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Restoring the Presence

It’s Monday Grace!

I have always appreciated the sentiment of the little girl who was afraid of being left alone in her room in the dark. She wanted her mom or dad to stay with her. But the dad told her not to be afraid because Jesus was with her. She answered, “But I want someone with skin on.”

When you are afraid, or sad, or lonely, you want someone to be with you. Jesus says that He will be with us always, even through the Valley of the Shadow of Death. But if you can’t see Him or feel Him or hear His voice, how can you be assured of His presence?

We have two problems. First, we have learned to believe only what our physical senses tell us. Unless I see it with my eyes, hear it with my ears, smell it with my nose, taste it with my mouth, or touch it with my skin—I can’t “know” it is real. That’s what we have been taught by our experience and teachers. “Real” means verifiable by our senses.

As we mature, however, we begin to realize that even our own senses betray us. What we see is not necessarily real. And we learn that some things we don’t see can be just as real as we are. Our senses are not enough.

But the second thing may be more serious. Most of us grew up being afraid of God. Maybe just a little or maybe a lot. I have known people who considered themselves Christians who were afraid of being in the presence of the Lord. They feared death because they did not want to face God. If you are afraid of someone, you don’t want to think of that person being near.

When God is presented as angry and spiteful, we become afraid of Him. That seems natural to me. I don’t want to be around people who want to hit me or hurt me. I am uncomfortable around people who judge me negatively. If that’s what I thought of God, I wouldn’t want to think of Him being with me.

We also still struggle with the things of the flesh. The flesh is drawn to sin. Sometimes we choose to sin, and we don’t like to think about the Lord being with us. We want God to protect us as we drive, for example, but we don’t want Him to see or comment on the things we say or think about other drivers. We often want God to remain at a distance.

So, here’s the thing: we have trained ourselves not to be aware of the presence of God. The legalists fear God’s wrath. The compromisers are embarrassed.

Under grace, we learn that we have nothing to fear from God. In fact, it is His love that calls our attention to the dangers of sin. His love for us is consistent and strong. There is peace for us in His presence.

Pray. Ask for an awareness of His presence. He is with you, whether you know it or not. Ask that you would feel His nearness more. Ask that He would overcome the flesh and fill your spirit with His love.

Then watch for Him. He is near. Always. He loves you.

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Scorching the Earth – Burn It All

It’s Narcissist Friday!

Burn it all. We understand.

Knowing that there are dragons but not knowing where they are, presents a problem. Anyone who has had to make the difficult decision to leave the known world to enter something new has that problem. It helps to have support and guidance, but even that may be suspect. What if you can’t trust other people? What if you can’t trust yourself?

So, some people, to avoid the dragons, decide to break with everything. They leave family and friends and jobs and homes and as many known things as they can. They burn all the bridges, all the support, all the ties. They practice their own “scorched earth policy.” No going back.

When all the memories hurt, when any good has been so compromised and stained by the evil, starting all over from scratch seems easier. And, if not easier, at least acceptable.

Some will do this systematically, cutting ties whenever they arise. They carry a flame-thrower everywhere as they try to separate themselves from the world that caused the pain. Leave the church, separate from friends, change phone numbers, move to a new location, even change physical appearance. They appreciate that their cell phone allows them to see who is calling before they answer. They are not hiding. They just want the chance to start again. And they certainly don’t want to have to explain.

Of course, not everyone can do this. Those who can’t may attempt what some have called the “nuclear option.” A huge explosion is necessary to make the change, and nothing is the same after. If they cannot separate themselves, perhaps they can move others to separate from them. The nuclear option has the advantage of radioactivity. Not only is the old world wiped out, but no one wants to go there. Friends stay away because they don’t know how to deal with the passion. No one from the church calls. The ex-spouse’s family stays away. Even your own family is extra cautious.

After the narcissistic relationship, many people find that loneliness is not a problem. They find relationships to be problems. They have to sort out their own hearts again, and that often takes a certain amount of solitude. Besides, the betrayals are so fresh that they are in no rush to risk new opportunities for that pain.

