Tag Archives: narcissistic patterns

Shame

It’s Narcissist Friday!     

 

Many of us knew very well which were Mom’s “good scissors.” There were other scissors you could play with, use to cut paper or tape or cardboard, but not Mom’s good scissors. Those were for cutting cloth only.

I was trying to come up with a distinction between guilt and shame when I thought of Mom’s good scissors. Guilt was what came on you if you used those scissors, especially for something you shouldn’t. Shame was what came on you when you tried to cut your own hair with them. Guilt would get you a scolding or a spanking. Shame lasted much longer. Shame became an identity.

One of the common factors I discovered in both legalism and narcissism was the use of shame to manipulate others. In a world where acceptance is given on the basis of performance, shame punishes the person who is inadequate. Notice that the person is shamed, rather than the action or lack of action. Shame attaches directly to the person. Shame is the lopsided haircut that shows everyone you used Mom’s good scissors.

We know how to handle guilt. We confess, apologize, make restitution, and/or endure punishment. The church teaches that guilt, the judgment that comes against a certain action, has been washed away from us by the cross of Jesus. God, in His love for us, provided the sacrifice for our sins to wipe away our guilt. There is no condemnation for those who are in Jesus, the Scripture tells us. No more guilt.

But shame is different. Shame says that the person is bad. Shame is a label, an identity, we assume for ourselves. We wear it for others to see. We may even tell someone about it so they don’t miss it. “I am a bad person,” we say. It isn’t enough to simply admit to the sinful or hurtful act, to deal with our guilt, we want to go beyond the action to our identity.

And, of course, those who would manipulate us want us to live under the burden of shame. So the narcissist is not content with calling attention to failure and accepting an apology. No, he/she must be certain that we attach the identity of failure to ourselves. The victim must feel like a failure—and listen—no apology can take that away. The legalist preacher or church member cannot be satisfied with saying that a certain action is sin, he/she must add that the person who does such a thing is identified by that sin. Thus, an act of adultery, which could be handled in a relationship or church community, becomes a label of adulterer—and the person becomes the label.

The narcissist uses words like “always” and “never” to drive home the fact of identity. “You always fail.” “You never do it right.” Those statements are meant to give the person shame. Abusers use shame to manipulate their victims. Shame weakens and moves a victim to submit. If the person will not automatically (usually because of years of training) attach the shame to themselves, the abuser will push them to do it. “You should be ashamed!” “Shame on you!” “Look at you in your shame.” The narcissistic mother may punish the daughter who used her good scissors to cut her own hair by leaving the hair that way, at least as long as the image of shame is useful.

The legalist does the same thing. By labeling a person with his or her sin, the legalist weakens even a believer who accepts forgiveness for his or her action. “Yes, God forgives you for your adultery, but now you are and always will be an adulteress.” The dissonance between the freedom of the forgiveness of God and the feeling of permanency that comes with the label is confusing and irreconcilable. And, again, there is nothing to do about the label. If the sin is forgiven, then the label no longer fits—and here’s the rub—but it feels like it fits. That’s the shame. The narcissist and the legalist both take advantage of the shame to manipulate and abuse.

Now, this is a deep subject, much more than can be presented in a simple blog post. At the same time, the link between legalism (performance-based spirituality) and narcissism (performance-based relationship) becomes clear. As long as acceptance is based on performance, shame will be part of the deal.

Let me close with the message God has for those of us who so easily remember our sin. First, there is no shame for those who belong to Jesus. When your sin was washed away, the shame was taken as well.

For the Scripture says, “Whoever believes on Him will not be put to shame.” Romans 10:11

“But,” you say, “I still did those things. Someone who has lied is a liar. Someone who commits adultery is an adulterer. How can that change?” Read this carefully.

Do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived. Neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor homosexuals, nor sodomites, 10  nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners will inherit the kingdom of God. 11  And such were some of you. But you were washed, but you were sanctified, but you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus and by the Spirit of our God. 1 Corinthians 6:9-11

You were those things, but no longer. You did those things, but you have been made new. The sin no longer clings to you as an identity. You no longer need to feel shame.

Is this possible? It seems too good to be true, doesn’t it? All I know is that this is the promise of our Lord. If He says that your sins are washed away, then they are. If He says you and I are no longer what we were, then that is the truth.

Don’t let anyone shame you! Don’t accept the shame the abusers want you to live. If you have done something wrong, deal with it in the right way. Then trust that your forgiveness from the Lord is real and honest. That sin is no longer connected with you. It has been washed away. There is no shame in it for you.

Overcome the lie that binds you with the truth of God’s love.

 

 

(If you are interested in learning more about the message of grace, type Grace 101 in the search box on the side of this post.  You will find several posts that are meant to teach the basics of God’s grace in Jesus.)

