Eat or be Eaten

It’s Narcissist Friday!

(Every so often I feel that it is important to repeat some of the foundational posts of this blog so that people will understand what we talk about. For the next few weeks, you will have an opportunity to read posts from several years ago. I am traveling, and this allows me to focus on family. Thanks for your understanding!)

Eat or be eaten. That’s the law of the jungle, the law of nature, I suppose. You are either food or prey and sometimes you can be both. I remember something I saw on a nature show years ago. It began with a snake sneaking up on a frog and eating it. Then, suddenly, the snake was grabbed by something. The camera panned out and we saw a huge frog with the tail of the snake protruding from its mouth. The narrator said, “There are frogs and then there are frogs.” Even the eaters get eaten.

This is how the narcissist sees life. If you slow down, if you relax, you will get eaten. Very often those who live or work with narcissists notice that they are quick to respond to what they think are offenses or threats. They react with overkill. You say something about her hair and she begins to rip on you for something. You ask a question at work and you get threatened. Why the over-reaction? Because the narcissist is always threatened. They see themselves as either a victim or victor and they want to be the victor. (Remember the old story: Tom and Ruth went for a drive. Ruth told Tom to slow down. He did, but then sped away “ruthlessly.” )

Most of us grew up with the understanding of another old line: Sometimes you get the bear, sometimes the bear gets you. In other words, some we win and some we lose. It isn’t pleasant for any of us to lose. Sometimes it hurts and it can hurt a lot. But it happens. It’s the real world. We learn to accept our own failings and the unfairness of life.

Not so the narcissist. For the narcissist, a loss is a direct judgment of his value. Whether it’s an argument, a sale, a traffic ticket, or a game—the narcissist believes that a loss will make him something less. This is why he fights and fights hard. This is why she can be so cruel. The narcissist must be the victor, must be better somehow. (I should note that not everyone who sees life as a competition is a narcissist, but almost all narcissists see life as a competition.)

But, you say, the person I am thinking of is always a victim. Others are mean; others are stupid; others are against him. Did you ever notice how victorious he is at being the victim? He can explain away all of his failings. You are stuck with yours. Even in losing, he wins.

When the narcissist enters a room, she immediately notices who is present and makes amazingly accurate assessments of rank, weaknesses, and mood. She will know just who to avoid and who to patronize and who to use. This ability is developed over a lifetime of comparing herself with others and working to avoid unpleasant surprises in relationships. This explains why the narcissist does so well with people. Most narcissists are well-liked, even appreciated, by others. They know just what to say to each person, particularly those they have decided to value.

You can’t compete because you don’t think that way. You learned that others are real and are important as persons. You walk into a room and see people: friends, acquaintances, family members, strangers. The narcissist sees tools, toys, or obstacles. The things he flippantly says about people, even people he seems to respect, are surprising to you. His words are strong, cruel, and very judgmental. Why? Because he knows that he will either eat or be eaten and he knows that he has to be on guard.

So let me bring this back to legalism. When the legalist enters a room he is also very aware. He has learned to classify people by what they wear, how they talk, how they wear their hair, etc. He wants to know where he stands spiritually against these others. He will shun those who are less spiritual (unless he has an opportunity to teach) and he will gravitate toward those who seem more spiritual. He will be offended when they ignore him or try to teach him.

For both the legalist and the narcissist the center of the universe lies behind their own eyes.


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Where is Jesus?

It’s Monday Grace!

(Every so often I feel that it is important to repeat some of the foundational posts of this blog so that people will understand what we talk about. For the next few weeks, you will have an opportunity to read posts from several years ago. I am traveling, and this allows me to focus on family. Thanks for your understanding!)

Jesus is alive and well. He is where you are. I have long been of the opinion that most of the Christian community isn’t so sure of that. If you ask a Sunday School child where Jesus is, you will probably hear that He is in Heaven. Where is Heaven? Far away from here, that’s for sure. So Jesus is far away. The sad thing is that you will probably hear the same thing from an adult believer.