Now, we should understand this. The narcissistic relationship is overwhelming and controlling. It robs the victim of identity and life. The world of the narcissist is so powerful and so pervasive that the only way out may be to scorch the earth.

Yes, others might be hurt in the process. No, they won’t understand. They will wonder if they are part of the problem, or why you might see them that way. But it takes too much to explain. Better just to be alone for a while.

Real friends will be there later. They will wait for you. People who push either do not understand or have their own agenda. Be patient with yourself.

Some people think that the serpent in the garden of Eden was a type of dragon. Dragons have a reputation for deceit. They lie, they cheat, they trick. Be careful. You may find that the dragon is the only thing left after you scorch the earth. When that happens, the familiar words and feelings may just be enough to trick you into opening yourself again to the pain.

So, be sure that you are seeking the Lord who loves you in that time after the narcissistic relationship. There is One who will never leave you, no matter how big the explosion or how hot the fire. He may stand back while you do what you feel you must, but He will be ready when you want Him again.

The scorched earth is not without dangers. If all you have is yourself—and you know you can’t trust yourself—you may be vulnerable to the dragons again. So make sure that you have more than yourself. Look to Jesus and trust Him. His love never left you. Let Him lead you to safe places and safe people.

The valley of the shadow of death is a grim place, but the Lord is with you there. Not all is lost. In fact, with Him, the green pastures and still waters are still ahead.

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Restoring the Good News

It’s Monday Grace!

When legalists get a little power, they seem to want to stop people from doing anything that might be considered fun. Don’t watch television. No professional sports. No competitive personal sports. No sweets. No reading fiction. No frivolous conversation. You know. The list is long.

I invited a man to speak for a Sunday message when I was gone from my church many years ago. Just one message. He spent the time telling the people that having fun was wrong. We are to take joy in the things of the Lord, and those were only serious things. I heard about the message before I shared my next sermon, so I spent some time trying to undo the message. Laughter, I said, was a gift of the Lord. I believe He wants His people to laugh.

At the same time, most legalists tell people they should be sharing their faith. Come to Jesus and be serious, depressed, and angry like us. At least that’s the message many of these folks seemed to share. Come to Jesus and live under the bondage of rules and the oppression of failure. Doesn’t seem like good news to me.

When you have lived under the message of the legalist for a long time, perhaps born and raised into it, you find it hard to see the good news of the gospel. All the criticism, all the comparisons, all the failure create a heavy burden. Even when you get out, that burden seems to continue. Many people just turn their backs on the Christian faith altogether. The only way to begin to feel free is not to think about it at all. But most exchange the anxiety for anger, and anger is another heavy burden.

What if I could convince you that everything God expects of you He gives to you? The problem with the legalist message is that it is just half, just the bad part. You see, sin is wrong. It hurts people. It hurts us and the people we love. There are serious consequences to sin, not the least of which is the built-in addiction it carries. God wants people to stop sinning. He wants them to repent. He wants people to turn from their sin. Some of what the legalist says is true.

But God has overcome sin! The good news is that sin is not the primary story. In fact, it’s less than half the story. God loved us, even when we were sinners. He sent Jesus to wash away our sin and give us everything we need to be with the Lord forever. He still loves us!

The Good News is the love! I doubt that anyone gets excited about the legalist’s rules and burdens. Oh boy, more failure! No, I don’t think so. But release from failure, forgiveness and freedom and victory, these are the good messages that bring joy to the heart. The good news is that Jesus has come to give all of these and so much more.

Well, I know that someday we will be happy. That’s what the legalist says. In Heaven, when all of this is washed away, then we will be happy. But not today. This world is evil, and the things of this world are not to be enjoyed. The dangers are so many, and sin is so insidious. In other words, in this life we are supposed to “grin and bear it.” Cross your fingers and hope that the Lord keeps you out of serious harm. Try to do good, but never relax. That’s the legalists message. And, again, that isn’t good news.

No, the good news is for this life. We walk as forgiven people! Our sins are already washed away. Freedom and victory is ours because Jesus is in us and with us. We have peace because we have all we need. Heaven is a wonderful promise, but the days here can be good as well.

