and normal growth in relationships? Those who understand that the narcissists themselves are in pain and live in fear would hope that such a process would be possible and helpful.

According to Wendy Behary, whose primary clientele are “mostly narcissistic men,” this re-parenting is not only possible, but very useful in working through interpersonal relationships. In her book, “Disarming the Narcissist,” Behary attempts to show those who must deal with narcissists how to defend themselves and offer valuable feedback to the struggling narcissist.


As I read this book, I found myself wavering between two opinions. It is clear that Behary knows narcissism. Her descriptions of narcissistic interactions and relationships are often right on point. Many readers will identify with her observations. On the other hand, her assessment of narcissistic behavior seems to excuse the abuse and cruelty by reminding the reader of the broken child in the narcissist.

Her overview of schemas and how narcissists are able to get under our skin and control us through our own vulnerabilities is insightful and gives the readers more power in narcissistic relationships. It is helpful to know why we are so open to narcissistic abuse. However, those who are already given to blaming themselves for their relationship problems will probably feel even more justified in that blame as they understand why they react the way they do to the narcissist.

Finally, her discussion of re-parenting the narcissist by feeding back therapeutic words and helping the narcissist feel accepted in his/her weakness and see how the negative behavior affects others may be just the kind of therapy that will work with the narcissist. I have long believed that some narcissists are not as malicious as their behavior portrays, but are simply so used to responding and manipulating in negative ways that they don’t know what else to do. Helping them to discover different ways, ways that will enhance relationships while not causing them more pain, could be a great blessing.

But is this the role of the spouse or child in a narcissistic relationship? Behary gives examples of language that could be used within the relationship, but one can hardly imagine a wife or child using that language without significant backlash. If a wife were to tell her husband that she understands his continuing shame from the times his mother treated him like a dress-up doll in front of her friends, she may find him withdrawing even more or striking out in anger as he makes it clear that she is not to go to that place again. Can even an adult child be expected to confront a parent with the psychological causes of negative behavior?

Suggesting that the victims stand in the place of the counselor could serve to make them more vulnerable and feel more culpable for the problems in the relationship. Actually, Behary is not saying that the wife or child could really do the counselor’s work. She is simply offering a way for narcissistic victims to take back some control of their own lives and, at the same time, offer some help to the narcissist. My concern is that this may set the victims up for further abuse and disappointment.

Do I recommend this book? Yes, with a couple of notes. First, as you read it, don’t automatically think that you can do what Behary suggests. You may not have the kind of relationship where this is possible or the kind of narcissist who would respond in any positive way. You also may not be in the emotional position to try these things. And if you feel like you are losing yourself and are becoming psychologically or emotionally unstable, you should probably separate from the relationship. If, when you are more healthy, you want to try these things, do it from a position of strength.

It is also worth noting that a therapist who works regularly with narcissists has not written a book on how to help the narcissist. Instead, Behary’s book, like so many in this area, is written for the victims. There is something in that to suggest that the type of feedback Behary offers for use in narcissistic relationships will only be helpful in a fraction of situations. Some people who exhibit narcissistic behavior and ideas may be open to the reasonable approach promoted in the second half of this book. Others, not so much.

I would be very interested in the thoughts of those who have read this book, particularly those who have used these ideas in their own relationships. You are welcome to disagree with me. I think this is an important part of the literature on this subject, but I caution anyone who wants to approach a narcissistic relationship using these tools.  You should also know that this review is based on the first edition of the book.  A second edition is now available.

I won’t be able to respond to comments for a few days because I will be traveling, but you are welcome to leave comments. Here are some other books you might find interesting.


Filed under Book Reviews, Narcissism

Gracism book

I recently finished David Anderson’s book on inclusion called, “Gracism.” He introduces a new term which, he believes, will help people understand a biblical perspective on the race concerns of our culture. In many ways, Anderson’s book is a practical and honest consideration of Christian love.

Anderson has an agenda, of course, and uses grace to communicate his concerns. His idea of grace is that believers have been given something we neither deserved nor earned and we ought to give in the same way. He encourages us to reach out to those who are not included in our normal circles of affluence or influence, to deliberately cross any boundaries that have kept some people separate and disadvantaged. This reflects, in his mind, the grace of Christ.

While I wholeheartedly agree with the general thrust of the book, I found it to be too narrow in focus and too preachy for my enjoyment. I believe that grace teaches us that there are no barriers of race, gender, or life situation. I believe that the love of Christ is equally given to anyone. I believe that Christians ought to be the most inclusive and least bigoted people on the planet. A great deal of evil has been perpetuated in the church because of the narrow and unkind prejudices of believers.

Yet, I think Anderson steps into something less than grace when he suggests that we should actively seek out people who fit our definition of disadvantaged. It is a racial issue, for him. He admits that racial prejudices exist in all ethnic groups, but the message is clearly one of socialistic equalizing rather than simple love. Jesus welcomed all people and His welcome to the lesser esteemed people was noticed, but He was just as open to a Pharisee as to a prostitute. He found very few open hearts among the Pharisees or other advantaged people but His grace was equally available to them.