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So we prayed…

It’s Narcissist Friday!     

 

So we prayed!  Some have been here to say that things were different this year.  Some said nothing.  All, I hope, felt a little more protected and loved through these challenging days.  I also hope we will keep praying.

Some of you might not have had wonderful answers to our prayers.  Maybe your Christmas was awful because of your narcissist.  Again.  And you wonder if it mattered that we prayed for you.  I understand.

Many Christians feel compelled to offer excuses for why God doesn’t answer the prayers of our hearts in the way we feel we need.  “God is teaching you.”  “God is working on the narcissist.”  “God has a longer plan.”  “It would have been worse if you hadn’t prayed.”   All or any of these could be the right answer, but I am not going to go there.  I don’t have to give God an excuse.  He says that He hears our prayers and that He loves us.  I believe He is both wise and good, therefore I have to leave these things in His hands.

I wrote a post a while back that seems to fit here.  It may be a word of encouragement, even in your disappointment.  Whatever you feel right now, please know that the love of God is real.  You are not alone.  We will continue to pray.

Here’s the post:

Why Does God Allow It?

If God is good and God is strong and God knows everything, why doesn’t He change the circumstances that hurt us so much? This question haunts many believers and non-believers. Some would say that they became unbelievers because of this question. If they were honest, some may say that they became unbelievers because of the answers they were given.

In our comments this past week this question has come up in the context of the painful narcissistic relationship. How can God allow some people to use and abuse and cause so much pain to others? How can God stand by while we lose so much? Why doesn’t God deal with the abusers?

What I have found over the years is that the pat answers, no matter how good they sound to the one who gives them, rarely give real help to those who are hurting. Here are a few:

  1. It’s because of sin in your life. If you obeyed better, these terrible things wouldn’t be happening to you.
  2. It’s for your good. God loves you and sent the abuser to make you what He wants you to be.
  3. God is preparing you to be strong because something worse is coming.

Now, I don’t find any of those to be helpful. The first one makes evil my fault. The second one makes evil God’s fault. The last one makes my future seem dreadful. There is no comfort in any of these.

Please understand that this is one of the great mysteries of the faith. The answers we have do not come easily. This post will take a topic that could encompass many pages and boil them down to one, and that will be less than satisfying for any of us.

So here’s what I know:

  1. God is good and He loves me. He is not malicious or wrathful. He does not send trouble into my life to hurt me.
  2. God is strong enough and wise enough to stop the pain and change the circumstances. The fact that He doesn’t, does not change the fact that He could.
  3. God does not initiate evil, nor does He send it on us. His plan for us is good. The abuser is responsible for the evil he does.
  4. The world is broken, not working the way it was meant to work. Evil is a natural part of this brokenness. Those who do evil, narcissists and other abusers, participate in evil without any prompting by God.
  5. God does use difficult circumstances to draw us to Himself and He is able to turn curses into blessings. While He is not the author of the evil we suffer, He can use it for good in our lives.
  6. There are worse things than the pain we suffer. In the moment it is very hard to feel the reality of this, but it is true. The loneliness and confusion and emptiness of life apart from God’s love is one thing I would consider worse.
  7. All evil is temporary. Most of it will end in this life, but all will be gone in the next. That which is broken will be re-created and pain will be gone forever.
  8. In my pain I am never alone. The Lord is always with me, always near when I cry out to Him. Even when I cannot feel His presence, I can take comfort in knowing that He is with me.
  9. Those who look to Him and trust Him in the midst of their pain do find a special grace, an ability to live above their circumstances and to find their identity apart from their suffering.

Does this help me? Yes, it does. It reminds me that I don’t need the pat answers. As much as I want to understand, I really don’t need to. My desire to understand is usually a desire to control. I want to approve of my circumstances, even the difficult ones. If I know the purpose, then I might be able to give permission. But that is not my place. When I am able to trust Him, I find the peace He wants me to have.

No, I do not find this easy. I wish I could just live this way consistently, no matter what happens. But I am just as weak as anyone, just as fearful and just as doubtful. The only thing I have is the one thing I know—Jesus loves me.

Do I still wish He would change things sometimes? Of course! I pray against pain and suffering, in my life and in the lives of others. But as long as we are in this world, the brokenness will affect our lives. Sometimes, some amazing and wonderful times, God reaches in and changes things. The pain ends and life is good again for a while. I praise Him and rejoice in my peace. But I am learning to find that peace even in the times of struggle. Learning slowly, but learning.

No more pat answers. Don’t blame evil on me or on God. It just is. There may be causes and explanations, but none of them help my situation. What helps is to look on the One who loves me and trust Him.