But even those who believe Jesus is with us often say things like, “He is in my heart.” It is interesting that we use the same expression to refer to the memory of someone who has died. “She is alive in our hearts.” But does that mean anything? Does it mean anything real? I hold the memory of my parents in my heart and I think of them often, but they are not here when I think I need them. I wish I could talk with them and get their response, but I can’t. Not really.

No, it is not enough to say that Jesus is in Heaven. Nor is it enough to say that He is in our hearts. Jesus is real! He is here! He is with you right now and always.

Well, you say, I wish He would show Himself sometimes. Yeah, me too. But just because I can’t see Him or touch Him doesn’t mean that He isn’t here. He has promised to be with us always (Matthew 28:20). God is with us. He dwells with us, stays with us, always (Revelation 21:3). Jesus is here.

I have a couple of pet peeves. 😉 One is when the preacher or worship leader tells us that God “showed up” at a certain gathering. Maybe you showed up or woke up, but God was already there. The other is the poem, “He has no hands but our hands to do His work today.” What nonsense! If Jesus has no hands, no ability, to do His work apart from us, then He is weak indeed. Not true!

Wherever you are, Jesus is there. He loves you. He never leaves you (Hebrews 13:5).

Sometimes people ask me how to walk with Jesus. The truth is that those who belong to Him never walk apart from Him. They just have to open their eyes and hearts. He is already where you are. Believe that you are always in the presence of Jesus. Talk with Him. Live in the presence of His love.

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Living with a Narcissist

It’s Narcissist Friday!

(Every so often I feel that it is important to repeat some of the foundational posts of this blog so that people will understand what we talk about. For the next few weeks, you will have an opportunity to read posts from several years ago. I am traveling, and this allows me to focus on family. Thanks for your understanding!)

How do you live with a narcissist? I suppose the flippant answer would be, “With difficulty!”

Narcissists are hard to live with. The more a person exhibits narcissistic characteristics, the more difficult he or she will be to live with. Now, notice that this is “to live with.” He may do just fine at work or she may be well accepted and enjoyed in the women’s group. Those who don’t really know the narcissists usually find them to be stimulating and intelligent and superior people. Those who live with them (or work closely with them over a long period of time) see the negative qualities much more clearly.

So what do you do if you are stuck with one of these people? Once again, not everyone who exhibits narcissist tendencies is a narcissist. On the other hand, your options are probably the same. You can leave them or stay with them. If you are married, you will probably try very hard to stay. If you are in a club with them, you may want to leave. It may depend on your level of commitment to the relationship. But here are a few rules for your health.

Forget trying to fix the person. Narcissism is developed at very early and usually very traumatic stages of life. These people have learned that life only works by manipulation. They usually do not understand the basic concepts of love and cooperation, although they are able to simulate either to get what they need. Most of the literature offers little hope for easy fixes. In fact, it just isn’t something you will be able to do.

Protect yourself. The best way to manipulate another person is through his or her emotions. Narcissists are often expert at manipulating your emotions. If guilt works, they will use it. If fear works, they will use it. If love works, they will use that. In fact, they will probably be able to find just the right combination of these emotions to trap you into doing what they want. So you will have to accept reality, know the truth, set clear boundaries, and be willing to fight.

Let’s look at each of these. First, you have to accept the reality of your relationship. The narcissist does not see you in the same way you see him. He may not even understand what it means to love you or treat you as a person. Very often the realization of this is painful. One author says that the most common response to this fact is rage. It feels like long-term betrayal, deceit, and abuse. To be fair, the narcissist doesn’t see this as deceptive at all. He simply lacks the capacity to care about you. Accepting that reality takes away the burden of trying to find real love or compassion from this person. You may be able to have a relationship based on something else, a functional life that really does work for both of you.

