Category Archives: Relationship

About Jesus


(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.


Filed under grace, Legalism, Narcissism, Relationship

Why are You Reading this Blog on Christmas?

(I wrote this nine years ago.  I offer it today as a word of encouragement for those who know the Lord and a word of invitation and love for those who would like to know Him.)

I can’t imagine that anyone would be reading my blog on this day, but maybe something has drawn you here.  Maybe you need to hear that you are loved.

This blog is about the love of God and the activity of God on our behalf.  If you have read anything of mine over the past couple of years, you must have read about the love of God in Jesus for you.  But maybe it has been just too hard to believe.

Please let me share something I rarely talk about here.  The love of God will never be forced on you.  You are free to continue your life just the way it is.  But the love of God for you is real.  There is great mystery in the Christian faith, deep things that are hard to explain and hard to understand, but the simple truth is that God loved you and came to show you that love in the person of Jesus.  I believe with all my heart that the love of God for all of us is in Jesus.

Will you accept the love of God for you?  He calls you to let go of your fears and disappointments, your attempts to compensate for the pain you feel, and your desire to justify yourself before Him and others.  Let it all go and just come to Him.  Tell Him that you need Him and you want Him.  Tell Him that you want Him in your life.  You don’t have to promise Him anything because He is the one who has already done all the promising.  And, if you come to Him, He will fulfill all those promises for you.

You don’t have to become like other Christians.  You don’t have to start going to church.  You don’t have to do anything.  Just receive what He offers.  I believe that He will lead you to others who have come to Him in the same way, but let Him do that.  You can rest in Him.  Don’t try to be perfect.  You can trust the One who is perfect.

Today can be a day of great change.  Today can be the day when you receive the greatest love there is.  Imagine, on Christmas Day, you could begin a walk with Jesus that will last forever.  Just ask Him.

I would be so happy if you would write to me and tell me that you have done this—but you don’t have to.  Nothing is in your way, barring you from Him.  And, yes, I am praying for you.

Oh, and, Merry Christmas!


Filed under grace, heart, Relationship

Why oh why?

It’s Narcissist Friday!     


You sit in your chair staring at the television. It’s off. The room is dark because you don’t want to be in the light right now. No one is around and you are grateful. Your mind and heart are numb, yet racing with thought. Numb thought. That’s about right.

What you did was wrong. It was a foolish decision. Yet, you did it knowingly and willingly. You didn’t stop at the warnings, you just did it. And it felt good. Or did it? There was something in it that felt good, but that numbness was there as well. The laughter and happiness were tempered by the knowledge that regret was coming. You knew you would pay a price.

And maybe this wasn’t the first time. It’s like something builds in you and needs to be released. The release brings pleasure, but also pain. The problem seems to be that the pain is future while the pleasure is present. As long as the pleasure comes first, you long for it. The pain, which seems so real as you sit in your chair staring at the TV, is far enough away to be ignored.

Pastor Jones preaches in favor of marriage and family, but visits the adult bookstore when he goes to the big city. He lives in fear that someone will see him and hates himself later, but rarely misses the stop. Mrs. Smith has a bottle hidden away and seeks comfort in its contents. The last bottle, like the ones before it, was poured down the drain in shame and guilt. But there’s always another. Another few dollars from the register at work, another few “extra” hours on the time card, just one more night together, just a little lie: these seem to take the pressure away—for a while.

Why do we do what we don’t want to do? Why do we keep making these bad decisions? What in the world is going on?

Well, the problem may be old, but the answer isn’t easy. It has to do with how we believe we are accepted or loved. The old saying is that everybody needs to be somebody to somebody. We need affirmation and, to get it, we will do just about anything.

Almost all of us grew up with affirmation that came on the basis of some kind of points. We earned points by doing the right things. We lost points when we did the wrong things. Our culture, whether from the church or family or community, sought to mold us by a system of rewards and punishments. And, for the most part, it appeared to work. We are affirmed when we do well and shamed when we do not.

