Tag Archives: flesh patterns

Why me?

It’s Narcissist Friday!  

 

What was there about me that attracted the narcissist?

What weakness or brokenness did he/she see in me?

What did I do wrong?

Is there a sign on my forehead saying, “Here I am, ruin my life”?

 

These are normal questions from those who have found themselves in narcissistic relationships. In the midst of their struggle, they want to know why the door was open in the first place. They want to know if they should blame themselves.

If you read the literature, you will find references to schemas and schema therapy. We all develop ways of handling life, particularly the parts that hurt us. Schemas are simply the categories of those coping methods. Some hide, some react in anger, some blame, some deny. These are ways of coping that we learned as we grew up. Some call them schemas or other psychological terms; in my counseling and teaching, I refer to them as “flesh patterns.”

But schemas and flesh patterns answer the wrong questions. They don’t really answer why the narcissist hit on you in the first place. They answer why you can’t seem to let go or why you still hurt or why you weren’t strong enough to kick him out. They might answer why you were so excited to let the narcissist into your life. But they don’t answer why you were targeted.

I suspect that some counselors would disagree with me on this. They are used to seeing people as walking schemas or flesh patterns. I don’t really think the narcissist cares about your schema. He/she will use it, exploit it, adapt to it—but it isn’t why he/she focused on you.

Narcissists are predators. They need to feed, to find their narcissistic supply. They will try to get it from anyone. They are willing to knock on a hundred doors in the hopes that one will open. They have developed techniques and characteristics that make them attractive to many kinds of people, bait designed to catch and hold potential victims. But they cast their bait to almost everyone.

Yes, there are some people who project something narcissists don’t like. Perhaps an assurance or a threat that causes the narcissist to stay away. But normal people are fair game. The bait is designed for normal people.

Of course, you can also project your weakness so that the abuser is particularly attracted. The young girl sitting alone at the mall crying on a bench is almost impossible for the abuser to resist. Some people do project their pain or loneliness to others. But that isn’t necessary for the narcissist to be interested.

Let’s suppose you grew up with the admonition to save money whenever possible. You regularly put extra change into a box when you were young. Then someone stole your box and your money was gone. You still believe that it is important to save money, so you build up a nice savings account at the bank. Then someone steals your identity and drains your savings account. Remembering your earlier experience, you might be tempted to say, “Why me? Do I have a weakness that these people see?”

The answer is simply that there are predators out there who will steal whatever they can get. They hit hundreds, perhaps thousands, of people and sometimes they get their pay-off. You might do things to prevent this and you might do things to invite it, but you probably are just a normal person who got hit.

There is no sign on your forehead inviting people to take advantage of you. There is no “kick me” sign on your back. The fact that the narcissist hit on you may have nothing to do with you. Predators hunt constantly and often get lucky.

Remember that some people grow up with narcissistic parents. What did the child do to become the victim? Nothing. The fault is in the narcissist. The narcissist finds people at work, at church, in organizations, and at home. It is normal for victims to feel responsible for their own situations, especially in narcissistic relationships. There may be nothing that you did wrong and no weakness that drew the narcissist to you. In fact, it may be your positive characteristics that attracted the narcissist. It may not have been any weakness, but a strength that drew him/her.

I write this with a certain amount of caution. My concern is for those who put themselves down because they fell into the control of the narcissist. It will be very helpful for you to look into the schemas or flesh patterns of your life as you try to deal with the relationship or its aftermath. But please don’t blame yourself for causing the problem that you have faced. The abuser is responsible for his or her own actions.

When asked why he wanted to climb Mount Everest, George Mallory answered, “Because it’s there!”

Why did the narcissist hit on you? Perhaps simply because you were there.

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The things we taught ourselves

 

I always chuckle when I hear the phrase, “a self-made man.”  Of course there is no such thing; but, if there were, what kind of man would that be?  What kinds of things would you learn on your own?  If the only things you knew were the things you experienced for yourself, your education would be lacking in many ways.  On the other hand, you would probably be quite convinced of the things you thought you knew.

