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The Changed Narcissist pt. 3

It’s Narcissist Friday!     

 

Is it possible?

I was recently accused of teaching that narcissists never change, that change is impossible. I know many people believe this to be true, but I do not. Instead, I have taught that narcissists rarely change—because they don’t think anything is wrong with them.

There are several factors in determining whether a particular person can change his or her narcissistic behavior. We have to acknowledge that there is a spectrum of this abusive behavior. We also have to acknowledge that we use the term “narcissist” in a popular sense, rather than as a professional diagnosis. I don’ t know if someone who is diagnosed as a narcissist by a psychologist is capable of real change. Some, like Wendy Behary, claim to have success working with these folks. I am not a credentialed psychological professional, and I do not work with diagnosed narcissists. Here we talk about those users and manipulators more popularly called narcissists.

We also have to distinguish between the behavior of the narcissist and the heart of the narcissist. I don’t know if the narcissist can change his/her heart. It may be possible, with sufficient motivation. Yet, since narcissists value others and relationships so lowly, I would be hard-pressed to know what that sufficient motivation would be. (There is a way to change the heart, of course, and I write about that below.)

I do know that narcissists can change their behavior. As I have said before, they do it all the time. With motivation, they can stop abusing. Good counselors can help them learn to live kindly with others. They may even learn not to be afraid of losing whatever they are protecting. If they can learn not to hurt others, and if those others have relatively low expectations for heart connections, then I would think narcissists could change sufficiently to restore relationships.

We forget that many marriages of the past were functional relationships. Today we seem to think that marriage partners should always be “in love,” meaning romantically infatuated. Not only was that not a requirement for most of history, it is not necessarily the primary goal for marriage today. With children and property and work involved, a good marriage can just be one where the couple gets along as good friends. No, I am not suggesting that should be enough for everyone, but I am saying that can be a satisfying and legitimate relationship for some. So changing from narcissistic behavior to kind and cooperative behavior might work for some relationships. I do think many of those we think of as narcissists could make that change if they wanted.

But to love? That’s the real question. Could the narcissist learn to love? If narcissists have difficulty in relationships because they don’t know how to love, or are unable, then how could that change? It would take a new heart.

I only know one way to get a new heart.

 

I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit within you; I will take the heart of stone out of your flesh and give you a heart of flesh. Ezekiel 36:26

 

There is a way to get a heart that feels and cares. There is a way to get a living heart that is able to connect with others. A new heart that both receives and gives love. That heart comes from Jesus. That heart comes when His life is exchanged for yours.
I know that we all wonder if a narcissist can be a Christian. One of my favorite passages of Scripture directly addresses this.

 

Do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived. Neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor homosexuals, nor sodomites, nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners will inherit the kingdom of God.
And such were some of you. But you were washed, but you were sanctified, but you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus and by the Spirit of our God.
1 Corinthians 6:9-11

 

So, no narcissist could be a Christian. If someone was a narcissist and came to Jesus for salvation, that person is no longer a narcissist. He/she may act like a narcissist, but the identity has been washed away and victory is possible. The behavior may remain, just as much of our old behavior continued after conversion, but that behavior can be changed. Narcissists can learn not to do what narcissists do, just like thieves can learn not to do what thieves do—and be free of the evil motivations—because of the new heart in Jesus.

I cannot say whether your narcissist is a Christian. All I can say is that a real Christian is both able and motivated to change. I can also say that no heart change is possible without Jesus. If your narcissist has never truly submitted to Jesus, come to Him for new life, then the best that can happen is some changed behavior. So, when a narcissist contacts me, that’s where we go. I place the challenges of changed behavior and heart motivation before them and invite them to new life in Jesus.

To summarize: a narcissist can change some behavior, but not his/her heart. Only Jesus can change the heart.

 

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Unconditional Love

It’s Narcissist Friday!   

(The following was posted a few years ago, but it seemed important to share it again.  I pray for all of you at this special time of the year.)

 

For Christians, Good Friday reminds us of the day Jesus went to the cross for us. We who were sinners, broken and hurting others in our brokenness, needed something more than we could ever get for ourselves. Although we needed a change of thinking, we needed more than new ideas. Although we needed forgiveness, we needed more than just cleansing from our sin. We needed new life.

When Jesus came, He came to give us life. The primary message of the passion is the message of the cost of that life. Jesus suffered, bled, and died to give us life.  His life.  Life in relationship with Him.

Thinking Christians are aware of the great love our Lord has for us. We are only able to come into His presence, to seek what we need, because of that love. That love makes all the difference. We who deserve nothing from the Almighty God, receive everything because of that love. No matter what we have done, He loves us. No matter what we are doing or will do, He still loves us. That kind of love humbles us.

