Category Archives: Narcissism

Good Christian Narcissists

It’s Narcissist Friday!

A week or so ago, Amy Dickinson, the writer/counselor/columnist of “Ask Amy,” answered a reader who sent an update to a terrible family situation. Apparently the reader had shared the situation two years prior, and Amy had encouraged her to go to the authorities. She had been abused by her grandfather throughout her childhood, beginning about six years old. Her mother would not believe her and, in fact, punished her for telling her story.

The reader did go to authorities, who listened and acted. The grandfather admitted his actions, saying that he thought the child was “enjoying it.” Eventually, he received a sentence of six to eighteen years in prison.

But the mother has not forgiven the daughter (the reader) for disrupting the family. The mother says that the daughter is to blame for the whole situation. And then this:

“She and her sisters talk about how they’re all ‘strong, true Christians,” and I should be ashamed of myself because THEY have forgiven him.”

The image of the “good Christian” is so important in some circles that anyone who challenges it can be sacrificed. I wish I could say that it is hard for us to imagine something like this, but many of us have lived through it. Rather than confront sin, these churches, families, and individuals would deny its presence. “Good Christians” wouldn’t do such things. Since they must maintain the image of the “good Christian,” something has to give. Sometimes, those who sin are just cast aside. But if they can’t be separated completely, like a grandfather, the sin is denied. So, an unmarried girl who gets pregnant isn’t welcome in the church, while an abusive elder continues to lead. The girl can be sent away. Dealing with the elder would reveal the scandal.

Over the years, I have met “Christians” who lied to make themselves look more spiritual. Despite the obvious hypocrisy, they somehow convinced themselves that they must look good at any cost. I have known “Christians” who were quick to depersonalize anyone who disagreed with them or who didn’t meet their standards of behavior, even family members. Admitting sin or scandal would damage the image, so others are sacrificed.

Whether these folks are narcissists really doesn’t matter. They are acting out of a narcissistic mindset. Their image is more important than the real suffering of others. In my book, Narcissism in the Church, I outlined three characteristics of narcissistic behavior for individuals or organizations.

  1. The superior image
  2. Depersonalization of others
  3. Use and abuse of others to serve the image

This simple outline explains the thinking, the message, behind the abuse. As long as the image is most important, everything less can be used to support it. So, “good Christians” can lie, cheat, abuse, reject, and whatever else they can justify. Denominations, schools, mission organizations, churches, service organizations—all may have leaders who will reject anyone who challenges the good image.

Notice that these organizations are not above sin. They are only above the “appearance” of sin. When the “godly leader” touches the young girls inappropriately, the truth of the charge is not the issue. The issue is what the public (or the supporters) will think. “We can’t let this get out! It would ruin us.” The ruling board gathers to discern how to deal with the charges in a way that will make the organization look good. They may have to censure the leader or even dissociate from him. They may have to challenge the accusers in court. But they must save the ministry!

Of course, a family is a type of organization. The “Ask Amy” reader revealed the heart of her family. Grandfather was a disgusting pervert who used a little girl to satisfy himself, probably while staying active in the church and portraying himself as a “good Christian.” His daughters (including the reader’s mom) supported him and believed themselves to be “good Christians.” The daughter’s heart could be sacrificed so that the family could considered themselves to be as spiritual or more spiritual than others.

Now, I don’t have to say that this has nothing to do with Jesus or even the Christian faith. Yet, a lot of people will read the “Ask Amy” column and use this misrepresentation as the basis for denying Jesus and anything to do with the church. I understand. I really do. I just don’t see Jesus anywhere near the grandfather or the mom. The people who are willing to sacrifice others to satisfy their own need to see themselves as better do not represent Jesus in any way. To make themselves look good, they are willing to make Jesus look bad in the eyes of those they hurt.

Narcissism is contrary to Christian faith and values. Sadly, the church has yet to understand that.

Here’s the link to the “Ask Amy” article:

https://www.arcamax.com/healthandspirit/lifeadvice/askamy/s-2188705

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The Real Impostor

It’s Narcissist Friday!

Last week, I wrote about “Impostor Syndrome,” and I said that the narcissist invests in a message that brings down your self-esteem and confidence. You doubt yourself, very likely, because someone told you that you were incompetent. You worry about others discovering your inadequacy because someone invested that message in you. Why would someone do that?

It’s called “projection,” and we have talked about it before here. Projection is the simple (!) act of putting your weaknesses and compromises on others. My old art teacher used to say, “It takes one to know one.” In other words, what you call others you are yourself. But, of course, the narcissist would deny that.

This particular projection touches the core of the narcissist. We have talked a lot about how the narcissist feels afraid and weak. Narcissists deal with fear of exposure and rejection all the time. They are the little child hiding, hoping you will ignore them as they present the image for you to admire. They are the small man behind the curtain, pretending to be the great Wizard of Oz.

If you test the actual work of most narcissists, you will find they are both lazy and incompetent. Most of those who seem to do well in their jobs use the work of others or excel at intimidating and politicking. Some have learned to make a good show of working hard. They complain about the hours, the lack of resources, and their co-workers. They work hard only at making themselves look good.

Because the narcissist believes he is incompetent and unworthy, he must make the people around him feel that way. The more he can pass those feelings on to others, the less they will think them about him. In other words, the poor salesman will put down your sales abilities so you don’t notice his inadequacies. Just like the gossip will accuse you of gossiping.