And all we need is a Person. A real person who is with us and cares about us. The good news is Jesus!

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Here be Dragons

It’s Narcissist Friday!

Suddenly, you are walking a new path. Life isn’t the same as it was recently. It sure isn’t the same as it was a long time ago. The path you are on now is different, new, and exciting. With that excitement comes a little anxiety, but that’s okay. You know that others have taken this path, but every step is new to you. Thinking back over some of the wrong decisions and the betrayals you have suffered, a certain amount of anxiety is understandable. In fact, it might help keep you safe.

Apparently only one or a very few ancient maps actually used the words: “hic sunt dracones.” “Here be dragons,” or “there be dragons here.” It’s a phrase that became popular to describe dangers on the way, whether in a project or a relationship or a journey. Consider it a little stronger than “Watch Your Step.”

Every new path has pitfalls. Every old path had pitfalls, but you learned to navigate them. It may have been from watching others or it may have been from your own experience, but you could walk the old path in your sleep. It was easier because it was familiar. This new path is different.

When the new path is navigating through relationships and life without the narcissist or the narcissistic system, many things will be different. You see relationships differently. Who do you trust? You see options differently. What will be good for you, and what will hurt you? And you see yourself differently. Have you healed enough or learned enough to be safe on this new path? Much is uncertain.

The only thing that is certain is that you are on that new path. You don’t want to go back. You know you have to move forward. Whatever that means—new job, new friends, new home, new attitude—you have to keep going. Risk is part of the process, and you are ready. You hope.

It would be nice if someone helped a little, though. Maybe some red flags. Maybe some kind warnings. Maybe a note that says, “There be Dragons Here.” It would be nice to know about the dragons.

I have seen too many people get lost on the new path. By the time they realize they have stumbled or wandered, they have hurt themselves and others. They have become something they never wanted to be. They have done things they have never wanted to do. And they have connected with even more people who have used and misled them.

As an example, it is not uncommon for those who leave an abusive relationship to stumble into another. Some become promiscuous, allowing themselves to be used or even using others in the hopes of finding salve for their hearts. And, afterward, they feel even worse.

We probably don’t talk enough about PTSD as a normal consequence of narcissistic relationships. I don’t consider myself a psychological professional, so I try not to get into the more complicated after-effects of this very real trauma. Instead, I can only offer whatever perspectives I have gathered as I have walked this path with so many over the years. I also want to offer a word or two of encouragement along the way. The long term abuse of a narcissistic relationship can open the door to unforeseen dangers on the new path. I want to talk about a few of these dangers I have seen.

But, in this post, I simply want to say that mistakes are part of the journey. The path is new. The stumbling blocks do surprise you. There is no shame in having fallen a time or two. I have had the opportunity to correspond with several people who have been in multiple narcissistic relationships. These people have doubted themselves and any hope for happiness in the future. Listen: it happens, and it happens a lot. But there is always hope.

Narcissistic people and systems are both charming and deceptive. Falling into another after getting out of one is common, no matter how much it hurts. Don’t beat yourself up! Don’t listen to others who are trying to beat you up. Your goal is to get back on the path to health and a new life. And keep your eyes open.

If you have fallen into any of these holes on the new path, if you have wandered because of the distractions, if you have found yourself becoming someone unfamiliar and undesirable, don’t despair. Again, it happens. Probably to everyone. You can make changes.

Nothing I will say in the coming weeks should bring shame or guilt to any reader. One of the blessings of this kind of communication is that I only know a handful of people who read here. There is no way for me to be referencing you or your situation. You remain anonymous no matter how much it sounds like I am telling your story. And I welcome you to disagree with me, shout at me, call me names, or whatever you need to do. You may also see pitfalls I have missed. No two paths are the same. I have collected a lot of stories, but probably not yours. And your cautions might help someone else. So please feel free to comment.

Next week: Scorching the Earth – avoiding the dragons by burning it all

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Restoring Hope

It’s Monday Grace!

“Have you come to the place in your life where you know that if you died, you would go to Heaven?”