But inside, where our thoughts and desires live, affirmation comes from feeling important or valued. We want to feel good about ourselves. Yes, that might mean that we want to feel righteous, but it also means we want to feel strong or desirable or rich. We aren’t usually content with feeling acceptable to the community, we want to feel like we are “somebody.” The community affirms us when we conform, when we are not independent and creative. Our hearts affirm us when we express our uniqueness and value.

Most of the vices in life minister to our need to feel special. Alcohol, overspending, porn, drugs, lying, theft—all are there because they promise to meet that need. They may do it through fantasy, but even fantasy feels good for a while. They all have consequences, but the feeling is sometimes worth the price. The vices calls to the needs of our hearts.

Keeping the rules and cultural standards may satisfy the community, but that doesn’t satisfy the heart. The points we gain from “doing right” are not enough. We seem to need more. Points come from the other side as well. The fantasies give us points that feel good. It even makes us feel strong and independent to break the rules. Those points count. They don’t satisfy either, but they seem to give us something.

Once the cycle begins, and it begins early, we go from breaking the rules and scoring the points that make us feel good to keeping the rules and trying to overcome the negatives with points from the good side. So Pastor Jones preaches about faithfulness in marriage, then visits the porn shop, then preaches a stronger message about marriage the next week. He isn’t being simply insincere. He is struggling with these feelings of acceptance. He thinks he can overcome the negative points with more positive ones.

But the more we try to overcome the negatives with positives, the more we feel phony and the less any of the points help us feel good about ourselves. Our goal is to feel good, but those feelings diminish the longer the process goes. The cycle becomes more and more frantic until something happens to break it. It will begin all over again unless we find a way to get away from points altogether. As with any addiction, we have to find a way to break free.

There is a way, but it is contrary to most of what you have been taught and most of what you feel. That way is to accept the love and affirmation of the One who made you. He does love you. It doesn’t matter what you have done. He welcomes you. He values you. He wants you to know that no system of points, either in your culture or your heart, will ever be enough to satisfy your need. His love will be enough.

The message of the Gospel of Jesus is a message of love and acceptance. I know that preachers have made it sound otherwise, but they are as bound up in their system as you have been in yours. The message of the cross is one of sacrificial love for those who neither deserved nor understood it. It allows all of us to get off the point system and accept our acceptance.

Think about what you will give up when you leave the point system behind. No more spiritual comparisons. If there is no need for gaining spiritual points, then no one can be better than another. No more sleepless nights worrying about regrets. You are accepted by the Lord regardless of your past and your mistakes. No more fear of judgment. The One who judges you loves you and has given all to have you with Him. No more fear of failure. Results and accomplishments are in the hands of the Lord who loves you. On and on. The things you give up by leaving the points behind are the things that have hurt you so much.

I understand that this post is long and may seem convoluted. Let me summarize by saying that we tend to gravitate to that which promises to make us feel good—and those feelings come from both sides of the moral system. There is a better way. When you get up in the morning, remind yourself that the Lord loves you. Let yourself feel accepted and valued by Him. Throughout the day, seek His presence and remember His love. At the end of the day, thank Him for loving you. Then accept the rest He gives. Is it that simple? Yes, I believe it is.


Filed under grace, Grace definition, heart, Narcissism, Relationship

Protecting Yourself

It’s Narcissist Friday!   


Okay, so I know that I have stumbled into narcissistic relationships and have suffered for it.  How do I avoid this in the future?  Is there a way to protect myself from narcissists?


Good and strong people still find themselves to be the targets of narcissistic manipulation and/or rage from time to time, but there may be a way to keep your relationships narcissist-free.  So while narcissists may attack you or try to use you, you may be able to protect yourself against the soul-eating relationships you have suffered before.  In fact, you may also be able to make yourself less susceptible to narcissistic manipulation in the relationships you have now.