But projection can be very subtle. The narcissist may never say that you are incompetent. He/she will just give “helpful” comments that make you feel that way. Why? Because every comment made about the narcissist’s work is heard that way. Any advice, any compliment, any appreciation is heard as a criticism to the narcissist. Even though he/she invites the praise, the narcissist will find it hard to believe. Even though he/she invites the critique, the narcissist will hear only attacks and rejection.

The narcissist feels like an impostor. In many ways, the narcissist is an impostor. It might be better to say that the image is an impostor. By focusing your attention on the superior image, the lie, the narcissist only reaffirms the negative judgment of his real self. Every time the narcissist boasts of abilities or admiration, he/she is revealing insecurity and shame. And, yes, he knows it. That creates even more insecurity and shame.

Once again, this internal struggle reveals the source of the narcissist’s anger, criticism of others, and need for constant admiration. The narcissist lives with almost debilitating tension, but blames others and tries to give that tension to them.

So. When the narcissist makes you feel inadequate or unworthy, remember that he/she is trying to give those feelings away. You are not the incompetent one. Sure, you make mistakes. We all do. Everyone does. Just because the narcissist is quick to point out your mistakes does not mean you make more than others. And, even if you do make more mistakes than some, how many of them are due to the tension the narcissist has created to help you fail? And when was the last time the narcissist owned a mistake, without blaming someone or something?

Lift up your chin. You are not what the narcissist says you are. If you had narcissistic parents who spoke shame and insecurity into your heart, you may evaluate those words and reject them. Don’t let your identity be molded by someone else’s fears.

Instead, listen to the words of love Jesus speaks into your heart. You are unique, beautiful, strong, good, and of great value. You are greatly loved!

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The recent interview with Dan Duval at Bride Ministries is here: https://www.bridemovement.com/narissistic-abuse-recovery-and-r-kelly-with-dr-dave-orrison/

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Impostor Syndrome

It’s Narcissist Friday!

I’m not perfect
Others are better
I fail too often
I don’t work hard enough
I don’t deserve what I have
I’m not confident
I’m a fraud
I’ve been fakin’ it

Certain words and phrases seem to become popular and are heard often in our culture. We have noticed this with the discussion of narcissism. Ten years ago, only a few people were talking about it. Now we hear it often on television, see it in print, and even encounter it among our friends.

Another phrase you may have heard is “impostor syndrome.” It basically refers to that feeling you and I might have that we are not really as good or as capable as others think. Those who trust in us are deceived, we think. When someone praises us, we shrug it off because we think don’t deserve it.

Impostor syndrome is prevalent among people who have to sell themselves or their product to others. They might be entertainers, sports personalities, or businesspersons, but they share the inner feeling that they are only a step away from failure. At any moment people will see the truth.

I suspect that impostor syndrome is particularly strong in those who have experienced narcissistic relationships. Why? Because the narcissist invests in that message.

Typically, narcissists choose adult victims who are high-achievers with energy and competence who also have some kind of self-esteem issues. In other words, quality people who don’t see themselves as special. Aware of their own imperfections, these people are ripe for the narcissist’s manipulations. They enjoy the attention and appreciation the narcissist seems to give. Then, when the narcissist begins the process of grooming by criticizing and suggesting changes, the victims find that message so familiar that their defenses aren’t ready. By the time the narcissist is finished, the victim feels unworthy of praise and incompetent in performance.

Betty had a good job with great potential in her company. Her bosses loved her and treated her with respect. But she was raised to question herself and doubt her abilities. She rationalized the appreciation others expressed by thinking that they were particularly kind to her. When she met Bill, he complimented her appearance, laughed at her humor, and listened to her stories. But Bill was careful not to praise her work abilities. She felt that was good, if she ever thought of it. He used her skills, but regularly found errors and things which could have been done better. At first, Betty even appreciated his criticisms.

But, of course, the criticism never stopped. It grew stronger and more incriminating. Bill was so much smarter and, even though he didn’t have her training, understood the situations much more clearly. She lacked his “wisdom.” Eventually, Betty began making more mistakes at work. She was relieved when Bill said she should quit and stay home. She never deserved to do well at work anyway.

Yes, Betty had some self-esteem issues before she met Bill. Most of us do. The Christian conservative culture of the 50s and 60s taught us that anything less than perfection was failure. That’s how most of us grew up. But most of us get past that when things work in our lives. It isn’t that the culture was against us, but that it taught us to be circumspect. What Bill did was to take that much farther in Betty’s heart and mind. He used that opening to move her to doubt herself. By the time Betty left her job, she was questioning the motives of her bosses and thinking she was deceiving them when she did well.

Of course, Bill did this so he could control Betty. He was intimidated by her abilities and jealous of her reputation at work. Undercutting her in a way that made him seem superior was his narcissistic way of bringing her down.

Narcissistic parents typically do this in the lives of some of their children. The child is never quite competent. He grows up with the idea that Mom and Dad have been carrying his load, protecting him from life, compensating for his inadequacies. He leaves home hoping that no one else discovers the truth. Not all children of narcissistic parents experience this. Some are almost ignored, while others are expected to be competent in everything from the beginning. Both of these will suffer from the parents’ narcissism as well. But the child who learns to doubt everything about himself will live with this impostor syndrome through much of the rest of his life.