Second, know the truth. So much could be said here. If you know the truth about your narcissist, you might be able to deal with her oddities. You might begin to understand that she doesn’t really have anything to give you and you can lower your expectations. If you know the truth about yourself, you won’t be so open to being manipulated. Particularly for those who understand the Christian concept of grace and God’s acceptance, there will be less opportunity for guilt and shame based manipulation. Knowing the truth about what works and what doesn’t in your relationship can protect you from being hurt or used.

Third, understand that the narcissist is broken but don’t let yourself be manipulated by your compassion. He is not like you. He does not think the way you do. You will be tempted to try to interpret her actions and attitudes by your experience and perspective. Don’t. Something has happened to this person and his or her way of coping was different from yours. So don’t expect what you would consider normal. Be kind, but don’t trust. Be helpful, but don’t invest. Be careful always.

Fourth, set and maintain your boundaries. The narcissist does not understand your boundaries. If she sees them at all, which she may not, she will see them only as obstacles to be overcome. The narcissist has no hesitation to call you at 10:30 PM and expect to talk for a couple of hours. You will have to stop him. Either use your caller id or tell him not to call at that time. Cut the conversation where you want it to stop. Tell her you won’t serve on her committee or that you won’t be responsible to pick up her slack. Then do it.

Finally, be prepared to fight. Just like a little child, the narcissist does not like being told, “no.” He will continue to call you late. If you relax, he will assume that you have given in. If you agree, in a moment of weakness, to one of her demands, she will believe that you are back under control. You will have to keep up.

All of this sounds like work because it is. But all relationships are work to some extent. If you choose to stay with a narcissist, or if you don’t have any real choice, these are the kinds of things that will help. You may find some help from some of the books that are coming out. Again, Nina Brown’s books are particularly helpful.


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Who is Jesus?

It’s Monday Grace!

(Every so often I feel that it is important to repeat some of the foundational posts of this blog so that people will understand what we talk about. For the next few weeks, you will have an opportunity to read posts from several years ago. I am traveling, and this allows me to focus on family. Thanks for your understanding!)

This is the primary question of our faith. The answer separates us from other religions. The answer makes a difference.

Two thousand years of church history has centered on one fact: Jesus is God. He has come to bring us to Himself. Just because He took on Himself humanity does not lessen the fact that He is God. This has been argued for centuries and the conclusion, in all Christian denominations, is that Jesus was God, is God and always will be God.

He told us Himself that He is one with the Father. There is great mystery in that, but the truth of it is clear. What you say about the Father is true about Jesus. Today some speak of a kenosis, the teaching that Jesus gave up His divine attributes to become man. Neither the Scriptures nor the Church have ever affirmed this. Jesus, when He walked this earth, was fully God (Colossians 2:9).
Perhaps the best summary of Christian belief about Jesus comes from the Nicene Creed:

We believe in one Lord, Jesus Christ,
the only Son of God,
eternally begotten of the Father,
God from God, Light from Light,
true God from true God,
begotten, not made,
of one Being with the Father.
Through him all things were made.
For us and for our salvation
he came down from heaven:

by the power of the Holy Spirit
he became incarnate from the Virgin Mary,
and was made man.
For our sake he was crucified under Pontius Pilate;
he suffered death and was buried.
On the third day he rose again
in accordance with the Scriptures;
he ascended into heaven
and is seated at the right hand of the Father.
He will come again in glory to judge the living and the dead,
and his kingdom will have no end.