The key is identity.  Who are you?  Are you willing to find security and strength in who you are?

You see, in our minds (and in the minds of others), we suffer from identity confusion.  I am not who I was, but I also am not who I would like to be.  Yet some people see themselves only in the light of who they used to be.  Some people constantly compare themselves with who they want to be.

When we look at others, we often don’t see who they are.  We see who they were or who they could be, in our minds.  Or, perhaps, we see what we want them to be for us.

So the young lady (who sees herself as who she used to be and believes she will never be what she would like to be) meets a young man who sees in her what he wants her to be.  At the same time, he feels the same way about himself as she feels about herself, and she looks to him as someone to help her become who she wants to be.  And this we would probably consider a normal relationship.  No wonder relationships are so often confusing.

When the narcissist, who sees no one as a real person, looks on that same young lady, he only sees his own needs and views her as a way to meet those needs.  He doesn’t care who she really is or what she would like to be.  He only cares about what he needs.  He will either use her at the time or manipulate her into becoming something that will meet his needs.  She, on the other hand, won’t understand what he is doing.  She will only see her own inadequacies and believe that changes are somehow right or important.  If he is successful, he will mold her into what she never was and never should have been.  She will feel like her world has become somehow unreal, not right.

All of this is about identity.  Narcissists will not be interested in those who are secure in who they are.  The problem is that so few people know who they are.  All our lives we have been told that we are not good enough, that we are failures, and that we should try harder to be something else.  That makes us weak and vulnerable.  We believe the assessment of the users and abusers.  We see ourselves as inadequate, so we are submissive, weak, and culpable.  We believe we deserve the abuse, because we see ourselves in this negative light.

One thing I have noticed over the years as I have written and taught about narcissism is the quality of the victims.  Almost without exception, the people who write to me or talk with me are articulate and strong.  But they don’t see themselves that way.  I have been impressed many times at the excellent writing in the emails I receive.  I have been impressed at the amount of work some have done in these relationships.  I have also been impressed at the intelligence of those who write.  But so very few think of themselves as superior or even normal.

The narcissist sees an opening when we view ourselves as inadequate or damaged.  Sadly, that’s what the church has taught people.  Every Sunday some people go to church and hear how bad they are.  They don’t want to be bad, and they try to do right, but they come back the next week and are told the same thing.  When they meet the narcissist, they have been prepared.  They already think of themselves as weak and inadequate.  They compare poorly against others.  They are already compromised.  So it shouldn’t surprise us that narcissists operate effectively in churches.

But we should strongly object to that.  The church has a message of love and acceptance that people would be challenged to find anywhere else.  Christians should be the most secure and peaceful people in the world.  We have already been accepted and loved and valued by the One whose judgment matters more than any other.  Our inadequacies simply prove that we need the Savior we have.  There is no shame in our failures or weaknesses.  The Lord’s compassion lifts us up when we fall, and no one’s mocking or condemning can bring us down again.  No can take away what He has given us.  We did not deserve His love, and we will not keep it by our goodness.  The peace we have comes from who He is.  That’s what makes us who we are.

You see, narcissists depend on our needs, our fears, and our vulnerability.  If we come into the relationship, whether it is at work, at church, or dating, content in who we are, the narcissist has nothing to use against us.  Emotional and spiritual health lie in an accurate and confident understanding of who we are.

Let’s look back at that young couple.  When she goes on a date with him, he tells her she looks nice, and she feels good.  On the second date, she wears a different dress.  He tells her he liked the first dress more.  On the third date, she fixes her hair differently.  He is unhappy with the change.  What should she do?  If she comes into the relationship unsure of herself, already feeling inadequate, she may want to change things to please him.  If she made her choices confident in who she is and what she likes, she may realize that he is trying to manipulate her.  She should tell him that she wore the dress she wanted to wear, and that she likes the new hair style.  That should be enough for him.  If it isn’t, she should let him go.  If she is strong enough to stand for herself, he will probably want to go.