If you recognize that question, especially if you have used it, you have probably been under the influence of something called “Evangelism Explosion,” a training program out of the ministry of D. James Kennedy. Back in the late 70’s and early 80’s it was quite popular.

I remember asking that question to a good number of people. Very often I got the same answer, “I hope so.”

I hope so.

The Christian hope. For some people, that’s about it. In fact, in some churches you aren’t going to get anything better than that. No one can be sure because of sin. No one can be sure because the church system doesn’t want anyone to feel free and complete. Even those churches that believe you cannot lose your salvation don’t like people resting in the promises of Jesus. They want us to keep striving, just in case.

But that’s not the Christian hope. The Christian hope is a certainty.

I have always found it interesting that the Greek word for “hope” sounds like our word “help.” Some say that’s just a coincidence, and it might be, but it is a good aid for remembering that “hope” does not mean “wish” in the Bible. When the Bible authors speak of their hope, they are speaking of what they believe or trust. When Paul says he hopes to visit someone, he means that is his intent and he trusts that the Lord will make it happen.

Sadly, we have allowed our hope to weaken into our desire or wish. I hope I will go to Heaven, someone will say. I hope my sins are forgiven. I hope Jesus loves me. But too often there is a sense of distrust or anxiety in those words. We like the idea of the promises, but we aren’t so sure they will happen. We hope so.

That is not the Christian hope.

Now, in the tradition of most evangelicals, the term “Christian hope” usually refers to eternal glory in Heaven. It is the future toward which we look with anticipation and expectation. Someday our Lord will come and take us home. That is certainly something good to look toward.

But even that is less than it should be. That’s the future, not today. That’s long in the future for some of us, not so long for others of us. What about now? Is there no hope for today?

By this time most of those who read here will know where I am going. JESUS IS OUR HOPE! (Not sorry for the caps.) We don’t look toward a promise or a future. We look to a Person. We are not standing on the shaky ground of wishes or desires, but on the firm ground of the Lord who loves us. We trust in Him.

The Christian’s hope is far more than a longing or yearning. He is real. He is with us. He is a Person. Jesus is the guarantee of all the promises. He is the life we live and the future we will enjoy. Our hope is as solid as God Himself.

Paul told the Colossians that this was the great mystery, the one unbelievers could never understand. Jesus Himself is our assurance, our security. We don’t need to be anything less than absolutely certain. Because He loves us, we will be just fine.

To them God willed to make known what are the riches of the glory of this mystery among the Gentiles: which is Christ in you, the hope of glory.
Colossians 1:27

The hope of glory, the hope of the believer, is Jesus. We are in Him. He is in us. The message of grace tells us that He has done all that is needed for us to be with Him eternally. Today and tomorrow.

He is our Hope.

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Defining You

It’s Narcissist Friday!

I write a lot about identity because I believe that knowing yourself is the key to freedom in relationships. I also know that narcissists rob people of who they are.

Too many times I have heard people say that they used to be thus-and-so until they connected with the narcissist. They used to be fun. They used to be creative. They used to be strong. They used to be funny. They used to be happy. Used to be. What are they now? They don’t know.

Narcissists take from others what they cannot find in themselves. They connect with people who will supply what they want. In other words, if you are creative and the narcissist connects with you, it’s probably so that he/she can feel creative as well. By talking about and pretending to appreciate your creativity, the narcissist will slowly steal the words and ideas you bring out. If you are friendly, he/she will use you to bring people in so the narcissist can connect with and use them. Your skills and gifts will benefit the narcissist or you will have no relationship with him/her.

But, in the process, you will begin to forget whose gifts and skills they are. Since the narcissist will claim what you do as what he does, you will become puzzled. He will claim that you are dependent on him, that he has done it all. You know better, but he is persistent and passionate. In fact, you are fortunate that you met him so that he could carry you through life. That’s what he wants you to think.

Now you have to remember who you are. You are still that creative and fun person you used to be, but you feel drained of yourself. If you are now separate from the narcissist, you might feel empty and confused. The lie of the narcissist, that you need him to define you, may be loud in your heart.