The definition of Chalcedon took things further to address issues raised in the church of that day:

Therefore, following the holy fathers, we all with one accord teach men to acknowledge one and the same Son, our Lord Jesus Christ, at once complete in Godhead and complete in manhood, truly God and truly man, consisting also of a reasonable soul and body; of one substance with the Father as regards his Godhead, and at the same time of one substance with us as regards his manhood; like us in all respects, apart from sin; as regards his Godhead, begotten of the Father before the ages, but yet as regards his manhood begotten, for us men and for our salvation, of Mary the Virgin, the God-bearer; one and the same Christ, Son, Lord, Only-begotten, recognized in two natures, without confusion, without change, without division, without separation; the distinction of natures being in no way annulled by the union, but rather the characteristics of each nature being preserved and coming together to form one person and subsistence, not as parted or separated into two persons, but one and the same Son and Only-begotten God the Word, Lord Jesus Christ; even as the prophets from earliest times spoke of him, and our Lord Jesus Christ himself taught us, and the creed of the fathers has handed down to us.

But so what? What does it mean to me in my life today that Jesus is God? It means everything! All that can be said about God is true about Jesus because Jesus is God. Power, wisdom, majesty, love—all are His. He is not some weak, but nice, guy. He is not some teacher who sacrificed Himself for a good idea. He is God in human flesh.

I believe that one of the reasons God took on humanity was so that we would connect with Him. He wants a relationship with us. He created that opportunity and offers it to us in the person of Jesus. When I think of how I am accountable to God for my sin, I remember that I come to God in Jesus and He loves me. The Judge of all the earth is Jesus and He loves me.
The heart that sent Jesus to the cross to wash away my sin is the heart of Jesus for me today. The power that raised Jesus from the dead is the power of Jesus for me today. He is my Creator, Redeemer, Provider, Protector—and my Friend. The almighty, all-knowing, ever-present God loves me.

When I think of the old song, “Jesus Loves Me,” I remember that this is God Himself in human flesh. Jesus loves us because the Father loves us (John 16:26), and He and the Father are One. God loves me. In spite of my sin and weakness, God loves me. He loves me so much that He came to me when I could not, would not, come to Him. He made the way.

Jesus is everything to me. Thomas looked at Him that day after the resurrection and said, “My Lord and my God!” I don’t have to understand to believe and enjoy.

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Am I a Narcissist?

It’s Narcissist Friday!

(Every so often I feel that it is important to repeat some of the foundational posts of this blog so that people will understand what we talk about. For the next few weeks, you will have an opportunity to read posts from several years ago. I am traveling, and this allows me to focus on family. Thanks for your understanding!)

Every time I teach on narcissism and describe the narcissist, people find that they know someone very much like the person I describe. And almost every time I teach this, some people end up feeling guilty that they dared to think of others in a negative way. Then comes the question: Aren’t we all narcissists in some way?

Now, I don’t want to disrespect that thinking. Of course all sin is connected and we all suffer from the same problems. Jesus taught us that we are all murderers, all adulterers, all capable of any sin and in desperate need of a Savior. There is a sense in which we are all narcissistic. The flesh, that system of living which we developed apart from Christ, is necessarily concerned with the promotion and protection of itself. So, yes, we are all narcissists in some way.

But there are a couple of important things that we should acknowledge. One is that most of us have learned to control our narcissism. What I mean is we learned early that other people do exist and they have their own concerns and lives. In order to make life work, we learned that there were boundaries we ought not to cross. Some things are private and we must allow others to have their privacy. We learned that cooperation is reciprocal. That means that we give and others give and we give again and they give again. Relationships work because we respect the fact that we need others and they are free not to help us. We learned that part of maturity was the realization that we don’t get everything we want in life and usually that isn’t someone else’s fault. We learned to actually be sorry for the things we did wrong and to empathize with the pain of others. We learned that we were not really the center of the world.

The narcissist did not learn these things. He learned to manipulate others and use them to get what he wants. She learned that others are wrong and cruel when they don’t acknowledge her as the center. Narcissists are usually quite intelligent and very skilled in social interactions. They know how to move people. But people are toys or tools or obstacles. Others are not real living beings in the same way the narcissist is.