Like all narcissists, narcissistic parents need devotion and appreciation. They will get it no matter what it costs their children. They, of course, have the opportunity to build life-long victims for themselves. Those victims carry scars even after the parents are gone.

Much of what the world calls “impostor syndrome” is the natural result of narcissistic abuse. Self-condemnation, second-guessing, inability to receive a compliment, fear of inadequacy or failure—these have been built into the victims of narcissists.

But once a person realizes that those self-deprecating thoughts have been cultivated by others, he or she can begin to find health and freedom. No one is perfect, but it is not wrong to recognize that you have done well. Nor is it wrong to accept the praises from others. If they appreciate your work and tell you that, you don’t have to doubt their words. They are grateful. You blessed them. The work didn’t need to be perfect to be appreciated, and you don’t need to be perfect to be complimented.

There is an important difference between humility and rejecting your own competence. One of them is a lie. We are humble in the sight of God, knowing that all good things, even our own work, comes from His hand. We need Him. And we can recognize that He blesses us through others. That’s humility. But looking only at your failures and thinking of yourself as an impostor when you do well or others are grateful—that’s lying to yourself.

When you do well, when your work blesses others, give thanks to God. Accept the recognition as He allows you to receive it.

More on this next week…

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Interviews, Podcasts, Radio!?!

I have been trying some new things. Dan Duval of Bride Ministries interviewed me again and I hope to have that link for you soon. Dave Lesniak, from Flash Army America, has been working with me on a radio-type online show. Here’s the link for that. That is mostly about grace and how the grace of God works out in the life of the believer. Both are a little rough, but this seems to be an interesting opportunity for the ministry.

Would you write a review?

Thanks to those who have written reviews for the recent book! Reviews are a big part of marketing today. If you appreciated the Narcissism in the Church book, please consider writing a simple review on the Amazon page. I would be grateful!

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Handling Jezebel

It’s Narcissist Friday!

I just read a meme on someone’s Facebook page that said something like:

If you don’t handle Jezebel, she’ll handle you.

For a lot of people, the character of Jezebel is the epitome of narcissism, at least in the Bible. I know that, in some circles, the idea of a “spirit of Jezebel” is expounded in depth. Frankly, my background is not in those circles, so my take on the idea will probably be different from what you have heard.

I have written on Jezebel before in this post. But that only talks about the Old Testament Jezebel. The idea of a Jezebel spirit comes from the letter to Thyatira in Revelation 2. There was a leader in that church whose personal power and authority were such that she was able to deceive believers into compromise. Somehow, her teaching and influence brought people into sexual and spiritual sin. God challenged her in some way, but she did not repent. In fact, the punishment brought against her would be very serious in the end, just to show her followers and others that there is a price to pay for using the church as a center for self-worship.

Now, all of that does sound like narcissism. Jezebel, in both the Old and New Testaments used people with no regard for the consequences they would suffer and with a “thumbed-nose” to God. She did this to cover her own compromises and to build her own kingdom. Because she wanted it, she took it. Because she wanted it, she taught it. And, by the way, not all Jezebels are women.

I can’t help but think of the pastors and church authorities who have contributed to the abuse and cover-ups we have read about over the past few years. From the Roman Catholic church to the Southern Baptists, the stories make us both sad and angry. We grieve when we read of those who suffered abuse. We grieve even more when we read how the church rejected and re-victimized them as they tried to tell their stories. We get angry when we see how leadership covered up the accusations and retained the abusers in positions where they could abuse again. How could they claim to belong to Jesus and treat people that way? How could they claim to be righteous and cover-up such abuse? Most of us simply cannot understand such hypocrisy.

A Jezebel spirit? I suppose. Narcissism? Yes. I wrote about this at some length in my book, Narcissism in the Church. When all that matters is the image, how you or the organization look to the world (or to the rest of the church), this behavior falls right into place. Abuse others because they are nothing to you. Cover up the abuse so that you can still look superior. I think the church has attracted many narcissists and has allowed the narcissistic message to form a system within the church to support them.

But can you “handle” the Jezebel spirit? The meme said we should handle her or she will handle us. The only way you can handle a narcissist is if you have real authority over him/her. If you are the one who can fire or discipline the narcissist, maybe you can handle him. You should expect that he has already covered himself, found an exit strategy, or compromised you. Narcissists think several steps into the future, especially in situations where they are vulnerable. “Handling” one could prove difficult.

If you are not in an authoritative position over the narcissist, don’t even try to handle him. Get away, if you can. Otherwise, focus on ways to protect yourself or to keep yourself healthy. If you are in a church where the pastor or other leadership is manipulative or abusive, get out. It would be better to stay home than to be compromised by the narcissistic message. Don’t think that you will move them to change by appealing to Scripture or by pointing out errors. Read some of the accounts from people who tried. Your opinion means nothing to the narcissist.

Handling a narcissist has little meaning in the real world of narcissism. There may be ways to minimize the effect the narcissist has on you if you are strong enough to live in a sustained battle. There are ways to keep yourself healthy even in a narcissistic relationship. But if handling means to control, it would be better not to try.

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Narcissistic Paranoia

It’s Narcissist Friday!

“Wherever two or three are gathered, they are probably talking about me.”

