Tag Archives: behavior

Not Narcissist?

It’s Narcissist Friday!  

Narcissism is certainly one of those concepts that make so much sense when you first hear about them that you want to apply them everywhere.  Suddenly everyone has a narcissist in their lives.  It’s a little like the popular disease everyone is learning about on the internet.  In just a short time, cases of that disease are found everywhere.  It’s almost an epidemic.

There are two reasons for this phenomenon.  First, there really are more cases of the disease out there than what was previously understood and the revelation of the symptoms has helped people know what is happening to them.  That may well be the case with narcissism.  There are more cases than we have realized and now we have a name for the problem.

But sometimes the desire for categorizing our problems overrides our caution to assign a label.  In other words, we want so badly to understand what’s wrong that we jump on anything that looks close to what we are suffering.  “It must be influenza, because I feel so sick.”  Maybe it is and maybe it isn’t.  This is one reason the professionals are so stingy with their diagnoses.  You might just have a cold or a stomachache.

In the same way, not everyone who exhibits narcissistic behavior is a narcissist.  Sometimes people are just mean.  Things might be happening in the person’s life or in your relationship which lead to cruel behavior or secrecy or attempts to control—all of which could be seen as narcissistic.

Occasionally I get an email or a comment on the blog and I find myself doubting that the person is really describing narcissism.  There’s no way for me to know, of course, without asking a bunch of questions.  Yet, I want to make sure to say that not everything that is mean is narcissistic and not only narcissists exhibit narcissistic behavior.

If you are arguing with someone who seems particularly dense and unwilling to yield, that person might not be a narcissist and it won’t help to call him/her one.  I have consistently advised people in narcissistic relationships to avoid using the word because it so often backfires.  Another good reason is that you may be wrong.

However, there is nothing wrong with learning how to deal with narcissistic behavior and educating yourself so that you know what you are dealing with.  There’s nothing wrong with protecting yourself against abuse.  There’s nothing wrong with finding support from others who have been through difficult relationships.  And sometimes it really is narcissism.

So…

Not all who manipulate, not all who abuse, not all who are cruel, not all who hide, not all who hate, not all who are angry, not all who cause pain, not all who boast, not all who lie, not all who threaten, not all who cheat, not all who are absent or abandon or scapegoat or project or gaslight . . . are narcissists.

If several of these are present in your abuser, then it will be very helpful for you to begin to understand narcissism.  But you don’t have to diagnose or label.  Your primary goal should be your safety and health, and the same for those in your care.  Get the help you need, whether your offender is a narcissist or not.

If, someday, someone tells you that your person is not a narcissist, that’s okay.  You can handle that.  They could be wrong or they could be right.  The label doesn’t matter.  The behavior matters.  Your safety and health matter.

7 Comments

Filed under Narcissism

As A Man Thinketh

Do our doctrines motivate our behavior

or

does our behavior motivate our doctrines?

This question has come up on two discussion groups I deal with.  Interestingly, and perhaps in answer to the question, the doctrines presented in these discussion groups are dramatically different.  The two groups are as close to opposites as we will find within the Christian community.

In one group, we are told that all are saved and there is no hell and nothing will keep anyone from Heaven.  So, the folks who teach that are free to do whatever they want without spiritual consequence.  In the other group, we are told that God is angry with evil and that only a few will get through the gates and that that anyone who disagrees is already condemned.  So the folks who teach there believe they are superior to everyone else and do pretty much whatever they want without worrying about spiritual consequence.  Since the folks in both groups seek to minimize and manipulate earthly consequences, they are almost completely unaccountable.  Yes, it is just that bizarre.

The only difference between the groups, other than their basic beliefs, is their willingness to expose their behavior.  The first group, the one that rejects any negative consequence, is loud and in your face.  The second, the one that teaches others to behave under law and condemnation, has to hide the excesses.  The first doesn’t care about exposure; while the second avoids it.  Otherwise, their behavior is much the same.

Behavior proceeds out of our thinking, according to the Scripture.  So does our doctrine.  What we do comes from what we think.  But what we believe also comes from what we think.  If I think I ought to be able to do something I will find ways to do it and justify it.