Most of us are capable of love. We may not love as we ought, but we know that love means sacrifice for the good of someone else. We know that love means putting ourselves and our desires in second place. The narcissist doesn’t understand love. Love is saying what needs to be said and doing what needs to be done in order to get what the narcissist wants. On the surface, the narcissist will appear loving because he has learned to do that and is very good at what he has learned; but those who depend on the love of a narcissist will eventually realize that there was nothing there. It was all a lie.

Bottom line: the narcissist is broken. Broken in different ways from most of us. Broken in ways that have not adapted to Christian society. Broken in ways that hurt others.

There must be some kind of continuum, a “narcissism line,” that allows for increasing narcissistic behavior in individuals. Some are certainly less narcissistic and some are certainly more. But there is a point at which narcissistic behavior and thinking become abnormal. It may be difficult to determine that exact point in any particular person, but having that point often gives us the understanding we need. It enables us to look at a person and say, “Now I understand. That behavior isn’t normal. There is something wrong with her, not me.”

We don’t like to call people names (or at least we have been taught that it is wrong), but we can still look at behavior and attitude and acknowledge that they are wrong. Understanding narcissism will help us understand more about ourselves and the others with whom we live and work.

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It’s About Jesus!

It’s Monday Grace!

(Every so often I feel that it is important to repeat some of the foundational posts of this blog so that people will understand what we talk about. For the next few weeks, you will have an opportunity to read posts from several years ago. I am traveling, and this allows me to focus on family. Thanks for your understanding!)

Although it is interesting to talk about narcissism and grace and legalism and church and how they all connect, I would never want to become distracted from the main thing. I once heard a missionary say, “The main thing is to keep the main thing the main thing.” That was very nice and catchy, but he believed that the main thing was missions. A preacher might say that the main thing is staying true to the word. An evangelist might say that the main thing is telling your neighbors, co-workers, and family about salvation. A denominational worker might suggest that the main thing is the work of the denomination. Every person’s little corner becomes the main corner. But none of them are the main thing.

You see, the main thing is Jesus! Not lessons about Him. Not theology to understand Him. Not the service you do for Him. Not even what He has done for us. He is Himself the main thing. He is the only true focus of the Christian faith.

In Jesus is everything. He is one with the Father and the Spirit in a way you and I will never understand. So much are they One, that we find difficulty any time we try to separate them. In Jesus we see the Father; and the Spirit serves only to lead us to and connect us with Jesus. Creation, redemption, glorification—all are in Him.

In Jesus is our peace, our righteousness, our strength, our wisdom, our goodness, our hope, our joy, our salvation. There is no salvation apart from Him, no matter how good you think you are. There is no hope apart from Him, no matter how religious you are. The problem with narcissism is that the person finds it very difficult to admit need and submit to the Savior. The problem with legalism is that the legalist admits his need and seeks to compensate for it in his own performance. The church has no message for the world apart from Jesus. Even the message of grace must be centered on Jesus in order to offer truth and hope.

I am absolutely, eternally, completely dependent on Jesus. He is my Life. The rest of my earthly life will be spent growing in the acceptance of His goodness, power, and love. It’s all about Him.


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What is a Narcissist?

It’s Narcissist Friday!

(Every so often I feel that it is important to repeat some of the foundational posts of this blog so that people will understand what we talk about. For the next few weeks, you will have an opportunity to read posts from several years ago. I am traveling, and this allows me to focus on family. Thanks for your understanding!)

Unfortunately, the meanings of words adapt to common usage. A narcissist used to be someone who fit a certain psychological pattern determined by a set of established guidelines. The American Psychiatric Association publishes a manual referred to as the DSM (Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders). The DSM-4 (edition 4) used nine criteria to determine whether a person suffered from Narcissistic Personality Disorder. (Reports say that DSM-5 will delete NPD.)

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)

However, psychiatrists are notoriously stingy with assigning labels to people. What if someone has only four of these indications? What he or she has seven, but not quite as strongly as stated? What if three are overt but several more are covert? And what if the patient is particularly adept at covering or compensating for these indications?