Ever feel that way? I was in my early twenties when I began work in my first church. I was the only pastor for a church of nearly 300. The church had more than its share of problems and had them for years. They didn’t particularly like or trust pastors. We had little money, so one time we stayed home for our vacation. That meant we stayed in the parsonage right next to the church. The trustees chose to have a work project during that week, and I decided it wouldn’t be much of a vacation if I had to help. So, we stayed indoors. I remember looking out the window of the house to see some of the men talking. A strong feeling of paranoia came over me. I just knew they were talking about me.

The narcissist lives with this every day. On one hand, the narcissist fears what people are saying. He believes others dislike him, misunderstand him, and want to hurt him. On the other hand, he is afraid they might not be talking about him at all. Maybe they aren’t focused on him. To be ignored or forgotten is worse, in the narcissist’s mind, than to be disliked. But be sure you notice the connection. The narcissist is afraid of what people talk about.

So, the narcissistic response is to control the conversation. If at all possible, the narcissist will give people something to talk about. I suppose the best thing would be for them to talk in admiration of him. So, he will do things to impress others or to make them grateful to him. But, it may also be acceptable to the narcissist to have people fear him. So, he will make them want his approval or feel dependent on him. If they speak negatively about him, with awe or fear, at least he stays in a higher position. And at least he knows what they are saying.

Have you ever wondered why your narcissist is willing to do strange, even negative things, to get attention? Have you wondered why she is willing to look like an invalid or a nut case to have people take care of her? Why he will act like a fool, tell an inappropriate joke, or say mean things? It may all be to control the conversation. Remember that the only thing worse than speaking negatively of the narcissist is not speaking of them at all.

To sit quietly in a room full of people is difficult for a narcissist. He can’t listen to a speaker without making comments or fidgeting in ways that draw attention. I have known narcissists to throw things at others while in a meeting. Even when it’s only funny to the narcissist, it brings attention back to him.

To gather with family and be included only as one of the participants is not enough for her. She has to get sick or offer rude criticisms or try to start an argument. Why? Because the conversations are not about her.

This paranoia may not be clinical, but it is real. I have said that the narcissist’s super-power is the ability to control what others think of him. That ability is the result of years of serious cultivation. It matters to the narcissist. He/she must know what others are saying. Friendships, whatever that means to the narcissist, rise or fall based on what the other thinks of the narcissist.

Don’t forget that the narcissist is a phony. It is the image that is great, not the narcissist. The image that the frightened and inferior person created is what is superior. The narcissist sees himself as weak and small. Of course, he doesn’t want you to think of him that way so he will do his best never to reveal those hidden fears. It is still how he sees himself, and he lives with the concern that others will see the truth.

How did I handle the feeling that people were talking about me? I had to learn to shrug it off. You can’t control what others think or say about you, especially if you are not willing to go to the extremes of the narcissist. As uncomfortable as it is to be the focal point, remember that it is temporary. People actually have other things to discuss.

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I snagged this picture from Facebook. It was shared by someone who got it from someone else. I have no idea whose it is, but I like it. It is a good visual of the struggle of the narcissist. If you know the artist, I would love to give proper credit. The caption is mine.

The scared little boy

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The Need for Affirmation

It’s Narcissist Friday!

By definition, the narcissist needs affirmation.  Narcissists long for attention and affirmation.  They need to be noticed, valued, considered special.  And, of course, you and I are supposed to give this to them.

The boss looks to you to feel superior.  He believes your job is to make him look good.  If you do well, he will feel good about himself.  Not because he has helped you, but because he can take credit for any success you have brought. 

The mother-in-law looks to you to feel important.  Any success her son has is her success.  Anything you contribute is for the purpose of making her feel affirmed.  Even your children exist for her to boast about. 

Your “needy” friend looks to you to tell her that she is special in her need, special to you and to others.  Her needs are to be the primary needs in your life.  Her need warrants your time, energy, and attention.  Everything you do for her is to make her feel good about herself.

Why does the narcissist need this affirmation so much?  What is going on? 

The narcissist has two serious problems.  First, the narcissist has no inherent affirmation.  There is no inner voice that speaks love and affirmation for the narcissist.  Instead, he/she must work to hear that from others.  Contrary to what is often taught, the narcissist does not love himself.  He loves the pretend image of himself.  In his/her heart there is only self-condemnation. 

Second, the narcissist doesn’t see others as real.  We have talked about this depersonalization before.  Basically, it means the narcissist doesn’t value the opinions and contributions of others.  Everyone is phony or worthless, according to the narcissist. 

But, if the opinion of others is false or of no value, then the narcissist cannot receive the affirmations that come.  That means any affirmation, no matter how much the narcissist has worked to get it, sounds insincere or uninformed.  If you do praise the narcissist, which you must do, he thinks your opinion comes out of your stupidity or that you are lying. 

Now, think about that.  If the narcissist needs affirmation from others but cannot receive that affirmation in his heart, what does he do?  He strives harder to get something that feels good.  Consider the boss.  He pushes those below him to make him noticeable by those above him.  Then, when those above him give affirmation, he doubts and discredits them as well.  The boss believes they should have noticed him before, or they are just setting him up for something they want him to do for them. 