So, I tell people that they are identified in their relationship with Jesus. You are who He says you are: a child of the King, a bearer of great gifts, and a person of strength and goodness. Identity is revealed as we see ourselves reflected in the mirror of others. The only true image of us comes from Him. The narcissist’s image of you is a lie.

How do you redefine yourself? Well, don’t. You don’t have to redefine yourself. You have to allow who you are to come out. There’s a difference.

I have met a lot of people who have come out of narcissistic relationships and legalistic teachings. Both have been robbed of their individuality and identity. The narcissist drained it away. The legalists covered it with conformity. Both lied.

But many people come out and try to be someone they are not. They believe they need to be angry and strong, flippant and sarcastic. They hurt others in their attempts to redefine themselves, but they try not to care. They argue that they have neglected themselves for too long, and now it is time to do it their way. But they don’t do it their way. They do it the way they think they should, rather than the way they want to.

If you were a kind and gracious person, caring for others, and you were used and manipulated as you opened yourself, please don’t change. I know you think that made you vulnerable, but it did not. It was what the narcissist saw in you and wanted. The narcissist was charming and deceptive and used you. The narcissist was the one who did wrong. Believe it or not, this is just the kind of person most narcissists look for. They are the predators.

But, you say, if I am the same as I was I will just be open to another narcissist. No, you won’t. If you didn’t know what you know now, maybe. But now things are different. Now you know narcissism. Now you have met the enemy. You can be yourself again.

Or maybe you say, I don’t want to be the person I was. I wanted to use the narcissist to make myself feel good. I just wasn’t strong enough to overcome the narcissist. So, be who you are now. You learned a lot about yourself. You don’t want to be who you were. Be who you are today.

And maybe you say, I grew up in a narcissistic home. I have never known myself. I don’t know if I am creative or kind or smart. All I know is that I want to be who I am. Then look to Jesus. Ask Him to lead you. Let it grow day by day. He will show you who you are.

I am not saying that you will never fall to a narcissist again. What I am saying is that trying to change who you are will not help. In fact, it may open you even more. Be who you are, who your heart wants to be. Your strength comes from your identity and integrity.

Relax. You are so much smarter now. You see the truth now. Look to Jesus and trust in His love for you. Then be who you are.

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Restoring Simplicity

It’s Monday Grace!

“Tis the gift to be simple, ’tis the gift to be free”

Whatever happened to simple faith? The old Shaker song reminds us that simplicity brings joy and freedom. We love to try to control things, even the things of our faith. But, when we do that, we make those things complicated and twisted. Little in church is simple these days.

You see, I think we ought to be able to go to worship the Lord with other believers for a time apart from this crazy world. There are so many stresses and expectations, so many pains and worries, out there. In the church, simple love and grace should be the order of things.

That means we don’t compare, we don’t criticize. If we disagree, that’s okay. Most of what we believe is far beyond our understanding anyway. Let the Lord know things we don’t. Let Him deal with the mysteries and puzzles of theology and doctrine. And let us love Him and each other.

Sounds simple, doesn’t it? Sounds good.

Jesus loves me, this I know.

How about that? Isn’t that enough?

My goal is to have a church centered on and focused on Jesus alone. Surely we will have doctrine. We will study the Bible and pray and learn. But the message of grace tells me that Jesus has already done all the work and given me all the gifts. I don’t need anything but Him.

I truly believe that there will be no comparisons in Heaven. We will finally understand that everything we have has been a gift from our Lord. We will realize that we all struggled, we all failed, and we all got there because of Jesus alone. Not one of us will be able to claim superiority or be accused of being inferior.

If there was ever a time to restore the simplicity of our faith, this is it. We are too much divided on foolish questions we cannot answer and style issues we will never settle. The people of God are called to have one mind and heart, that of Jesus.

Whenever I think of this, I am reminded of the man who was born blind in John 9. Jesus healed him, and everyone wanted to know the details. They wanted doctrine and practices and answers. But the simple man said, “All I know is that once I was blind and now I can see.” Jesus did it, and that’s enough.