Nina Brown has written several books in which she describes people who don’t necessarily fit the technical definition of a narcissist, but who still exhibit the general pattern and hurt themselves and others. She calls it “Destructive Narcissistic Pattern.” I recommend her books.

Using Brown’s information and the above APA guidelines, I have put together a list of narcissistic tendencies that we can use to begin to understand these people. Now, I don’t think it is wise or helpful to call someone a narcissist for several reasons. First, they may enjoy it too much. Second, if they disagree you will start an argument and you will lose (because you always lose). Third, they will begin to consume books on narcissism either to understand themselves or to prove you wrong or both. Fourth, others will disagree with you based on their perception of the great person to whom you are referring. No, just keep it to yourself. Understanding will help you, not so much them.

He or she might be narcissistic if:

  • He cannot bear to lose an argument. She will change the discussion, the subject, the rules. He will become angry, threatening, demeaning, etc. She simply cannot be wrong unless it is someone else’s fault.
  • She has no sense of your personal boundaries. What’s hers is hers and what’s yours is hers. He sits at your desk, uses your things, and may even touch you in unwelcome ways.
  • After working with him on a project, you feel used. She takes credit for what you do. The more you work with him, the more you realize that he doesn’t do as much as you thought.
  • He talks about himself all the time, yet you don’t really feel like you know him. She never asks how you are or about things that are important to you. It’s all about him.
  • He is full of big stories that make him look good, but his accomplishments in other places don’t match what you see at work. She has all kinds of great plans and her schedule is full, but you don’t often see her doing anything significant.
  • He is often angry, especially with others who don’t do what he thinks they should. She claims to be the victim of abuses of others, but you haven’t seen them being mean to her.
  • His words and his behavior are quite different. He ridicules and derides others, then does the same thing himself. She knows unkind information about everyone, but can’t seem to remember important or simple things about them.
  • He believes he is better than others, that no one measures up to his standards, particularly bosses and other leaders. Yet, he never expresses this to them. She thinks others envy her and judge her unfairly, yet she does the same thing.
  • She expects you to notice her hair or clothing, but never comments positively on yours unless she wants you to do something for her. He shows off his watch, his car, his wife, or something, and has no interest in yours. His kids are the greatest at everything and he has no idea whether or not you have kids.
  • He has no qualms about calling you at inconvenient times to ask you to do difficult or inappropriate things for him. He shows up to help you just as the job is finishing, then acts like he was helping all along. She is very good at volunteering for a job and then getting you or someone else to do it for her, perhaps begging off at the last minute with some lame excuse.

These are all narcissistic characteristics and this list can change. Several people probably came to your mind as you read them. As with other tests, the more of these things that are observed in a person, the more likelihood that person could be classified as a narcissist. Basically, the narcissist is concerned about himself and not about you. In fact, she may not even fully understand that you are a real person with a life and concerns of your own.

Again, remember that this classification is for you. Once you understand what is happening, what kind of person you are dealing with, you will be better able to handle the frustration you find rising up in you. Anything you learn about the narcissist is for you.

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Am I forgiven?

It’s Monday Grace!

When Bob won the lottery he instantly became a millionaire. Not sure what he should do next, Bob just kept working at his job, living in his house, and driving his old car. Not only did he not look like a millionaire, he didn’t feel like a millionaire. It was only when he began to spend some of that money that Bob began to realize how his life had changed.

In a similar way, it is common for people to continue to feel unforgiven after they come to Jesus. The fact of their forgiveness is not really the question; it’s the feeling of forgiveness.

When Bob drove his old car, the driver’s window still stuck, and Bob still had to struggle to get it to work. The house still had a lot of things to fix. His job still had its challenges. Life was about the same—until Bob realized that he didn’t need to fight that old car window, or fix the problems with the house, or even continue to work at his difficult job. Once Bob understood the meaning of the change in his life, he left those problems behind.