This continual loop of working for affirmation then rejecting it when it comes takes a great deal of energy from the narcissist and is extremely frustrating.  Hence, the anger, the sarcasm, the distance, the bitterness.  The narcissist suffers from an unsatisfying addiction.  He/she needs something but cannot receive it.  We could say that the narcissist’s need for addiction is insatiable.

Of course, each person handles this differently.  Some overt narcissists will strive harder and harder, burning out people in their lives quickly and recklessly.  Like other addicts, they believe there is satisfaction out there somewhere.  Because of their willingness to use others ruthlessly, they climb the business and organizational ladders.  Even when they reach the top, they are still striving for more.  So, we see these superstar businessmen, sports people, actors, and politicians doing things that seem stupid.  The billionaire who gets caught with prostitutes.  The academy award winner who hosts drug parties.  The music star who puts a hit on a rival.  The politician who cheats on his wife or who gets caught having sex with children.  These stories have become almost regular on our daily news. 

Some covert narcissists handle their insatiable addiction in much the same way.  The “sick” narcissist has more and more symptoms to attract more attention.  What seemed like hypochondria before has now become Munchausen, from pretend symptoms to self-inflicted harm.  Some have even injected themselves with or ingested things that cause serious damage.  Some even carefully fake suicide attempts.  Others harm their children to get attention as caregivers, something known as “Munchausen by proxy.”  We consider these extremes to be mental illness, but some of them are extensions of the narcissistic need for affirmation.

Others don’t take their need to these extremes.  They withdraw into themselves in anger and fear.  They become reclusive, sociopathic.  Their addiction smolders until it finds an outlet in some type of rage event.  They become dangerous and unpredictable. 

Most of us will never experience these severe cases, I hope.  But we should understand the level of pain the narcissist suffers in their unending search for satisfying affirmation.  Nor do I think this should foster compassion for narcissism in anyone.  Narcissists choose their lifestyle and behavior, at least they did at one time.  Just like other addicts, they ignored warnings and chose to cope with the difficulties they encountered in life by wrong behavior.  And their behavior hurt others.  While I don’t have a great deal of hope for change in the heart of a narcissist (except by coming to Jesus!) I do know that wrong behavior can be unlearned.  Narcissists who want to change, like other addicts, can find help to stop hurting others and themselves. 

Those who find themselves in relationship with a narcissism might do well to remember this addiction.  It explains most narcissistic behavior.  It also means you are not going to be able to help the narcissist.  He/she will only change when that change is desired.  Those who try to counsel narcissists should understand this addiction as well. 

Podcast?

I was contacted by a young man (who has become a friend) to do a podcast for his ministry. He read the book and wanted to explore the general topic a little more. That became over an hour of discussion and a promise to come back in a month for more. Dan Duval at Bride Ministries hosted and interacted with me. If you are interested in watching (bear with my first attempt at this), here’s the link:

https://www.bridemovement.com/narcissism-defined-and-disclosed-with-dr-dave-orrison/

If watching is hard and you would like to just listen, there is an audio version under the podcast window.

Book News

I have uploaded a different pdf for the Kindle version of the book. A couple people said that the other didn’t work for them. The problems they described didn’t fit with anything I could find as a normal problem. Someone at the Kindle Authors forum suggested that Word did not make good pdfs, so I made a new one through my pdf conversion software. I hope that helps!

The link to the ebook is:

https://www.amazon.com/Narcissism-Church-Heart-Christian-Relationships-ebook/dp/B07LC2HNTF/ref=sr_1_2?crid=1WCJ1NWG6U156&keywords=narcissism+in+the+church&qid=1551389298&s=gateway&sprefix=narcissism+in+the+church%2Caps%2C163&sr=8-2

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Sycophants

It’s Narcissist Friday!

Nearly every overt narcissist is surrounded by sycophants. You see them when you go to church, when you attend the political rally, when you watch television.  They are the ones cheering the narcissist on and running interference with his critics.  They are the ones explaining her hurtful or stupid words.  They are the ones condemning anyone who questions the great person.  They are the ones who won’t let him/her fail.

The word, “sycophant,” wouldn’t be used much if we really knew what it meant.  In fact, the history behind it is somewhat disgusting.

In ancient Greece, some politicians held themselves above demeaning those who disagreed or who challenged ideas. They ignored objections and plowed ahead with their ideas as though other opinions didn’t matter. However, they really didn’t like the ones who opposed them and wanted to ridicule them somehow. According to the stories, these politicians would surround themselves with followers willing to agree with anything the teacher promoted. These followers had no lofty ideals to maintain, no separation from ridicule or crudity. At first, these followers mocked the opponents of their masters with crude gestures and laughter. In fact, the word, “sycophant,” comes from one of the crude gestures they would make behind the back of the speaker.  They called it “showing the fig.”

Eventually, these followers went farther than ridicule. They accused their masters’ opponents of indiscretions and even crimes and found evidence to support their claims. Through the centuries, the term “sycophant” has come to mean something like a parasite, one who lives in the glory of the master and serves the master by using unscrupulous and offensive means to promote the master’s cause. The master, of course, does not officially condone these actions, but turns away from seeing them.