Is that too blunt?  I don’t think so.  Narcissistic relationships often begin this process of changing and molding the victim’s identity early.  Those who are confident in who they are will recognize the subtle attempts at control and will not be as attractive to the narcissist.

A couple years ago I wrote a series of posts to help believers understand the truth about themselves in Christ.  I called the series “Words of Grace.”  You may want to check this out.  It starts here:



Filed under Narcissism, Relationship

Narcissist-resistant Environments

It’s Narcissist Friday!   


Last week I wrote about how narcissists adapt their environment to fit their needs. For the most part, narcissists are opportunistic, taking advantage of existing conditions.  In other words, the environments they create around themselves were already open to their influence in some way.

It should follow that the rest of us could create an environment where narcissists would fear to tread. Could we build our families, organizations, churches, even friendships to prevent the narcissists from entering in?

Well, this is another topic that should be sufficient to fill a good book.  In fact, Jeff VanVonderen’s book, “Families Where Grace Is in Place,” might be a good suggestion for parents.  I am sure there are other books that might talk about healthy relationships in churches.

So let’s consider an ideal.  There’s nothing wrong with seeking the ideal, as long as we understand that we may not accomplish it.  Trying will bring us closer than not trying.  We also understand that it is more difficult to repair a broken structure than to begin fresh and right.  The following thoughts should apply for any of the relationships we talk about here (family, marriage, work, friendships, church, organizations, etc.)

Narcissism seems to thrive in a culture of performance.  When love and acceptance are given on the basis of performance, people suffer from insecurity.  No one knows if they have done enough or if they will do enough tomorrow.  When people are on edge, weakened by anxiety and fear, the way is easier for the predators.  Comparisons and competition give the narcissists opening for control.

It isn’t that narcissists are good performers.  They are rarely good parents or friends or co-workers.  Narcissists are usually not good at their jobs.  But they have an amazing ability to make others see them as good performers.  Narcissists take credit for work others do, they use others to get their work done, and they offer excuses when they fail.  But somehow they appear to be superior to others. If you have ever been on a team with a narcissist, you will remember how the narcissist was able to take credit for the team’s work.  You may also remember how the narcissist wasn’t able to make the meetings or the workdays or spent the time “managing” rather than doing anything useful.  Yet, somehow, the narcissist came out on top when everything was finished.  In a culture of performance, the narcissist will succeed.

Families where acceptance is based on performance, where love is a reward for work well done, will likely raise narcissists.  Some parents create competition between children, where those who “do well” are viewed as superior or more valued than the others.  Narcissists do not learn how to do well in this environment; they learn how to compete and how to make others view them in the best light.

Churches where spirituality is measured by certain qualities or quantities of performance will attract narcissists.  They will find their way into positions of leadership and power because others will see them as spiritually superior.  No, they will not be superior and may not even meet the minimum levels of performance, but others will still see them that way, and they will succeed.

Friendships based on performance may be doomed from the start.  When people remember who gave what gift and measure their reciprocation based on the perceived value of the gift, the narcissist will win.  When time or service or energy is the measure of the friendship, the narcissist will win.  No, not by superior performance, but by manipulating the relationship so that the other is always on the defensive.  When the narcissist gives a gift, for example, the reciprocated gift will never be enough, never be equal in value.  When the narcissist performs a service, the reciprocated service will never be sufficient.  Those who find themselves in that kind of friendship will always lose.

Even at work, where performance often reigns, competition and comparisons among co-workers encourage and enable the narcissist.  Some bosses keep their employees on edge, wondering about their jobs or rewards, worried about being accepted.  Narcissists are notoriously bad employees, but some bosses never see the truth because the narcissists are so good at manipulating the competition.