When we come to Jesus and learn that His forgiveness has covered all our sins, we may not understand the practical application of that truth in our lives. We continue to live with regret and defeat. We think of ourselves as defined by our failures and compromises. The stupid decisions we made, the foolish things we did, fill us with regret that doesn’t go away simply by the knowledge of our forgiveness.

It isn’t until we begin to walk in that forgiveness, incorporate the freedom and the victory into our lives, that we find the real meaning of being forgiven. When I can think of those old acts and struggles as part of the past, no longer part of who I am, then I become free.

When Bob began to understand how much money he had now and believed that no one was able to take it away, he got rid of his old car and bought a new one. It wasn’t long before Bob decided to buy a new house. In his job, he had new confidence and new enthusiasm. In fact, he did so well at work that he didn’t want to quit. But he knew he could if he wanted.

When you and I begin to understand that we are fully and freely forgiven by the love of God in Jesus, we will begin to put off the old ways. Worry about the future will fade. We will start to feel valued and loved, perhaps more than ever before. Each time we decide to walk in our forgiveness, to stop calling ourselves names and downgrading ourselves, we will find more victory and freedom. Even the old sins will start to go away.

You see, Bob always thought of himself as a lower class man. He never made much money and had to put up with a lot of struggles. His picture of himself didn’t change when he won the lottery. It changed when he began to live like a man who won the lottery.

You and I were taught to think of ourselves as broken and addicted sinners. We told ourselves that we were stupid and that sin had power over us. When Christ saved us and washed our sins away, that feeling didn’t really change. It only changes when we begin to live like people who have been forgiven.

Forgiven people are brand new beings. The Scripture tells us that the old has been washed away, the old man has died. You are no longer that person who did those things. You are not what you were. Now you are washed and sanctified because Jesus loved you enough to pay the price. Sin no longer has dominion over you. The evil one cannot make you do anything. You can walk in victory and freedom. You can know that you will be just as forgiven tomorrow as you are today. And even if you sin again, you can never be defined by that sin.

And, in that final day when you and I stand before the Lord, there will be no recital of our sins, because they are gone. There will be no listing of the things we have done, either before or after we were saved, because all has been washed in the blood of Jesus. There is no room for fear in the love of Jesus for you.

So, yes, you are forgiven. Fully and freely. That’s what the whole story is about. God so loved the world that He sent Jesus to the cross to wash away our sins and set us free forever. That’s the truth. Begin to live as though it is true, and you will begin to feel that it is true.


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Defining Anger

It’s Narcissist Friday!

What’s the difference between your anger and someone else’s anger? Well, it depends on who the other person is. For many people, the answer is that your anger is always selfish and unjustified and theirs is always righteous. Some have learned that they must endure the anger of others while never expressing their own. Others have good reasons to be angry. Your anger is almost always childish and unnecessary.

So, many of us grew up with, “You have no right to be angry!” At the same time, we heard that we should be patient and understanding when they are angry. In fact, we should be apologetic and submissive. For too many, that carried right into marriage and friendships.

Ask anyone to describe a narcissist and they will eventually get around to anger. Narcissists are angry people. The anger might not be loud and abusive, but it is there. We all know it. But, again, you are supposed to be gracious and deferent when they are angry. They are right.

Anger is one of those topics that can be hard to address because we all experience it in different ways and usually carry so much baggage from it. Our anger gets us into trouble. Other people hurt us with their anger. Anger is something to fear.

To put it simply, anger is a normal emotion. It usually comes out of fear, fear of loss. When we are treated with disrespect or violation, we try to protect ourselves by becoming louder and bigger. Our adrenaline surge when threatened will prompt either an aggressive response or a retreat. Fight or flight, as they say. If we are in a situation where we cannot respond with strength, we may well retreat and still feel the anger. It is normal to fantasize about some kind of retribution when we are threatened.