This history of the word “sycophant” explains something of what we see today. The teacher/politician/boss says something heretical or strange, then backs away as the followers defend his position by demeaning and attacking those who disagree. He/she doesn’t have to muddy his or her hands by entering the fray—except perhaps to offer some kind and wise word and act saddened by his mean-spirited opposition. You won’t hear the narcissist say what he really thinks of you publicly because his followers will say it for him.  They can be far more ruthless than he can.  The public figure must remain somewhat civil, but the sycophants can say the most disgusting and hurtful things.  They may even produce lies and attack opponents physically. 

The connection to politics is historical and obvious, but how does this connect to our narcissists?  At work, the narcissistic boss or employee will have supporters like this.  In a family, the narcissistic sibling or parent will be supported in this way.  The narcissist husband expects his wife and children to hate anyone who opposes him and run interference against those who dislike him. 

Even covert narcissists have supporters who intercede for them.  Your mother says the most hurtful things, but your sister tells you it’s your own fault.  Your boss is unfair in the way he deals with you, but some of the other employees think you are the problem.  Your pastor is a manipulative preacher and counselor, but the elders protect him and suggest you should leave the church.  The moment you criticize the narcissist, someone else pounces on you. 

To get these supporters, the narcissist will praise, threaten, lie, pay, blackmail, or whatever else it takes.  The sycophant is the narcissist’s dream support.  Willing to sacrifice to make the narcissist look good, the sycophant does the dirty work.  They attach themselves to the narcissist for several reasons.  Some have to, because of what the narcissist knows.  Some want to get the scraps left by the famous person.  Some still believe the narcissist loves them.  Some will be ready to step into his position if the narcissist fails or if the narcissist is promoted.  This is the relationship the narcissist cultivates.

The problem with sycophants is that they won’t let the narcissist fail.  We watch the big man or the influential woman and see incompetence, arrogance, and laziness.  We watch for them to fail.  We wait.  But nothing happens.  The narcissist continues to prosper because the sycophants interfere.  They hold off criticism.  They compensate for inability.  They attack opposition.  The narcissist does not fail because they serve him/her well.

Yes, sycophants are fickle.  Most of them will quickly transfer their loyalty if the power base changes.  But don’t hold your breath.  Narcissists are good at finding and creating their support.

Now, if you have been such support for a narcissist, covering their lies or compensating for their failures, don’t feel too bad.  Part of the “superpower” of the narcissist is to get people to support them.  They manipulate what others think of them, and it can take a long time to see the truth.  Even when you do see the truth, you may not know how to get out.  To stop your support might be risky.  So, do what you can as you can.  If you are out, don’t get back in. 

In fact, in a day like ours, we should be careful about throwing our enthusiastic support behind anyone, at least at first.  Take the time to know the person.  Don’t let yourself be manipulated into being “on their side.”  Hold your judgment until you are confident that you are not being deceived.  Sometimes that can take a long time, too. 

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The new website is up: http://www.gracefortheheart.org Check it out!

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Taking it back

It’s Narcissist Friday!

I just saw a television show where a man had given his girlfriend his precious teddy bear. When they broke up because she wanted someone else, she kept the bear. It had been his for a long time, and he wanted it back. She refused. He acknowledged that he had given it freely, but he had expected the relationship to last. He had not expected to be thrown over for someone else. And he missed his bear.

For the most part, narcissists choose people who give freely. We have been taught that love gives. That extra time, that money, that hard work: they all come from the idea that love gives. Even the praise and admiration, the special attention and care, all come from love. And they all cost us something. Giving to others always costs something. We may consider the cost small, especially when we love, but we give something of ourselves.

We expect a relationship to be reciprocal. Love given and love received. Not every relationship, of course. And not always in kind. Often what we receive is satisfaction or the joy of seeing a smile. But in most relationships, we give and we get. It’s an imperfect, but necessary balance.

Narcissistic relationships are not like that. Oh, in the beginning , we appreciated the fact that the narcissist even noticed us. A pat on the head or a word of welcome was enough. But narcissistic relationships prove to be surprisingly one-sided. We give and the narcissist takes. It isn’t long before the narcissist demands.

If you have been in such a relationship, let me assure you that the feeling of being drained is normal. The victims of narcissists often report feeling used up, empty, and confused. The sense that something is missing is common. The nature of the narcissistic relationship consumes anything the spouse, employee, friend, church member, or family member has to offer.

So, how do you get it back?

Well, you don’t, right? What you gave has been consumed. Used up. Maybe wasted. It’s gone. I don’t mean to sound harsh, but what you gave was not like a teddy bear that can be returned. Nor would the narcissist even consider paying you back. You might get some money or property in court, but most victims find they can’t even get that.

Instead, you have to replace what you gave. The love, the time, the commitment, the loyalty, the forgiveness. Those things can be hard to rebuild, especially when you have given away your trust. Another relationship might seem impossible, at least undesirable. How can you replace these things if you are afraid to open yourself to another relationship?

Other things, like money or property or support systems, can be rebuilt as you become healthy. Through determination and purpose, you can value yourself enough to build again. But your value was something the narcissist tried to take from you to add to his/her own. How do you get that back?

There is a Source of love that never changes, never goes away. That Love the narcissist could not touch. The love you need today, love that you can feel, love that pours warm comfort for your heart—that Love is yours from the Lord who loves you. It’s real, and it’s free. The narcissist might have succeeded in making you forget, but he/she could never take it away. You have a supply that can never be exhausted, and it is deeper and stronger than anything the narcissist has ever known.