So big name preachers mishandle money and women.  And grace teachers get drunk and cuss.  And church leaders abuse their wives and gossip about others.  They do it because they think they should be able to do it.  And they create doctrine that allows it.

Both behavior and doctrine come out of our thinking.  When our thinking is perverse, both our behavior and our doctrine will be perverse.  We are called to “renew” our minds, our thinking, according to the thinking of Christ.  We are to have His mind and His heart.

The Christian life is not a certain standard of behavior.  It is also not a certain set of doctrines.  The Christian life is a relationship with a Person.  It is an exchange, if you will, of His life for ours, of His quality for ours.  He loves us and we love Him.  We walk with Him and He talks with us and we begin to think like Him.

Is there right behavior?  Is there right doctrine?  Of course, but neither matter unless they come out of our relationship with Jesus.

9 Comments

Filed under Relationship

Grace Plus?

I once heard a preacher say that he was 90% grace and 10% law.  He was, of course, concerned about the behavior of those who claimed they were under grace.  It fascinates me that so many people are so concerned about behavior in the lives of those who trust in Christ alone for life.

Frankly, I haven’t seen all that much difference between the behavior of those who claim the sufficiency of Christ and that of those who say that we must maintain our salvation by our behavior.  We who know that we are under grace still struggle against the flesh and the ways of the world.  We still do things the Lord calls sin.  And law hasn’t really helped behavior throughout the centuries, has it?  It seems to me that legalists are just as compromised as we are.

Behavior isn’t the issue.  The issue is life.  The grace message says that life does not come through good behavior but through the love of God in Jesus.  The grace message says that we can add nothing to nor take anything away from the work of Jesus on our behalf.  In other words, we are saved, and kept saved, by His behavior, not ours.

The message we reject is the one that suggests we need to watch ourselves or else we will lose the gift Jesus has given us.  If we do certain wrong things we may wake up one day and find ourselves on the outside.  We reject the idea that anyone has to maintain his own salvation by his behavior or add to the work of Jesus in order to be “really saved.”  We reject the idea that some people are more saved than others on the basis of their good works.  We reject the idea that saved people walk through life with sin yet to be forgiven or washed from their lives.  We reject those things because we believe Scripture rejects them.

Are there people in the grace community who think that sin isn’t a big deal?  I suppose.  But saying that there is no sin on the account of a believer is not the same as saying that sin isn’t a big deal.  Anyone who has read my writings should know that I teach sin is always hurtful and always foolish.  God does hate sin and that’s because He love us.  Sin hurts us. 

And, again, the problem of sin is not a grace issue.  Under the law, people continue to struggle with sin.  Who could deny that? 

The difference, of course, is that those who are under grace walk forward through their lives with the knowledge of God’s love and forgiveness.  We don’t have to look over our shoulders, wondering whether we have done enough or been careful enough.  We can trust the finished work of Jesus.

Listen: If my behavior will keep me out of Heaven, then I am doomed.  You are too.  My salvation has to be completely outside of me, because there is nothing of me that can earn it or keep it.  I am being transformed in my thinking, but I continue to look to the flesh for my responses in life.  I find that I walk in the Spirit more and more; but, if perfect behavior is required, I’m not going to make it.

So if it is grace plus behavior/law, then what percentage is necessary?  Is it 90% grace and 10% behavior?  Is it 99% what Jesus does and 1% what I do?  Maybe 99.9% a free gift of God’s love and .1% a work of my flesh?

No.  No one is good enough to earn .1 % or even .001%.  The stain of sin runs throughout my flesh, even after I come to Jesus.  The flesh is what remains of my old thinking, built and damaged by years apart from the Lord.  If my hope is built on grace plus any amount of good from my flesh, there is no hope. 

When you examine the objections people bring against the message of grace, you will almost always find a desire to place some level of trust in the work of the flesh.  They will almost always say that we still have to behave ourselves or else.  Even those who don’t say what the “else” is, steal hope from the believer.  And if hope fades, victory fades.