One interesting example near the beginning of the book is used to illustrate a “gracist” attitude. A woman standing in line at the airport sees a family from another culture trying to get into the line. She assumes that they do not understand the concept of lines because they are from a culture other than hers. They have children and are tired. The line has been established for some time and people have been very protective of their positions. So the woman allows the family to go ahead of her and she is lauded, in the book, as an example of selfless grace.

We might ask whether the people behind the woman were as blessed as she was by her action. We may ask how she knew that this family didn’t understand that they should get in line like everyone else. We may also wonder why this woman didn’t simply give her place in line to these strangers and go to the back herself, since that would have come closer to blessing both the family and the people behind her. But, instead, she decided that all the advantaged people in the line should be gracists.

I was hoping for something more than what this book offered when I considered the title. Racism, in any form, is abhorrent to the mind of Christ – but not because some can’t get into the special clubs at the airport. Racism is abhorrent because it allows a person to consider himself better than another when, in truth, all that we have is what we have received. I am not better than anyone else, no matter whether I have more things or opportunities. If Jesus leads me to share with others, I should; but I will not fix the problem of racism by sharing. I will simply communicate love.

All that I have and all that I am have come from the Lord who loves me – who gives to me in spite of what I have deserved. I should remember that when I consider others.

That’s grace!

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Filed under Book Reviews, grace, Grace definition

More on Recommending Books

Considering the last post, about recommending books, I thought someone might be interested in an exchange I had with another blogger on this topic. The whole thing started because I wrote to support his statements. I agreed with him! Then he proceeded to take me to task about the books I have reviewed.

The exchange is somewhat typical. This guy doesn’t think of himself as legalistic or even narrow, but his whole attitude is one that focuses on the differences between his views and those of other believers.

The thing that amazed me was his plan to write about these books and the “false teachings” in them – even though he had no intention to read them!!! He says that he is content to accept the reviews of others. I presume that means he would write from those reviews. Fascinating!

Here’s the link:

Let me know what you think!


Filed under Book Reviews, Legalism

Recommending Books

Many years ago a man told me that he would never recommend a restaurant to a friend because he could not guarantee that the same cook would be there when his friend visited. My family has learned to be careful of recommendations friends give for movies they have enjoyed and we always give certain caveats when we recommend movies. You understand the problem. The motel you loved may change management before your friend gets there. The car mechanic you recommend may have a bad day when your friend comes in. Recommendations are risky.

Well,  I recommend books. I have some people who have dismissed my website and message because of certain books I recommend. It’s a risk I have decided is worth taking.

For example, I really like Brennan Manning’s books. I have heard him in person and was truly blessed by his message. I fully understand that he and I would probably disagree on some important doctrinal issues. But that isn’t the point. When I recommend his books, I am recommending the primary message of those books – that Jesus honestly loves people. The unity of God’s people, after all, is in Christ rather than in doctrine.

I do understand that some teachers have misused books and teachings of others. One person who visited my website has rejected the whole message because I happen to recommend Watchman Nee’s The Normal Christian Life. The cultic church this lady used to attend took Nee’s teachings and used them to manipulate and control followers. Therefore, in her mind, anyone who recommends Watchman Nee must be in sync with her former cult. Not true, of course; but until she is able to step past her pain and fear, she will continue to dismiss anyone who fits her criteria.

So, is it worthwhile to recommend books when some are offended by those books. Of course it is. Books can connect with people in ways nothing else can. John Eldredge has been used by God to touch hearts in unique and wonderful ways.

Recommending a book, in my mind, is nothing more than telling someone that the book’s ideas are worth considering. You might decide that you don’t like the teaching, the style, or something else about the book. That’s ok. I just appreciate the fact that you were willing to listen and think. We learn and grow from each other.

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Filed under Book Reviews, Freedom, Theology and mystery, Uncategorized

A Scandalous Freedom – Steve Brown

I had a couple of people suggest that I review this book and I am glad they did.  Brown hooks the reader in the first chapter with his emphasis on “free means free.”  He says, “if that freedom doesn’t include the freedom not to obey, then it isn’t real freedom.” (p.9) To all those who challenge the grace message concerning condemnation of sin, Brown bluntly admits that God allows us to sin but offers us a better way. 

Brown is pointed and some won’t like reading this book.  He challenges the evangelical who has placed God in a box where He is supposed to focus His heart only on our sin.  Brown reveals the uncomfortable truth that we all still struggle against sin and admits “none of us is probably going to get a whole lot better – and yet Jesus is still fond of us.” (68)

This is a good book, well worth your time.  Brown is pointed, plain, and profound – and it may feel like a little too much of each.  But read it anyway and give it to your friends.

The chapter on pain is worth the price of the book.

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Filed under Book Reviews, Freedom, grace, Uncategorized