Jesus loved us enough to reach into our lives and save us. Now He still loves us. The goal of our lives, both as individuals and as churches, is to follow Him. Just to be with Him.

It really is that simple.

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Defining Truth

It’s Narcissist Friday!

Have you ever noticed that truth is whatever the narcissist says it is? Narcissists argue with doctors, attorneys, teachers, even dictionaries. Since they cannot be wrong, anyone who disagrees with them must be wrong. Truth is what they say it is.

Of course, the rest of us know that the narcissist not only can be but often is wrong. Albuquerque is not the capital of New Mexico, no matter what the narcissist says. But then you will learn that was not what the narcissist said. No, he said it was Santa Fe. You said it was Albuquerque. You were the one who was wrong. Only you don’t remember it that way.

This is so common in narcissistic relationships that it is almost a joke. Truth, for the narcissist has no value of itself. Truth is useful only if it serves the narcissist. If a lie would serve better, the lie will come easily. Narcissists and lies go together like, well, like peanut butter and chocolate. They serve each other well.

Have you ever listened to someone and wondered how that person could lie so easily? Have you ever thought the lies could be exposed by anyone who cared enough to check? Have you ever met someone who would choose a lie when the truth would have served almost as well? You have probably met a narcissist.

Adam Savage, from Mythbusters, had a saying that we all enjoyed: “I reject your reality and substitute my own!”

This is the motto of the narcissist. He is the best salesman on the crew, no matter what the numbers say or the bosses think. He had the right-of-way, no matter what the sign or the rules or the policeman say. Reality doesn’t matter to the narcissist. What matters is what he wants to believe.

Truth stands on its own. There is no such thing as your truth and my truth. There may be differing perspectives on truth, but truth stands apart from our perspectives. You can try to cover it with lies, “photoshop” it to look different than it is, but truth still stands.

And the narcissist hates that. Truth is outside the narcissist’s control. In his/her striving to be the smartest and best, truth gets in the way of the narcissist. It may prove him wrong. It may reveal her deception. Truth is a problem.

But, for those who believe and tell the truth, it is a friend. Because truth stands outside us, when we find it we find something of value. Truth is a signpost telling us the right path. Truth is a fortress in which we might find shelter. Truth is a comfort because we can count on it.

It is not accidental that the Lord presents Himself as the source of truth. “I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life,” Jesus said. In Him we find all that the narcissist lacks: security, peace, love, and more.

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Restoring Fellowship with Others

It’s Monday Grace!

Why is it so much harder to live in fellowship with people than with God? After all, God is perfect. He expects us to be righteous and good and faithful. Seems like it would be more difficult to stay in fellowship with Him.

But fellowship with people, well that is sometimes very hard.

Perhaps the two are not the same. Perhaps fellowship with God is different from fellowship with people. Of course. Fellowship with God, as I wrote last week, is a matter of identity and life. His life flows in us. We have no life, no righteousness, no identity apart from Him. He has chosen to be stuck with us. We can trust in Him and believe that we will always be one with Him.

But people. People still deal with the flesh. All the striving that goes on, even in church, makes it difficult for us to be together. Even believers still serve themselves first almost all the time. We still feel only our own pain and think only our own thoughts. We find it hard to care about the struggles of others, particularly the struggles we cause for them. Comparisons, insecurity, anxiety: these all get in the way of good fellowship.

It is quite possible for someone to be in fellowship with God and still struggle to have fellowship with other believers. Paul said, “If it is possible, as much as depends on you, live peaceably with all men.” (Romans 12:18) I take that to mean that it won’t always be possible, but it should be our goal.

There are a few things we have to understand about earthly fellowship.

First, even though we are called to unity and peace, we will not always agree and enjoy being together. Our fellowship comes out of our fellowship with the Lord. That means that we all draw the same life from Him. We are to share His mind and heart. But, He is a God of creativity and variety. We are not all the same. It takes time for us to appreciate our differences, especially when we are just beginning to see how He has been working in us.