Victory in the Christian life, even victory in behavior, comes from the assurance that the work of Jesus is sufficient and permanent in our lives.  Sin is a defeated enemy.  It no longer identifies us, controls us, or condemns us.  In those times when I do something sinful, I can get up and move forward again in the certain knowledge of the love and grace of Jesus Christ.

That’s the message of grace!

1 Comment

Filed under grace, Grace 101, Grace definition, Legalism

Jesus or Nothing

I see it and I recognize it, but I’m going to step in it anyway.  There is a serious debate going on about the connection between behavior and salvation.  The particular question is whether practicing homosexuals can go to Heaven.  Recently the leader of a group known as “Exodus” has made some statements that disturb the system.  In an interview with Lisa Ling, and in reference to people who continue to live in a homosexual lifestyle, Alan Chambers said, “I do believe they will be in heaven with me … if they have a relationship with Jesus Christ.”

This perspective has gotten Chambers into trouble.  People are saying that he should step down from his leadership position.  People are saying that he is a heretic.

But notice what he did not say.  He did not say that a homosexual lifestyle was good or even “acceptable” for a Christian.  He did not say that homosexual behavior was without negative consequences or that it was not sin.  He did not say that homosexuals should not seek to change.  He also did not say that homosexuals were “good enough” to get into Heaven.  He said nothing positive about homosexuality.

What he said was that anyone who has a relationship with Jesus, and I take that to mean a saving relationship based on accepting the love of God in the life and sacrifice of Jesus, will be in Heaven.  His idea of salvation appears to be centered on Jesus, rather than the behavior of people, even people who claim to know Jesus.

So now the question is: Can a gay Christian go to Heaven?  Good grief!

Two things:  First, the gay lifestyle is a search for love.   Yes, it is broken and aberrant and, from the perspective of most of us, disturbing.  But the feelings within the hearts of gay people are usually very deep reactions to the world in which they grew up.  The flesh of the gay person is just as confused and just as wrongly wired as that of the rest of us.

For some people, acceptance and love are found in food.  Some find it in buying things.  Others find it in serving people or recognition at work or in pets or in collecting things.  We do these things because they make us feel what we want to feel.  This is what the flesh is all about—finding ways to feel the way we want.  Some feel much better about themselves in fantasies and indulge in p-rn or romance fiction.  Some go from partner to partner seeking that special feeling.  And some feel better in a close relationship with someone of the same gender.

Feelings lead to actions.  A person addicted to buying things in order to feel good might be tempted to do wrong things to get enough money to continue buying.  A person who eats to feel good can damage his health and become a glutton.  Wrong thinking leads to wrong doing.  Whether it is homosexual behavior or a critical spirit, it comes from wrong thinking.

And, whether we like to admit it or not, we carry a bunch of wrong thinking into our Christian life.  And wrong doing.  I know that I didn’t think and act in the way I thought I should or in the way I wanted when I became a believer.  I still don’t.  And, I’d be willing to bet, neither do you.  It is certainly possible to overcome our feelings, to not let them dictate our actions—but it is hard work and we all know it.  The simple truth is that we didn’t come to Christ by perfect behavior and we don’t have to behave perfectly to remain in Christ.  The only behavior that brings and keeps salvation is Jesus’ behavior.

So is it possible for practicing homosexual Christians to go to Heaven?  Here’s my second point, and it’s important: Christians go to Heaven.  The one requirement for Heaven is eternal life in Jesus.  Those who come to Jesus and place their hope and trust in Him will find Him faithful—even when they are not.  Christians go to Heaven.  Imperfect in this world, broken and struggling and hurting and confused and compromised and sad and wrong and burdened, but Christians.  Just like you and me.

Let’s be honest.  If people who still practice homosexuality, but have a relationship with Jesus, cannot go to Heaven because of their behavior, then there is no hope for any of us.  It is either Jesus, and Jesus alone, or we have nothing.

More tomorrow…

4 Comments

Filed under grace, Grace definition, Legalism, Relationship