(A post from the past as a reminder. I am traveling and thought this might be an encouragement.)
Every so often, I have to go back to why I started this blog. It actually did not start to be about narcissism. It started because of the people I saw trapped in what I called “performance spirituality.” That simply meant that they measured their spiritual health on the basis of their performance. They were usually sad or angry and stuck on a treadmill that took them nowhere. Some of them left the Christian faith, never having experienced the joy of a relationship with Jesus and never knowing that they were fully accepted in His love. Some of them are still stuck in churches that demand performance in order to receive acceptance.
As I wrote about this idea of performance spirituality, which I called (and still call) “legalism,” I thought about the teachers and others who seemed to work hard to keep people under this burden. I had learned about narcissism from counseling marriages, particularly among those who had lived and breathed this type of spirituality. As I understood more about narcissism, and as I continued to try to understand this legalism, I saw a connection that made sense. There are so many parallels between narcissists and legalists, and between the narcissistic relationship and the legalistic organization.
Quite surprising to me, my articles on narcissism hit a niche that needed to be served. Many Christians have suffered from narcissistic connections in marriage, church, family, and friendships. And many of those same people have found themselves part of the performance spirituality mindset. They believed they had to perform in order to be accepted, to be loved. But their best performance was never enough. They paid for their failures with condemnation and shame and abuse.
This has always been a blog centered on the love of God in Jesus. I believe the true gospel has been usurped by the idea of performance and the message of shame. Most of those who have rejected the Christian faith, in my experience, have never even heard the truth about God’s love. They have been told a lie, and that grieves me.
In much the same way, and not coincidentally, the victim of the narcissist has often not understood her/his own value as a person. The insufficiency of their performance, and the shame and self-doubt that results from it, opens their hearts to the manipulation of those who claim to love them. Growing up under the system that grants love on the basis of performance sets people up for narcissistic abuse, just like growing up under the teaching of performance sets a person up for legalistic abuse.
Now, I understand that the posts on narcissism are helpful for people outside the Christian faith, and I welcome you here and to our discussions. It just seems important for me to state once again where the foundations of my heart and intent belong. I believe that the unconditional love of Jesus is the answer for anyone. Those who have never felt love without strings attached, who have never been accepted without performance, can come to Him and find both.
It isn’t about church or giving or commandments or measuring up—it’s about Jesus. It isn’t even about your love for Him. It’s about His love for you.
We are all broken and hurting people living lives of weakness and limitation. We make stupid decisions and suffer the consequences. Sometimes other people suffer the consequences of those stupid decisions. Not only are we not perfect, we don’t really know what it means to be good. All of us.
So we look to Jesus. Our hope and promise are in Him, because we know very well that we can’t save ourselves. I believe He loves me—One on one—a real relationship. There is so much I do not understand, but I trust in His love. And that makes all the difference.
I invite you to look to Jesus with me. If I can help, send me a note. I am already praying for you.