Let’s see—what kinds of things did we learn from ourselves?  Well, most of us learned that acceptance comes from obedience and conformity.  If we did what we were supposed to do, we would be loved.  Good little boys and girls were rewarded.  However, we also learned that “good” could be faked or even stolen.  We stood by as others took credit for the things we did and we were supposed to be gracious and kind while they did it.  We watched as others cheated the system to get what we wanted.  Then we learned that straight hard work may not always be necessary.  Sometimes what we wanted could come from whining or cheating or some other shortcut.

We learned to flinch when someone raised his arm.  We learned to hide when trouble was coming.  We learned to endure when others were mean.  We learned to fight inside our hearts, rather than with our fists.

We learned that acceptance and love were fickle.  We might do well and still not be rewarded.  Someone else might do poorly and be honored.  We learned not to trust the ones who told us we could trust them.  We learned that the things we loved would be taken away.  And we learned that we had little value to the world around us; that there was no friend, no sibling, no parent, whose love was truly unconditional and lasting.

Let’s face it: we learned some hard lessons.  Those lessons colored our thinking and we became deceived.  The world and the manipulators pushed us into giving them access to our hearts and they used us.  And many of us learned that we existed for others to use.

But it was all a lie.  The things we learned came from broken experiences in a broken world.  There was something more, but we were deceived into believing less.

Then, when we finally found something more—One who truly loved us—the things we taught ourselves continued to promote the lie in our lives.  But that story is for tomorrow…

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Competing Goals Lead to Failure

 “Ya gotta have goals!” Zig Ziglar

 

I have always been a Zig Ziglar fan.  He’s a believer and a great motivational speaker widely accepted in secular business circles.  His message is mostly secular, but the principles he uses are good.

We all have goals.  What the motivational speakers ought to do is teach us how to set different goals.  You see, we are led around by goals whether we know it or not.  You may have a goal of feeling loved.  You may want God to accept you.  You may want security or peace or rest.

But, you say, those things are different from specific goals of writing a book or losing weight or climbing a mountain.  Not really.  In fact, the goals of your flesh may be just the things that are keeping you from fulfilling your specific goals.  What happens when your desire to feel good clashes with your desire to lose weight?  What happens when your goal of being accepted by everyone interferes with your goal to write a book?  You see, these competing goals cause you to lose on both sides.

For example: Fred (pick a name) wants to lose weight.  He knows that he is unhealthy and at risk.  Fred struggles with depression because he wants to be appreciated and respected, but feels like a loser.  In order to feel better about life, Fred eats.  He slips into the grocery and buys chips and candy.  When he eats them, he feels good.  Then, he begins to feel bad again because he knows that he can’t lose weight by eating candy and chips.  But Fred also has a goal of being thrifty.  He hates to waste money and he already feels a little guilty about spending on the chips and candy.  So he eats the whole bag of chips and all the candy.  That way he hasn’t wasted the money.  He feels good about not wasting the money, but he feels bad about not losing weight.

Do you see the competing goals?  As long as Fred has this internal struggle, he accomplishes very little.  Some people would say that there are two natures in Fred, a good Fred and a bad Fred.  They will suggest that he fight against the bad side with rules and accountability.

I say that there is only one Fred and he has forgotten that the old way of thinking and living is in the past.  He is free from his former goals.  He no longer has to feel bad about himself because God feels very good about him.  He no longer has to feel like a loser and to compensate for his bad feelings with behaviors that help only for a moment while adding to his pain and frustration in the long run.  Instead, Fred has a whole new set of thoughts available to think.

Suppose Fred began trusting the Lord for his money.  Then, if the Lord revealed that he had made a bad purchase in the chips and candy, Fred could trust that the Lord would provide as he threw them away.  Suppose Fred believed that Heaven was his and success was in the hand of the Lord.  Then the next time Fred began to hear the accusations of him being a loser, he could trust in God’s assessment of him and not feel bad so that he has to buy chips and candy to feel good.