Second, I mentioned last week that I like to think of the Christian life as a walk with the Lord. My family lives near the mountains of Colorado most of the year and in the forests of Minnesota the rest of the time. Hiking, or just walking, can be an adventure in both places. Hiking in the mountains or forests is not like walking on a sidewalk. You have to watch your step. You might try to hold hands, but you have to let go just to keep your balance.

It’s hard enough to follow the Lord on the rocky and bumpy path of life. Just keeping my eyes on Him and not on the dangers or distractions around me seems hard enough. When I walk with others, I find it even harder to stay in step with them. They have their own stumbling to do.

You see, we are all little children following the Master on rocky trails. We stumble, we cut each other off, we get in the way of others. Sometimes we can help, and sometimes we are the problem.

Finally, it is more important to have fellowship with Jesus than with others. Many of us have lived through times when we had to separate from others as we kept fellowship with Him. In other words, following Him took us away from others. Maybe they wanted us to go somewhere He did not want for us. Maybe they were not really concerned about following Him. Maybe we just had different paths to walk. He is the One most important.

It is clear from the Scriptures that we are not to be loners in our faith. It is also clear from the Scriptures that fellowship with others, even those who consider themselves to be believers, is not easy. If you find yourself in one of those times when you feel separate, look to Him. If He wants other believers to be part of your life, trust Him to lead you to those who can walk with you.

You would be surprised at how many people are looking for someone who will just walk with them. They don’t want judgment. They might not even want advice. They might just need a friend or a companion. Just like you do. Trust the Lord to bring your walks together.

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Defining Respect

It’s Narcissist Friday!

For the narcissist, respect comes from power and privilege. In other words, those who have power and privilege deserve respect. That’s why the narcissist seeks control and adoration, to get respect.

Now, as I write that, I also understand that the narcissist doesn’t really respect anyone who doesn’t deserve the power and privilege they have. In other words, anyone but the narcissist.

Does the narcissist respect the boss at work, for example? To his/her face, yes. Behind his/her back, not so much. Because the narcissist sees everyone as either useful or competitive, no one is valued as a person. If he has a boss, the narcissist will quickly discover the failings of the boss. If the boss values the narcissist and helps him advance, that will be positive. If not, the boss is unworthy of respect. But even if the boss is positive in the narcissist’s mind, it will be without respect because the boss’s value is not tied to the person but the usefulness. In other words, the narcissist actually respects no one.

So, there you are waiting and working for the narcissist to respect you. You bend over backwards to do what she wants. You willingly submit to unreasonable requests and harsh criticisms. You smile and nod and agree and hope your integrity isn’t completely lost. But it never happens. Just when you think the narcissist might respect you, he/she does something or says something that puts you down again. Will it ever happen?

Sadly, not in the way you wish. You wish to be respected as a person, the way you respect others. You see someone who does well and you honor their skill and dedication. The narcissist sees that as either luck or deception. The only ones who do well, according to the narcissist, are those who cheat or happen to be in the right place at the right time. So, no matter how hard you try and how sincere you are, you cannot gain the narcissist’s respect as a person.

My suggestion is that you stop trying. Respect yourself as a person. You could wait forever for the narcissist’s respect. Oh, you might get a word of thanks or some minor recognition. Anything more than that the narcissist will use to affirm himself. Your hard work is to his credit. So, you have to respect yourself.

I don’t mean that you should stop doing well in your job or in your life. Be who you are. Be the person you respect. There may be others who will notice, but the person you should work for is you. Do well because you are a person who does well.

If you stop trying to get the narcissist’s attention or appreciation, you might find that he will notice you more. He will be wondering what you are up to. That could result in both good and bad consequences. He might try to charm you into telling him why you aren’t concerned about his respect. At the same time, he might decide that you have become a threat. So, be careful.

Think about it this way. As long as the narcissist doesn’t give you what you want, and you keep trying to get it, he has you where he wants you. He gets your service, your kindness, your submission. But only if he does not respect you as a person. There’s no benefit to him if you begin to think of yourself as someone special.

But you are someone special! You are who God made you to be. The Lord already loves you and respects you. That’s something the narcissist will not understand. When you are with the narcissist without groveling and without anxiety, you will stand in freedom and peace.

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