Then we look at the people around us and we are impressed that we, who have received such love, ought to love them. Even the most difficult people in our lives. Even the narcissists. And then we feel guilty.

Fairly often someone asks me how to love a narcissist. I flippantly answer, “From a distance!” I am not being facetious, though. Sometimes the only way to keep loving is to keep that distance.

So how do we, as Christians, love the narcissists? How do we show them the kind of love Jesus showed us?

 

Some thoughts:

1. You are not Jesus. You will never be able to give the narcissist what he/she needs. Your love will never be enough.  The best you can do is bring the narcissist to Jesus for His love.  But even that result is not in your hands.

2. Love does not always demand your presence. I am impressed with how often Jesus withdrew from the people. He was human and needed rest and space. (Luke 5:16) He took care of Himself. How can you get by with less?

3. Jesus did not entrust Himself to the people. (John 2:24) That means that He did not allow them to command His time and energy or to decide His purpose.  He did not allow them to define Him.  Narcissists are driven to control. You don’t have to let them control you.

4. Jesus knew the truth and spoke the truth about people. (John 8:44) He said hard things that people did not want to hear. Then He allowed them to accept or reject His words.  He knew that some people lied when they expressed their affection for or interest in Him.  He knew they just wanted to use Him.

5. Jesus understood that there was a time to walk away. (Mark 6:11) Those who did not want a relationship with Him were free to go their way without Him.  Let Him lead you to know when that time will be. It may be that He tells you to stay longer, and He may give you freedom to leave.

 

Now, my point with all of this is to say that the One who is love most amazing, who loves most generously, who gives and serves most sacrificially—even He allowed limits. There was nothing He would not do for them, but only if it would truly help them. He didn’t walk around giving money to everyone or even healing everyone.  He reached out to those who wanted what He offered.  He would forgive them, empower them, set them free—if they wanted. If they didn’t want it, He would respect them and Himself enough to walk away. And, all the while, He was loving them.

When we talk about unconditional love, we often think that means putting up with anything no matter what the outcome. But when it becomes clear that it is not helping for us to continue and that the person we are trying to love is not willing to receive what we offer, then there comes a time to walk away. And, even then, we can love them. We can continue to pray for them, to bring them to Jesus. We can do that from a distance. We can be safe and productive and never see the person—and still love them. But we don’t have to continue to put up with their abuse.

Narcissists may say they want a relationship with you, but they only want someone to serve them.  They need people to use.  Allowing them to use you is not love.  They want your service, loyalty, and energy–not your love.  Your love offers relationship.

It is not love that moves a person to become passive and victimized in a relationship. Love means offering something of yourself to another. If you have no more to give, or if what you give is never enough, perhaps the problem is not yours. Perhaps what keeps you in the abusive relationship is guilt or shame or fear or desire, but it isn’t love.  Duty is not love.

Over the past few years I have worked to respond to a movement in the culture that says God saves people even when they don’t want Him to. There are teachers who say that God will somehow, someday, make everyone respond to His love. But that is not love. That is control.

The One who went to the cross for you and me, offers His love freely and allows us to accept or reject what He wants to give. The truth reminds me of a t-shirt I once saw: “Not all sinners want to be forgiven.” And there it is. Jesus offers forgiveness in a relationship. Those who want the life He offers, will find the forgiveness that comes with it.  There is no end to the love of God and no limit other than respect, respect for the will of those who want no part of relationship.

Sometimes people just want to take your time, money, loyalty, service, and anything else they can get. They don’t want your love, your life. They just want to use you. They don’t want a relationship with you as a person. Love is relationship. Love is sharing. That’s what Jesus offers to all of us. That’s what you offer to the narcissist. But when it is clear that the one to whom love is offered really doesn’t want it, it may be time to move on.

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A New Book!

Since the Friday post actually went out on Wednesday, to help us pray for each other as we face the holidays, I want to use this space for a special announcement.

 

Walk with Me, a grace devotional, has been published on Amazon!

 

30 daily readings to encourage you in your relationship with the Lord who loves you.  These simple, but powerful, readings will reset your thinking about God.  They will show you His love and your only responsibility: to accept and live in His love.

What a great way to begin the New Year!  Many will want to read and re-read these devotionals to help find their way back to God again.  Others will find them to be a quiet place of reassurance as the world spins crazily around them.

Until mid-January, you can buy the e-book for only $4.99 by clicking the link below (the price will go up around January 15).  It has been published as a Kindle ebook, but those who don’t use Kindle readers can download the Kindle app for free to use on their PCs, Android, or Apple products.  (If you cannot or don’t want to use Kindle, I will send you a PDF version for $10.)