Now, I know this is simplistic, but it is also exactly how this process goes.  Our goals in life are the product of our thinking.  Competing goals will lead us to failure.  Competing ways of thinking are the problem.  The flesh and its thinking is part of your past.  It represents the old way.  But that old way is gone, replaced by a whole new life.

The Lord loves you.  He has already accepted you in Christ.  When you came to Him, He was already waiting because He had already been calling for you.  Nothing you have done has barred you from His love.  Once you came to Him, He has made all things work together for good in your life.  There is no failure, no bondage, no fear to identify you.  You are the victor in Him.  You are free in Him.  You are safe in Him.

Once you and I begin to think like saved people, we will begin to see amazing changes in our lives.  We will see the goals of our hearts fulfilled.

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A Security Blanket?

What is your security?  Yesterday I wrote about how some people see money as a source of security.  Some look to their marriage as a source of security.  Others see family in that way.  Or friends.  Or health.  Or a job.  Or a good neighborhood.  Or a certain country, a certain church, a certain house.  Linus has his blanket.  What do you have?

The need for security resides deeply in the human heart.  We consider it a survival requirement.  I think we were made that way.  Think about it: Humans are born weak and dependent.  We have no choice but to trust someone or something else to provide for us for several years.  That primary uncertainty builds in us a need for security.  We want to know where our next meal is coming from and we want to feel safe.

As we grew, our flesh system learned ways to feel secure.  Some people saw a connection between hard work and security.  Some found security in associations with certain people or organizations.  Others found security in their own abilities.  Then, when those things are taken away, they find themselves in trouble.  What’s even more interesting is that they were never able to find real security because they always knew that person or that organization or those abilities could go away.  So they lived in insecurity because the source of their security wasn’t secure. (Sorry ;))

 

But the Christian’s security will not be found in the things of this world.  The Lord Himself is our security.

 

 The LORD is my rock and my fortress and my deliverer; My God, my strength, in whom I will trust; My shield and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold. Psalm 18:2

 Be my strong refuge, to which I may resort continually; You have given the commandment to save me, for You are my rock and my fortress. Psalm 71:3

 For You have been a shelter for me, A strong tower from the enemy. Psalm 61:3

We believe this, right?  We can trust the Lord, right?  So why do we become afraid?  Perhaps because we still think that these other things offer us security.  There is no security in bank accounts or employers or friends.  Most of us have found that out the hard way.  But there is security in the Lord who loves us.

Looking for security in anything or anyone other than the Lord and His great love opens us to fear and bondage.  There is freedom in not expecting our security from the things of this world.

So, remind yourself that it is only the flesh that calls you back to trusting on these false sources of security—and the flesh is part of the past.  The Spirit leads you to trust the Lord, no matter what is happening around you.

 

. . . Fear not, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by your name; You are Mine. When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; And through the rivers, they shall not overflow you. When you walk through the fire, you shall not be burned, Nor shall the flame scorch you. For I am the LORD your God, The Holy One of Israel, your Savior. . . Isaiah 43:1-3

Let the past be past!

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Believers and Sin

However, this does not mean that the flesh system is altogether gone in the life of the new believer (nor even the old believer).  Because the flesh is a system of habits and conditioned responses, the believer may choose to live his remaining days and conduct his relationships out of the flesh.  It is what has been normal for so long.  The reactions of the flesh are deeply ingrained in his thinking.  Thus, a believer may live “according to the flesh,” as Paul says, and may use sinful actions to attempt to satisfy his needs.  He may know in his heart that the Lord is the only One who has ever met his needs, but his old habits are hard to break and often come first in his thinking.  The difference in his new life is that he has a choice.  The relationship he has with Jesus has filled him with the Spirit and he is able to choose to live “according to the Spirit.”  The admonitions of Scripture against sin have the purpose of exposing the dangers of certain actions and attitudes and the desire to protect believers and those around them from that danger. 