I believe anger is normal. We all experience it. In fact, it is such a common experience that it easily becomes the default emotion in times of stress. Since some people, like narcissists, live in almost constant stress, their normal state includes some expression of anger.

We can reason our way out of anger many times. When we realize that the threat is not real or not serious, we can step back from our anger. Sometimes we can even begin to understand the other person’s feelings and actions. It is possible, much of the time, to replace our anger with compassion and understanding.

But anger makes us feel strong. Narcissists want to feel strong. They normally feel threatened and weak. To overcome those unwelcome feelings, they try to compensate with their anger. And, frankly, it often works. Because narcissists don’t see others as real and valuable, they tend to be ruthless with their anger. They say things and do things that hurt deeply. Their purpose is to counter the threat, even if it doesn’t really exist.

I think it is fair to say that all of us are capable of hurting others with our anger. In fact, we could add that we often do hurt others, even if we are not narcissists. But the difference is that normal people empathize enough with others to feel something of their pain. When they are hurt by our anger, we regret our words and actions.

The narcissist never regrets his anger. Anger is his/her tool to keep others away or in line. Anger is what makes the narcissist stronger than others. Anger allows the narcissist to use and abuse and manipulate without regard to the pain they cause. Narcissists lack empathy; in fact, they don’t even see other people as persons.

It is not wrong to feel anger. It is normal. It is not wrong to find strength through anger to protect yourself. Sometimes getting angry pushes us into doing what we need to do. But it is wrong to use anger as a tool to hurt others.

Be quick and sincere with your apologies when your anger has been abusive. Let the other person know that the fault is yours and you regret hurting them. Remember the real purpose of anger in your life and keep it in control.

I know that many people say all anger is sin. That simply is not true, nor is it what the Bible teaches. To keep it very simple, the Bible makes a powerful statement.

Be angry, and do not sin. Meditate within your heart on your bed, and be still. Psalm 4:4 (NKJV)

If you are angry, be careful not to sin against God or others. Think things through in the light of the love of God and the value of your relationship with others. Remember who you are in Christ. Anger is not sin, but sin is not far away. Be careful.


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Am I valued?

It’s Monday Grace!

You work all day and no one seems to notice. You do your best and no one cares. The people at work and at home take you for granted. They only comment when they think you failed. And you begin to wonder if you are valued at all.

Oh, you know they would miss you. You just wish you could hear something of that now. But the days roll on and on without encouragement or support. It really makes you wonder.

When Jesus spoke of the kingdom of Heaven in Matthew 13, He used some interesting illustrations. In fact, they are a little confusing to many scholars. He says the kingdom is “like a treasure hidden in a field,” and “like a merchant” who finds a pearl of great value, and “like a dragnet that was cast into the sea” and brought back full of many things, and “like a householder” who brings “things old an new out of his treasure.” These four things are quite different, and it can be hard to find the thread that pulls them all together.

But if you think about Who is speaking, it helps. Jesus isn’t just telling the disciples what the kingdom is like, He is telling them what it means to Him. And every one of these illustrations speaks of great value.

Listen: you are the treasure! You are the pearl! You are what Jesus seeks as He casts His net of love! You are the old and new brought out of His treasure stores. To Jesus, the kingdom of God is you! He came out of Heaven to find you. He went to the cross to redeem you. He paid the price for your sin. He did all the work, suffered all the pain, paid all the price—because He values you.

The act of calling you was an act of love. The act of saving you was an act of love. The act of walking with you through the beauty and ugliness of life is an act of love.

In this world, we find it hard to remember what has real value. We focus so hard on our own desires and pleasures that we don’t see others. But Jesus sees us, each of us. He knows you by name and by heart.

Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant seeking beautiful pearls, who, when he had found one pearl of great price, went and sold all that he had and bought it. Matthew 13:45-46 (NKJV)

Never forget: you are the pearl for which Jesus gave all He had. You are valued!


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