That’s my prayer for each of you. Look to Him and trust in His love. Do what He leads you to do. If you can leave the narcissistic relationship, do it. If you cannot, then look to Jesus and find His overwhelming love in the midst of your struggle. He is there for you.

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Tapeworms, Fleas, and Ebola

It’s Narcissist Friday!     

 

A parasite is an organism that lives on or in a host and gets its food from or at the expense of its host.

– CDC definition

 

You work and struggle to gain ground in your life, only to find it slipping away time after time. You put away money, and it disappears. You eat well and exercise, but never feel healthy. You produce good stuff at work, but never get promoted. You smile and try to be positive, but you can’t seem to lift even your own spirit. Something is draining you. Something/someone is taking what you are working hard to produce. But the drain is subtle, hidden, a little at a time. It’s hard to pinpoint at first, but the effect you feel is very real.

After reading the amazing comments after the last post, I came to realize that there is a general theme in almost all of our dealings with narcissism. Obviously, the suggestions you shared reveal both pain and anger. (I gathered them and listed them below.) Frankly, as I look at the list, I am saddened. The emotions you see in that list are strong. They are natural responses to a PARASITE.

Imagine the disgust you would feel if you found you had a tapeworm. Or how dirty you would feel to find fleas. We loathe parasites. They make us feel unclean, used, diminished, and angry. We swat a mosquito that threatens to suck our blood. We avoid viruses and bacteria as much as we can. The thought of those little monsters eating away at us and reproducing inside us is revolting. Their very existence offends us.

Well, that was disturbing, wasn’t it? Just thinking about those things bothers us. We understand the angst someone has toward parasites. We understand the anger and nausea. And when we think of the narcissist unable to love, but sharing a bed, we are just as sickened. When we think of a person who cultivates relationships simply to use the gifts and kindness of others, we get angry.

The narcissistic relationship is parasitic. The narcissist uses you to build his/her life. All the praise and support and kindness in the beginning of the relationship had the simple purpose of getting the narcissist into your heart. You relaxed your normal barriers, even for a moment, and you were bitten, infected, and poisoned. It took some time for you to understand what happened, but eventually you could see the damage the parasite was doing. Getting out of the relationship required purging: harsh medicines, strict boundaries, and consistent support.

The process for getting rid of a tapeworm is disgusting. The process for getting rid of fleas is time-consuming and repetitive. The process for getting rid of an infectious virus like Ebola can be life-changing. So, we should expect to go through a challenge when we decide to separate from the narcissist. It isn’t easy, and it takes time. The little eggs of head lice are called “nits.” To get rid of the lice, you have to get rid of the nits—hence, the term “nit-picking.” You feel like you find evidence of the damage from the narcissist/parasite in every little thing. You want to tell everyone you meet so you can gather support, but you don’t want anyone to know because you are so disgusted.

And you blame yourself. But even that is the product of the narcissistic relationship. It is in the nature of parasites to seek hosts. Listen: they find you! Think about that for a minute—a full minute. They watched and waited and planned and manipulated and worked to get to you. The whole focus of the parasite’s life is to find a host. Yes, you might have played into their hands. You drank contaminated water. You touched an infected person. You went outside without spraying. Whatever. But don’t blame yourself! The narcissist/parasite would have found someone else if it wasn’t you. They have to have someone.

And there are those who seem quite willing to pass the parasites on to you. They sell contaminated food, give away infested clothing or bedding, produce diet pills with tapeworms. You feel betrayed, tricked…and angry. You had no idea what you were getting. They just didn’t care. You trusted, but you shouldn’t have. It isn’t your fault.

No, don’t let anyone tell you this was a “symbiotic” relationship. That’s not true. The only time a narcissistic relationship is symbiotic (where both use and both benefit) is when two narcissists attach to each other, which does happen. Even though you thought you were receiving something of benefit, at least early in the relationship, you learned that was a lie. The benefit didn’t turn out to benefit you at all. The parasite uses and gives nothing except more pain.

Many parasites continue with their hosts until the hosts die. Some know enough not to take so much from the host. A dead host offers little. But, of course, there’s always another. The point is that the parasite doesn’t care. There is no feeling for the host, no investment in the host’s well-being. Listen: the parasite doesn’t really see the host as another being. The host is simply a food source. The narcissist depersonalizes others, doesn’t see others as real people in the sense that he/she is real. Using others is easy for them, because others are objects for using.

That brings to mind another term we have used for narcissists, and you will see it on the list. Predator. A predator is just a more vicious and destructive parasite. He/she destroys the life of another to feed his/her own. The things we call parasites are generally slower, but often just as deadly as a predator. Most narcissists move slowly and carefully, at least those willing to connect by long-term relationships. Some may hit and run, but most act like parasites.