So how could we create an environment where the narcissist would find no opening, no welcome?  One way would be to end any form of acceptance or love based on performance.  Children who know they are loved, even when they do poorly or wrong, will probably never grow up to be narcissists.  Friends who are valued for who they are, rather than what they do, will support each other in ways narcissists would never find comfortable.  Employers who value their people and avoid competition among their employees, may find that a coherent and supportive team will achieve far more, and the false accomplishments of the narcissist will be revealed.

And churches/pastors who understand the love God has for each person, regardless of sin or performance, and who teach that to their people, will provide an atmosphere of support and acceptance the narcissist will find revolting.  The true message of the gospel is not about our performance, but about His love.  Because we are all dependent on His work and His love, rather than on our performance, there is no way for one to be superior to another.  When the highest leader is, at best, a servant of all, there is no power or prestige for the narcissist to covet.

This topic is far larger than one post can handle, so we will come back to it.  Yes, I believe it is possible to consider a narcissist-proof culture.  We may not achieve it, but we can move toward it.


On this humbling day we call Good Friday, I leave you with words that speak of God’s heart, words that encourage a new culture in our relationships.
Dear friends, we should love each other, because love comes from God. Everyone who loves has become God’s child and knows God. Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love. This is how God showed his love to us: He sent his one and only Son into the world so that we could have life through him.
This is what real love is: It is not our love for God; it is God
’s love for us in sending his Son to be the way to take away our sins. 1 John 4:7-10 (NCV)



Filed under Narcissism, Relationship

Do Narcissists Hate?

It’s Narcissist Friday!   


(I am aware that this blog continually attracts new readers.  With somewhere around two hundred posts on narcissism and narcissistic relationships, it can be challenging for anyone to really use this material.  The search function works very well, if you know what to ask for.  Otherwise, we will all have to wait as the blog posts are sorted and categorized in preparation for a new (and exciting!) website.  So for the next few weeks, I want to dig back into the archives to pull out some of the posts that seemed most helpful over the last few years.  Please feel free to comment.)



One of the most puzzling aspects of narcissism for those who have to deal with narcissists is the strong negative feelings that seem to come almost out of nowhere.  Here’s a sample scenario:

At an office party with his wife…

Narcissist – Hi, Bob!  Good to see you!  How are things going after the accident?

Bob –  Great!  I should be back at work soon.

N – Good, because we have sure missed having you around.  It doesn’t run the same without you there.

Bob –  Thanks for saying that.  I really appreciate it.  (Bob walks away feeling good.)

After Bob leaves, N turns to his wife – I wish that guy would have been killed in that accident.  What a pain he is!  I could handle the office just fine without him around.

So, how can N just turn from seeming to be sincere in his kind words to Bob to such strong negative words to his wife?  Sometimes N does the same thing to his wife.  He praises her for something and then says something incredibly hurtful and cruel.  How does he switch so easily?

Part of the answer lies in how N sees people.  We have said before that, to the narcissist, people are either the means to an end (tools or toys) or obstacles in the way.  People are to be used.  If they are not useful, they are not important.  Those who appear to be friends or family or even lovers are still in the process of being used.  When they become less useful, they can be discarded.  If they are difficult to discard, they are seen as obstacles.

Extremely narcissistic people sometimes kill the obstacles in their lives, often with no more remorse than any of the rest of us would have from changing to a new grocery or throwing out a dying plant.  You have seen this on the news.  Narcissists have killed used lovers, unwanted children, even competitors.

Hatred, in its most basic sense, is being able to depersonalize others.  Whether through prejudice and bigotry or through an over-emphasized view of competition, the other person is seen as something other than a real person who has a right to live and be happy.  If the other is not a person, then there does not need to be any regard for feelings or rights or even life.

Perhaps the reason we think the narcissist loves himself so much is simply because of his surprising hatred for anyone else.  It is very difficult for the rest of us to think in his terms.  We may have people we don’t like and we may act in our own interests to the neglect of others, but for almost all of us there is an understanding that others are real and have value.