From that Love, you draw your health. Through it you find your way back to what God made you to be. In that Love, you can rest and rebuild. Trust in the Lord, the Scripture says, and He will renew your strength. All that the narcissist has taken will come to you again.

The narcissist betrayed your love. He/she took from you with no intention of giving or even truly appreciating your sacrifice. But you are not forgotten. The Lord knows your pain. He is patient, forgiving, gracious, because He loves you.

There is a wonderful word in the Old Testament book of Joel about the Lord rebuilding His people after a time of discipline. The whole chapter is a blessing to read, but these words stand out for me:

“So I will restore to you the years that the swarming locust has eaten, the crawling locust, the consuming locust, and the chewing locust. Joel 2:25

Perhaps we have a new word for the narcissists in our lives (wink), but whatever they have consumed the Lord can and will restore. The Lord did not discipline you, don’t get that from my use of this passage. Evil used you. You were hurt by uncaring and unkind people. But the Lord loves you. If He rebuilds those He disciplines, how much more will He rebuild you when you were the victim of cruelty?

The way to health is through love. Love is found in Jesus. Seek His love and find restoration.

Narcissism in the Church

Many of our best friends are in the churches we attend. Yet, church friendships often end abruptly when one leaves the church. The flavor of the friendship can seriously change when one person disagrees with how a church situation is handled. We get the impression that church friendships exist only as long as we are acceptable to the church. What kind of friendship is that?

This new book explains how a church can create a narcissistic culture where relationships exist to serve the image of the superior organization. It explores how a church can become a narcissistic organization, using people to serve an image of superior spirituality.

Paperback

1793872805

Paragraph

E-book

Narcissism in the Church: A Heart of Stone in Christian Relationships by [Orrison, David]

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Why They Take

It’s Narcissist Friday!

Last week I wrote that the narcissist wants your heart. Everything you have he/she wants and not only wants but expects to get. You are to joyfully spend your money, time, and energy on the narcissist. Total dedication and joyful self-sacrifice. Nothing less is enough.

But why? We know that the narcissist has little of his own. He has no empathy, so he connects with an empathic person. He has no sincerity, so he marries a sincere person. He has no compassion, no heart, so he wants yours.

The narcissist wants to be seen as a competent, caring, superior person. That’s the image he has created. He wants others to believe that of him. But he sees himself as incompetent and inferior. That’s the self-image he grew up with. So whatever he needs to make himself (the image) look good, he has to get from others.

Is the narcissist really the best salesman in the company, or does he just take credit for the work of others? Is she really a generous person, or does she just get others to do kind things with her name on them? Is he really so smart, or is he taking advantage of another’s gullibility? What does the narcissist have that hasn’t been taken from others?

You see, the narcissist is usually not competent or smart or caring, but wants others to think he is. Those skills and attributes have to come from others. So he/she will take what is needed.

No matter how good the narcissist appears, the good is not his own. He/she lives only on what can be taken from others through manipulation or theft. Taking from others is justified because the narcissist is superior and not appreciated. The narcissist believes that he has worked harder, sacrificed more, and accomplished more. But he has to make others see that. Any weakness is the fault of others. So, he takes because he deserves more.

He takes your money because you have more than you deserve, and he needs it for himself.

He takes your energy because there are so many forces working against him, and he needs more than he has.

He takes your time because he has more important things to do than you.

He takes your admiration, your kindness, your patience, your loyalty because he deserves it.

The narcissist sees himself (the image) as superior and deserving. Everyone else should be joyfully giving what they have to him. If he has to cheat and lie to take it, that’s only because others are too stupid or stubborn to give it freely.

Remember always that the narcissist doesn’t see others as persons with value. They are tools or toys for him to use. In his struggle to make everyone see his superiority, he doesn’t care how they suffer. No carpenter has compassion for his hammer or saw. Why should the narcissist have compassion for the people he uses?

You are less than the narcissist. You are not as smart. You are inferior and subservient. You should recognize this and spend yourself for him or her. The male-superior message makes this clear in marriage and in the office. Where that doesn’t work, the narcissist may have to work a little harder to keep you down. There are no equals to the narcissist and certainly no superiors. There are only those who compete and are in the way.

The narcissist takes because he/she doesn’t have. It takes a lot of energy for the narcissist to defend and support the superior image, so you will have to work harder. It takes money for the narcissist to look as good or feel as good as he wants, so you have to contribute. Hold your questions, swallow your pride, push down your self-esteem, withdraw from your support—because the narcissist needs you.

If you resist, or if you are used up, the narcissist will have to move on to someone else. Draining you will not be enough, the fire still burns and still requires more. The narcissist will always need another log for the fire. (And he will always think they should walk over and jump in on their own!)

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Narcissism in the Church

Why is it that so many of the narcissists we meet are connected with the church? Of course, for those of us whose relationships are mostly church-related, the answer is obvious. But from politicians to bosses to parents to friends, narcissists seem to belong to churches. Shouldn’t people in the church be known for their kindness and grace, rather than their manipulation and comparisons?

This new book explains why narcissists are drawn to churches and how they use church systems to accomplish their purposes. It even exposes how a church can become a narcissistic organization, using people to serve an image of superior spirituality.

Paperback

1793872805

E-book

Narcissism in the Church: A Heart of Stone in Christian Relationships by [Orrison, David]



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What they take

It’s Narcissist Friday!