The printed book is also available on Amazon for $16.59.  That price is set according to Amazon’s minimum for printing because of the color photos throughout the book.   It’s a little late to think of it as a Christmas gift, but the paperback is something you could give any time to someone who needs a kind word of faith.

You should know that I do not address narcissism in this book.  Instead, the purpose is to build your identity and assurance in Christ, so that you are able to stand in Him against all opposition.  Knowing who you are and how much He loves and accepts you gives you strength.

I have copied an excerpt below, and here are the links for purchasing:

 

 

 

“Take a walk with me.  Let me show you a reality you may not have expected.  Prepare yourself to experience something new, something that will lift your heart. Life is not barren or regimented, especially in relationship with the Lord.  You know what your heart needs.  You need a friend.  You need someone who truly cares about you.  Wouldn’t it be great to know someone who is good and right, but not uptight and judgmental?  Someone who will understand you and your dreams and not put you down?  You need to meet the real Jesus.

I want to show you a Jesus who laughs, who loves children, who wants you to succeed.  This is the Jesus of the Bible.  This is the Jesus who went to the cross with joy—because He knew it was the way to you.  This is the Jesus who doesn’t think of sin when He sees you.  God in human flesh, come to set His people free.

I want to teach you about grace.  Not “book grace” or “theological grace,” but the grace found in a Person who can do anything and has done everything you and I will ever need.  You see, I have come to understand that the love of God toward us is so great it could not be expressed strongly enough in words or ideas.  The love of God became a Person.  The deepest mystery of our faith is the amazing fact that the Lord God Almighty took on humanity and gave Himself for us.  There is no story that touches the sensitive area of the heart like the true story of the love of God for us.  Your heart needs a real connection with the real and living God.  Jesus is God’s grace for your heart!”      (Excerpt from pp.3-4 of Walk with Me by David Orrison)

May God richly bless you and yours!  

Dave  

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Christmas Prayers

It’s Narcissist Friday Wednesday!     

(This post ran last year and many were encouraged to know that others would be praying.  Let’s keep a good thing going!)

 

I have written a couple of Christmas posts on dealing with the narcissists in the past. They usually meet with mixed reviews because some who have reached the point of anger (a very natural point!) don’t like my suggestions on trying to get along. I understand and value the objections just as much as the words of appreciation. I will provide links to those posts at the end of this post.

This year I would simply like to assure each of you who have to deal with uncomfortable situations with your narcissist that there are people praying for you. I am also going to post this on Wednesday, so you will know ahead of your visit.

If we have learned anything here, it’s that many people are struggling in narcissistic relationships. That means you are not alone. I know you may have to physically be alone in your situation, but there are people here who believe you and care. We will be praying for you.

To make that a little more personal, I invite those who desire prayer to write a note in the comments. You don’t have to write a lot, just “Pray for me!” If you use a pseudonym, that’s okay. The Lord knows who you are and what you are going through. And if you are able to pray, maybe just once or twice over the weekend, write a comment that says, “I will be praying for you!” Just a general comment, not in answer to a particular request. It will be a wonderful word of encouragement.

So, again, here’s the plan:

 

If you need prayer, write – Pray for me!

If you can pray, write – I will be praying!

 

If you are uncomfortable asking for prayer, please know that we will still be praying for you.  Even if no one asks, we know that many will need help.  So we will pray anyway.  For you.

Know that you are loved!

 

https://graceformyheart.wordpress.com/2014/12/19/what-will-he-or-she-do-this-christmas/

https://graceformyheart.wordpress.com/2013/12/20/the-narcissist-at-christmas/

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Thanks!

It’s Narcissist Friday! (Almost)     

Each week in our little church we pause to give folks an opportunity to share the things they are thankful for. So often an answer has come to prayers, or an unexpected blessing has happened, or someone just wants to express gratitude for a regular thing we usually take for granted. It is a happy time.

When I counsel people I hear them apologize for talking about their pain all the time. They think they should be looking at the good things in their lives instead of the struggle. But I usually just say that it is hard to think about how good your arm feels when your leg is hurting. The purpose of pain is to focus our attention on something that isn’t right. So we shouldn’t be surprised or ashamed when it works.

But when pain is ongoing, when it is chronic rather than acute, we have to do more than learn to live with it. We have to find ways to overcome it. That’s when being thankful is so important. Being thankful, counting our blessings, changes our focus. We tell our pain to step aside while we remember the good things. The pain might not go away, but it seems to back down for a while.

So, for those in ongoing narcissistic relationships, where the pain continues, I encourage you to take a moment to look away from the struggle. Don’t worry, it will be there when you get back. But you need some time away, don’t you? You get a little time away—in your heart—whenever you stop to give thanks.