Filed under Narcissism, Relationship

I see you!

 It’s Narcissist Friday!  

(I am aware that this blog continually attracts new readers.  With somewhere around two hundred posts on narcissism and narcissistic relationships, it can be challenging for anyone to really use this material.  The search function works very well, if you know what to ask for.  Otherwise, we will all have to wait as the blog posts are sorted and categorized in preparation for a new (and exciting!) website.  So for the next few weeks, I want to dig back into the archives to pull out some of the posts that seemed most helpful over the last few years.  Please feel free to comment.)



Okay, I may be the last person in the US to watch the Avatar movie.  I watched it last week.  No particular comments on the movie.  But there was one thing that stood out and I think I will remember for a long time.  When the people wanted to communicate real connection, they said, “I see you.”

A couple of weeks ago I had an encounter with one of the narcissists in my life.  I have to limit the details because I don’t even want to come close to identifying him.  I was visiting with two friends when the narcissist came up to me (most likely to see why I was there—this was his turf).  He put his hand on my shoulder and I turned and we exchanged greetings.  So far, so good.  It lasted about a minute.  After very brief conversation, he began to berate the two friends with whom I had been speaking.  He spoke so negatively about them that I was afraid of what they would think.  Apparently they were (or pretended to be) in conversation themselves and didn’t hear what he said.

Now, the narcissist couldn’t have missed the fact that someone was standing with me.  He should have known them by name and position.  The only thing I can figure out is that he simply didn’t see them as anything important to him at the moment.  After his statements, he looked up at the clock and said that it was slow.  Then he walked away without a further word to me.

So, what happened?  He didn’t see them; at least not in the sense the Avatar movie uses the phrase.  Because his mind was on what he was saying, because he was positioning and preening, because he didn’t know if I was still a threat to him, he didn’t pay any attention to the people standing nearest to him.  He sent the same message to me when he walked away without finishing the conversation.  Once his little purpose was over, he moved on to the next opportunity to make himself look important.

You say, Dave, didn’t you try to defend your friends?  Didn’t you try to fix the situation?  Nope.  As I often am around narcissists, I was dumbfounded.  What had happened was so far from anything I saw as normal that it took me a few moments to understand it.  By that time, the opportunity had passed.

This is what the narcissist is like.  Others are not important until they are important to him.  He simply doesn’t see them.



Filed under Narcissism, Relationship, Uncategorized

Narcissism, Egotism, and Egoism

It’s Narcissist Friday!

(I am aware that this blog continually attracts new readers.  With somewhere around two hundred posts on narcissism and narcissistic relationships, it can be challenging for anyone to really use this material.  The search function works very well, if you know what to ask for.  Otherwise, we will all have to wait as the blog posts are sorted and categorized in preparation for a new (and exciting!) website.  So for the next few weeks, I want to dig back into the archives to pull out some of the posts that seemed most helpful over the last few years.  Please feel free to comment.)

I am about to finish “The Mirror Effect” by Dr. Drew Pinsky.  This book and “The Narcissism Epidemic” by Twenge and Campbell present a culture that is increasingly focused on the antics and philosophies of self-centered people.  Both books have something important to say, if for no other reason than to present the reality of the lives of the people Hollywood seems to find entertaining.  But, in my opinion, both books somewhat misrepresent narcissism and get it mixed up with a couple of other concepts.

The first is egotism.  Egotism is defined as excessively talking about oneself.  It reminds me of the country song, “I Wanna Talk About Me” by Toby Keith.  Egotists are focused on themselves and can hardly take the time to listen or care about others.  Now, I think someone taught them that this was the way life was.  The children of Hollywood often learn that they are the center of attention wherever they go.  People watch to see what hair style they choose, what clothes they wear, or what music they enjoy.  They are surrounded by admirers and sycophants all their lives.  Add to that the drug culture and the suggestion that drug use causes a stoppage of emotional growth at whatever age it begins and you have Martin Sheen saying that his son, Charlie, is still emotionally a child.  Children are supposed to grow out of egotism and into community.  In our culture, many do not.

