It’s Narcissist Friday!
When you disagree with a narcissist, you might be surprised at the level of conflict that comes. You may experience the rage of the narcissist as he/she proceeds to disparage your intelligence or destroy your reputation. You may experience the cold disdain of the narcissist as you are pushed away. Or you may find that you are suddenly on the “other side.”
Narcissists create “sides.” You are either for them or against them. But it won’t be quite so overt in most cases. Most of the time, you won’t see the narcissist as the center. Instead, you will see the conflict. People who used to be friends find themselves pitted against each other. Family members gang up on siblings or others. Church members disagree on how things should be done and find that lines are drawn between opinions.
Sometimes, too often, as a marriage breaks up so do friendships. Are you for him or for her? You aren’t supposed to love both of them. You have to choose. And, if you don’t choose, both sides might reject you. And, if the marriage doesn’t break up, the friends still feel separated.
I have seen this in churches. Something that seems like a minor disagreement becomes a church-splitting fight. A marriage might be in trouble and sides have to be chosen. A pastor is struggling: who is with him and who is against him? New leadership is being chosen, and the decision whether to accept the new leader depends on which side he associates with.
And, in the background, feeding the struggle, is the narcissist. Like a high-pitched irritating whine, the narcissist whispers, comments, lies, and divides. He/she may not be seen, but the influence will be felt. Little nudges here and there, to both sides, and the narcissist keeps everyone off kilter and easy to control.
Firefighters, cancer doctors, engineers, sociologists, therapists,and many more professionals have an underlying purpose: to search out the source of the problem. If you smell gas, someone has to find the leak. If your water is polluted, someone has to find the corruption. If you are ill, someone has to seek the infection. If your church or family is in conflict, there may well be someone who is stirring the anger.
Cast out the scoffer, and contention will leave; Yes, strife and reproach will cease. Proverbs 22:10
I have known churches that split because a narcissist subtly pushed everyone to take a side. People who didn’t want to take sides often just left. By the time the dust settled, not many remained. I have known families whose gossip and conspiracies cut so deep. Businesses can be destroyed, organizations can crumble, even good marriages can be split when narcissists work to create sides.
And here’s the most bizarre thing: you might think that the narcissist always wants his side to win, but the narcissist might not even have a side. He just wants the upheaval, the turmoil. In the midst of all the fighting, he will position himself to win—apart from either side. He will come in to be the savior, to pick up the pieces, to solve the problem. However he does it, he will gain from the division.
I have long suspected that the rising political strife in our nation is the result of constant pushing from the media. Who profits when we are divided? Those who control the information. Where did you hear the latest political thing that made you angry? Like the arms dealers who sell to both sides, there are businesses that prosper when others are hurting. When we remember that there are people and groups in this world who benefit from our division, maybe we can stop a little of our fighting.
In your family, in your group, in your church—is there division? Is it hard to pin down the specific disagreement? You may want to look for a cause, someone who is whispering.
Scripture warns against those who “cause strife between brothers.” In fact, Proverbs says that is one of the things the Lord hates. But churches, business, families, and marriages have been split because of someone who began to spread words of division and hate.
So, what do we do? Stop listening to the grumbling and nibbling. Be very aware of those who stand to benefit from strife and anger. Never underestimate the effect of a few words of comparison or criticism. Try not to play that game.
I have learned that no one wins in these battles, except those who like them and want them to happen. Instead, a lot of people get hurt. And the narcissist goes merrily on his way.