There are people in your life who are not narcissists. Give thanks for them. There are places you can go without the narcissist. Give thanks for those places. There are minutes in your day without the narcissist. Give thanks for those minutes. There are people who believe you. Give thanks for them. There are people who would believe you if you told your story. Give thanks for them. There are people who love and are kind even though they know little about you. Give thanks for them.

And there is a God who loves you and never leaves you. He sees everything. He has helped you to be strong. He has walked with you through the valleys. He gives you hope and promise. He accepts you and welcomes you into His presence. He cares for the victims and repays the abusers. He is a God of justice and love.

I understand that words like these can feel empty when you are in the midst of your pain. But there will be a time when you can stop to give thanks. When that time comes, enjoy it like a vacation. Let the love of friends and Jesus flow over you like the warm sunshine. Let the good memories bring light into the darkness that has surrounded your heart. Let hope give you strength.

The day of Thanksgiving is always most poignant in times of suffering and worry. To stop and smell the roses, count your blessings, or live in the light is always refreshing for our souls. There is much that is good in our lives, even though it is hard to see those things when we are hurting. It’s just that the pain does go away a little when we remember the good things.

Giving thanks is far more than a duty. Giving thanks is a blessing from God in itself. Those who are able to give thanks find themselves, at least for a moment, in a place of freedom and peace.

Obviously, I posted this early, before the holiday, hoping to give a word of encouragement. I am so grateful to and for all of you who read here. Your comments and prayers and support are blessings indeed. If you would like to share anything you are thankful for, you are welcome to do so in the comments. Your words may well add encouragement to others. Don’t preach. Just be thankful.

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Presence

It’s Narcissist Friday!     

 

Several years ago a man told me that he thought he had “presence.” He felt that people noticed when he entered the room. I have often chuckled at that, mostly because I didn’t think anyone particularly noticed when he was in the room. He simply wasn’t as great as he thought he was. So I sometimes joke about people who have “presence.”

By the way, he didn’t tell me that I had presence. That wasn’t something he considered. Besides, he was talking about himself. I remember that he often used the narcissist’s soft voice, speaking so quietly that people had to work to hear his words. In that way, they focused even more on him and what he was saying. I don’t know if I would call him a narcissist, but he certainly seemed to lean in that direction.

Above all else, the narcissist wants “presence.” If you look at the definition of narcissism and the nine characteristics, you can’t help but see that the narcissist is someone who wants to be noticed and valued. I have shared the definition in this post, but it is good to share a reminder from time to time. Here’s the list from Wikipedia:

A pervasive pattern of grandiosity (in fantasy or behavior), need for admiration, and lack of empathy, beginning by early adulthood and present in a variety of contexts, as indicated by five (or more) of the following:
1.      Has a grandiose sense of self-importance (e.g., exaggerates achievements and talents, expects to be recognized as superior without commensurate achievements)
2.      Is preoccupied with fantasies of unlimited success, power, brilliance, beauty, or ideal love
3.      Believes that he or she is “special” and unique and can only be understood by, or should associate with, other special or high-status people (or institutions)
4.      Requires excessive admiration
5.      Has a sense of entitlement, i.e., unreasonable expectations of especially favorable treatment or automatic compliance with his or her expectations
6.      Is interpersonally exploitative, i.e., takes advantage of others to achieve his or her own ends
7.      Lacks empathy: is unwilling to recognize or identify with the feelings and needs of others
8.      Is often envious of others or believes others are envious of him or her
9.      Shows arrogant, haughty behaviors or attitudes
– From Wikipedia

Notice that numbers 1-5 and 8-9 are all about feeling superior or more important, having presence. That’s seven out of nine. The other two are simply the price the narcissist is willing to pay to get this feeling.

The narcissist wants you and me to drop everything and pay attention to him/her. If others are being served, the narcissist demands, “Well, what about me?” If others are being honored, the narcissist might try to get in the way or take the credit. If others are just going about their work, the narcissist might do something obnoxious or mean.

The narcissist wants to be the elephant in the room, the person no one can ignore. He wants heads to turn, strong men to quake, ladies to swoon. Not getting those things, the narcissist might turn heads because of some joke or some need. He might purposely arrive late to a meeting where he is needed. He might generously buy drinks for everyone, or beg poverty to get sympathy. Again, whatever it takes.

Politicians build careers on this presence. Top CEOs expect others to notice it. Preachers expect to be revered. And other narcissists see this and lust after it.

A person with presence stimulates others. He might be able to make you feel like you are important, and you will feel like he is important because of that. She knows how she looks to others and flashes that smile that warms the heart. You open yourself to the person with presence because of their personal power and attraction.

Presence opens doors.

No wonder the narcissist wants that!

 

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Traveling

I am traveling this weekend and am unable to post. Sorry everyone. Please know that I am praying for all of you. You are loved!

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