Not all egotists are in Hollywood, but most are simply what we used to call spoiled children.  They need to be taught that life isn’t centered on them, no one really cares about their bodily functions, and the world doesn’t owe them either financial or psychological care.  If it wasn’t politically incorrect, I would suggest that many of them simply need a good spanking and an introduction to the real world.

The second word is very similar—egoism.  Egoism (note the loss of the letter “t”) is a philosophy that believes all personal action is fundamentally from self-interest.  Egoists believe that self-interest is the only valid reason for anyone doing anything.  So, according to this philosophy, those who go to war voluntarily do so for selfish reasons.  They may want recognition and are willing to take the risk or they may see a significant positive even in some kind of martyrdom.  Those who give generously to causes would have expectations of some kind of payback.  Those who are kind actually serve themselves.

Egoists have determined their philosophy after a certain jaded look at the world around them.  They see kindness and sacrifice and notice that many of those who do these things have self-interests.  They conclude that self-interest is the primary cause of all such actions and they accept that conclusion as valid.  A change of thinking may be as simple as meeting someone who actually knows how to love.

But narcissism is something quite different.  The narcissist is afraid and is driven to control, to manipulate, to abuse others, by his fear.  Whereas the egotist barely has any idea that there could be something about him that you would dislike, the narcissist is convinced that you would reject him completely if he ever let you close enough to know the truth.  The narcissist needs more than constant attention, he needs constant approval, and he will do almost anything to get it.

Of course, there are overlaps in these definitions.  The egotist may well be betraying a core of narcissistic need.  The narcissist would be the epitome, the ideal, of some form of egoism.  But it is generally helpful to remember that there are distinctions between the concepts.



Filed under Narcissism, Relationship

Overt and Covert

It’s Narcissist Friday!

(I am aware that this blog continually attracts new readers.  With somewhere around two hundred posts on narcissism and narcissistic relationships, it can be challenging for anyone to really use this material.  The search function works very well, if you know what to ask for.  Otherwise, we will all have to wait as the blog posts are sorted and categorized in preparation for a new (and exciting!) website.  So for the next few weeks, I want to dig back into the archives to pull out some of the posts that seemed most helpful over the last few years.  Please feel free to comment.)

Think about the people you know.  Some of them are what could be called loud people.  Others are quiet.  Some are outgoing, vivacious, gregarious, etc.  Some are inhibited, shy, withdrawn.  This doesn’t change just because someone is a narcissist.

It is easy to stereotype the narcissist as someone who must always be the loud center of attention.  But many narcissists have learned to avoid the limelight.  They control and dominate from behind the scenes.  In fact, you may not recognize this person as narcissistic at all.

Eleanor D. Payson has written about this difference in her book, “The Wizard of Oz and Other Narcissists.”  She differentiates between “overt” and “covert” narcissists.  The overt narcissist is what we have come to expect.  The powerbroker, the man in front of the camera, the mother-in-law who comes to your home and takes over.  The overt narcissist will come into your office space, sit on your desk, and dig through your papers.

The covert narcissist still wants to be in control but does so by “helping.”  Sometimes these folks offer to help with projects.  The only problem is that they end up taking over.  They work, or at least they motivate you to work harder, and they get things done.  But you feel stupid in the process.  When the project is done, it cost more than you had planned and it doesn’t look quite the way you had wanted it to.  But your “helper” assures you that this will be much better.  Your way just wasn’t good enough.  The covert narcissist will come into your office space to clean your desk and sort your papers.