We have talked about narcissists as predators or users. The literature refers to “narcissistic supply” as what the narcissists consume from their victims. Sometimes, that just means attention, praise, obedience, etc. Whatever makes the narcissist feel good about himself. But there must be something more they take.

Most victims of narcissistic relationships experience the drained weariness, the empty feeling that suggests something has been taken away. Some find themselves confused, lost, almost hollow when the narcissist leaves. The idea of being used up and thrown away is often expressed at the end of a narcissistic relationship.

Of course, there is a practical side to this. Most victim spouses are left with little money or opportunity. Victim friends are often left with few positive relationships. The narcissist may have taken money, time, energy, and more. The feeling of loss might be the result of an accurate post-relationship assessment.

But there’s something more, isn’t there? Narcissists take something that makes it hard to rebuild, to find health again. Some core asset has been taken away. Something from deep inside.

This will be the first of three posts about what narcissists take from the rest of us. I will ask three questions: What do they take? Why do they take it? How do we get it back?

Have you noticed that the narcissist is not satisfied, no matter how much attention or obedience they get? Life with the narcissist seems like a continual battle; it is never good enough. If the narcissist stands in front of everyone receiving awards and accolades, he will still complain about the people who didn’t clap enthusiastically enough. He will think of them as phony or insincere.

Have you noticed that the narcissist is never satisfied with service or compassion or even love, no matter how much you give? You could set aside all your other responsibilities, ignore all other relationships, but the narcissist would still want more. You could focus your day on making the narcissist feel good—all day, every day. But it wouldn’t be enough.

That constant pull for more drains the victim. Too often the purpose is disguised, the goal reset ever farther away. Like Sisyphus, pushing the great boulder up the hill only to have it roll back just when it reaches the top, day after day through eternity; the narcissist’s victims feel hopeless and worthless.

What do narcissists want?!? What will be enough? What do you have to do to satisfy them? Not only do you have to be ready to fulfill unreasonable demands, you are supposed to enjoy doing those things. The narcissist wants you to be sincere, to desire to please him or her. Not only are you to praise him, you are to think of him as better than others. Not only are you to obey, you are to be happy to serve. Not only are you to give her attention, you are not to desire anything else.

Then, if you seem to be happy and sincere, the narcissist will test you with cruel expectations and judgments. You will be criticized, doubted, even condemned—until you prove that you have joyfully given the narcissist everything. He/she will only believe you when you completely yield.

And, when you have given all, when the narcissist thinks he has drained you completely, it will be time for him to move on. You have nothing left to give.

What does the narcissist take? Your heart. Your life. Your personhood. Perhaps no word is big enough. That which make you separate and special and alive. The energy and identity that is you.

In my book, I make the distinction between the overt and covert narcissist. I write:

The overt narcissist may make you think of murder, but the covert narcissist makes you think of suicide.

The overt narcissist is in more of a hurry. He/she will take as much as possible as quickly as possible, then move on. You know you are losing something, and you know the narcissist is taking it, but you still have enough to be angry when he leaves. The covert narcissist moves more slowly, willing to drain completely. Those who have been used by the covert often feel as though nothing is left. They have no energy, no motivation, no ability to move forward with life.

Your heart. That’s what the narcissist wants to take. Loyalty, joy, initiative, personality, energy, and so much more.

Why? Well, that’s next week’s post. But I want to assure you that the narcissist can never win. Tucked away, there is a spark in you that has not been taken. You are still alive and still you. Talk to the Lord about it. Let Him restore you. Begin to walk back to health. Many have found that life after the narcissist can be good again. It might take time, but don’t lose hope. There is a way back to you.

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Book News!

I understand that some people don’t do business with Amazon.  With that in mind, I can purchase and sell the books on my own.  If anyone is interested in purchasing the Narcissism book with free shipping, send me an email.  The price will be $16, and you can pay through the Paypal link.  (If you round up as a donation, be sure to let me know you want the book.)  Yes, that is a penny more than Amazon, but rounding it will help with the math.  Those who use Amazon Prime will get the book for the same (minus one cent) and will get it faster, but those who don’t use Prime or Amazon can get it here.  Obviously, I can’t give free postage outside the US, but I would work with you to find the best deal on shipping.  I also will not be able to handle returns. 

I can offer the same kind of deal with the Walk with Me book, but the price would be an even $20.  Free shipping. 

Processing and shipping will take longer.  I will ship Book Rate and pack it myself.  If I have books on hand, I can send them fairly quickly.  If I have to order more, it will take a couple weeks.  Factor that in. 

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Narcissism in the Church

Of all groups, the church should be the place without narcissism.  We embrace Christian relationships, join Christian organizations, and submit to Christian leadership expecting to be valued and loved.  Instead, too many find the church to be a place where their voice is stifled and their needs are ignored. 

Why?  Sadly, the narcissistic message has infected the church.  Too many churches categorize people according to their usefulness.  Individuals are not valued except as they serve the organization or the leadership.  That message has tainted both personal and organizational relationships.

The book, Narcissism in the Church: A Heart of Stone in Christian Relationships, explains that message and exposes its effect.  It is available as a Kindle e-book or in paperback using the links below. 

Paperback

1793872805

E-book

Narcissism in the Church: A Heart of Stone in Christian Relationships by [Orrison, David]



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