What it does mean is that the believer, although still quite capable of sin and probably often participating in it in some form, is no longer defined by it.  Whereas the believer was once stuck with his flesh as the only system for coping with life, he now has the life of Jesus Christ within and the Spirit to enable him not to sin.  He has become a new creature.  So Paul says to the Corinthians that they “were” defined by their sins and now they are defined by their relationship with Jesus. (1 Cor 6:11)

Thus, a person could still exhibit narcissistic characteristics because that is his deeply ingrained flesh pattern, but he is no longer a narcissist.  He has been set free from the definition of that sin (and all others).

Here’s an example: I have a good friend who became a believer while still an alcoholic.  He says that he was a “saved drunk.”  For several years after his repentance and conversion, he struggled with his addiction to alcohol.  Eventually he came to understand that he no longer needed what he thought alcohol gave him.  He found that Jesus provided what he was looking for.  He stopped drinking with no side-effects and believes that God gave him a miracle.  He finally understood that, in Christ, he was no longer a drunk.  So he began to live out of who he really was, instead of who he had always been. 

That’s the victory over the flesh!

So, should believers repent?  That’s tomorrow…

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Repentance

Yesterday, I responded to a question concerning whether a narcissist could be saved.  Within that question was another on whether the narcissist was capable of repenting.  Today I want to take a stab at the definition of repentance.

I would establish two axioms.  It may be that not all believers would agree with me on these, but I believe them to be true and they move me to understand more about sin and repentance.  Here they are:

  1. God hates sin because sin hurts His people and He loves us.
  2. Believers can commit any sin, if they seek to live out of their flesh rather than the Spirit.

Much is made of the Greek meaning of words.  The word, metanoia, is usually the word we see translated as “repentance.”  It means simply, “to change the mind.”  In other words, to think differently.  But to think differently about what?

As we grew up, we created a coping system for our lives.  We learned how to deal with people, how to look at ourselves, and what limits to place on our dreams.  We learned how to deal with life.  Our system may not have worked very well, but it worked well enough to get us through difficulties.  Addictions, habits, attitudes, expectations—these grew out of the system as we created it.  The Scripture calls this system the “flesh.”  It stands against the Spirit, according to Paul in Galatians.  The flesh, because it is unwilling to trust the assessment of the Lord, often embraces sin as a method of getting what it needs.  For example, a person might desire some attention in order to feel good about himself.  He tries some things but doesn’t get what he wants.  When he lies, however, he is able to move attention toward himself.  The need to feel good about himself leads him to crave attention and lying becomes simply one of the ways to meet his need.  This is the flesh at work.

The error that is often made is to think that repentance is thinking differently about particular sins.  When a child lies, the parents will try to move him to repent, to acknowledge the sin and renounce it.  If he says that he is sorry for lying and will try not to do it again, the parents are satisfied.  But the child may only have learned that lying doesn’t work or, worse, that he hasn’t been lying well enough.  He may think differently about that particular sin, but his core thinking hasn’t changed at all.  Next time he craves attention, he may hit someone or break something or use a bad word.  Too often people learn either to sin more discreetly or to exchange one sin for another.  To call this repentance is in error.

Repentance happens when a person looks at his or her life and realizes that the flesh system isn’t working.  To repent is to look outside oneself for life, to seek the life God provides.  The one who repents reaches out to God because God offers something more than he could ever provide for himself.  The flesh system is seen as insufficient and the love of God is accepted.

Someone asks whether repentance is necessary for salvation.  Of course it is.  Why else would anyone look to the Lord for new life?  But repentance is not a decision to no longer sin, nor is it merely regret for former sins.  Repentance is a realization that life isn’t working as is and a genuine desire for something different.  Repentance doesn’t save.  Jesus saves.  But repentance allows us to look outside ourselves to see Jesus.

More tomorrow…

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