This is the mother-in-law who comes to visit with her rubber gloves and cleaning supplies.  You find yourself angry and wishing she hadn’t come at all, when you are supposed to be grateful.  In the church, these people serve on committees and take jobs no one else will take.  It will be very clear that they are making a sacrifice to help you and you will be expected to praise them and honor them.  Never mind that they can’t seem to stay in budget or they alienate everyone else on the committee.  Never mind that the Missions Committee is now somehow responsible for setting the pastor’s salary and deciding what color to paint the outside of the church.

In all of this we have to understand that the goal of the narcissist is to look good and to feel good about himself.  It isn’t about you.  You feel like you are always being put down, but the truth is that the narcissist doesn’t really see you at all.  When Mom comes to clean, she just wants you to understand that she is really that good.  Aren’t you lucky you have her?

Interestingly, Payson suggests that covert narcissists often find their way to become a “doctor, therapist, minister, or missionary.” (p. 27)  These are all areas of service where one can appear to be helping while satisfying a need for control and favorable comparisons.


Filed under Narcissism, Relationship

Safe People

It’s Narcissist Friday!     

(I am aware that this blog continually attracts new readers.  With somewhere around two hundred posts on narcissism and narcissistic relationships, it can be challenging for anyone to really use this material.  The search function works very well, if you know what to ask for.  Otherwise, we will all have to wait as the blog posts are sorted and categorized in preparation for a new (and exciting!) website.  So for the next few weeks, I want to dig back into the archives to pull out some of the posts that seemed most helpful over the last few years.  Please feel free to comment.)


A good friend wrote to me personally about my last blog post.  The main thing I want to share here is his suggestion that those who must deal with narcissists should “spend lots of time with safe people in your life.”  What a great thing to remember!

Safe people?  Who are they?  Some reading this will have difficulty thinking of anyone, or at least anyone they can spend real time with.  Part of the problem many of us have suffered is making the assumption someone is safe only to find out later that the person used us or came back at us with an attack.  Some of the people in whom we have trusted most have betrayed us most hurtfully.  Self-protection dictates that we are very narrow in our definition of “safe.”

So let’s define safe people with some “off the top of the head” statements.  See if you agree.

  1. A safe person is someone without a vested interest in the outcome, other than your welfare and happiness.
  2. A safe person is someone who is willing to let you make a mistake, even though he or she has shared concerns.
  3. A safe person is someone whom you respect, but for whom you don’t have to measure up.
  4. A safe person is someone who won’t remind you of things you have said or done just to manipulate you to do things his or her way.
  5. A safe person doesn’t care about your situation as much as he or she cares about you.
  6. A safe person is one who will tell you when they think you are full of %$#& and expect you to do the same for them someday.
  7. A safe person is willing for you to share what you want when you want; and you still enjoy time with each other no matter what has been shared.
  8. A safe person is someone who affirms you without using that affirmation to manipulate you.
  9. A safe person isn’t perfect and doesn’t expect you to be.

So could a family member be safe?  Of course!  In fact, you might find that he or she has been waiting for you to come.  Could a non-Christian be safe?  Sure, as long as you remember that there is a difference between you and there are limitations to your connection.  Could someone of the opposite gender be safe?  Yes, but the risks are obvious and serious.  Actually you might be surprised at the person the Lord will use to help you.  In fact, a safe person may already be near.

Where would you go to find such a person?  Well, I would love to tell you to go to church and I believe that there are probably safe people there, but I know that church is part of the problem for many believers.  So, perhaps an interest-based group from another church or an exercise group or school group.  There are people who would love to have a friend who would care and would reciprocate in safe ways.

My suggestion is that you ask Jesus to send you someone.  Keep your guard up.  If this person is safe he or she will understand.  Share only what you are led to share.  Trust Jesus only, but let Him lead you to safe people.

And listen—if you blow it, don’t worry.  The Lord knows the need of your heart.  He knows both your desire for a safe person and your fear.  When you are betrayed or hurt, go to Him.  He is always safe.

Would love to read your comments!


Filed under Legalism, Narcissism, Relationship