I like the idea of a parasitic relationship in explanation of narcissism. You will probably see it in my writing in the future. Narcissists use people, in any relationship. They might be smart enough to use without damaging the other, but most just use without regard to the loss the other suffers. When the relationship no longer provides the “supply” the narcissist desires, he/she simply moves to someone else. Just like other parasites.

You may find this to be helpful in explaining your narcissistic relationship to counselors, friends, or family. If you can show them how you are being used without receiving benefit, they may be as offended as you are. Of course, that’s hopeful thinking. At least the concept might help you understand what has been happening.

So here’s the list I gleaned from your comments. I think I got them all. I did not judge or clean up the list. All I did was give consistent punctuation, remove duplicates, and alphabetize. Read through the list and empathize with the feelings behind the words. You may even use this when you try to explain your situation to others. This is how people who have suffered from narcissistic relationships describe what they have known as narcissists and narcissism.

Abusive Bully

Acute Self-Absorption Syndrome

Acute Selfish Syndrome

Addict of Self

Aggressive Egoist

Betrayer

Blackheart

Bulls**t Generator

Bully

Chameleon

Chronically Self-Centred

Con Artist

Conscience-Less

Covert Aggressor

De mentors

Demonic spirit

Destroyer

Destructive

Devious

Devoid of Truth

Disempathic

Dr. Jekyl/Mr. Hyde

Emotional Hostage Takers

Emotional Predator

Emotional Terrorist

Emotional Vampires

Emotionally Deprived Individuals

Empathy-Impaired

Empty Vessel of Insolent Pride

Energy Vampires´ Or `Energy Suckers´

Engulfing

Entitled/Entitlement

Evil

Evil Personified

Fool

Hard Hearted

Heartless

Image Maker

Insolent Pride

Intrusive

Jezebel Spirit

Lord Voldemort

Luciferian

Master Manipulator

Murderer of The Soul

Nabal

Narcissistic BSMM (But So Much More)

Opportunistic Social Predator

Oppressor/Oppression

Parasite

Pathological

Plutonian

Predator

Pretender

Puppet Master

Queen of The World

Reprobate

Ruthless Personality Disorder

Self-Absorbed

Self-Focused

Sheep in Wolves Clothing

Sith

Snake

Social Predator

Soul Sucker

Soul-Murderer

Soul-Rapist

Spirit Killer

Suffocator

Targeting Emotional Vampires

Terminator

Terrorist

The Criminal

The Diminisher

The Monster in My Bed

Tiny Hitler

Toxic

Toxic Blamer

Toxic Poo

Turds

User

Violating

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What else could we call it?

It’s Narcissist Friday!     

 

Recently someone asked in the comments if we could come up with a better word than narcissism. That would be a great idea, as long as we could find something that makes sense to people without compromising any of the fuller definition. We walk a line between the professionals who don’t want us to use one of “their words” and the folks who use the word either for fun or as a pejorative. Somewhere in between are those who have lived with, grown up with, worked with, or have been friends with narcissists. But… if you call them narcissists you get into trouble.

So can we come up with another word? I know you can think of some we shouldn’t print here. I can too. So something we can use in good company to explain the narcissist in our lives. Let’s consider this from two angles, the disorder/characteristic and the person. In other words, a substitute for the word “narcissism” and another for “narcissist.” The two can be related, of course.

Sam Vaknin referred to narcissism as “malignant self-love.” George Simon calls narcissists “wolves.” Jeff Crippen and I visited about just calling narcissists “abusers.” All of these have value in talking about this problem. I don’t know what image comes to the minds of hearers when we refer to malignant self-love, and self-love may be the manifestation we see, but that may not be the motivation behind the behaviors. The idea of narcissists as wolves is primarily limited to their deceptive and predatory nature. And “abusers,” which fits so very well, brings physical abuse to mind in most people, rather than the subtle and methodical emotional abuse of the narcissist.

In the past I have written about calling them “jerks.” That has meaning to me, but it certainly is a pejorative and does not communicate much to others. It just feels good from time to time. You probably have your “pet” names as well. But we want to communicate.

So where do we go with this? Narcissists are users; that communicates a lot. Narcissists are manipulators. Narcissists are controllers. All of these get close, I think. Narcissism could be “relationship abuse.” That might open the hearer to understand that there are abusers who don’t necessarily physically harm their victims. Narcissists can be found in almost every human relationship, so the new word should be applicable to work, friendships, family, marriage, and more.

Freud came up with the term “narcissism” to describe the kind of self-love and self-preservation that moves people to depersonalize others. As we know, it came from the old story of Narcissus. Freud liked using old Greek myths as types of psychological characteristics. But it was just an attempt to put a group of symptoms into a word. If that word is no longer as useful to us, we should be able to come up with a better one. Right?

So here are some more ideas:

Narcissism: self-adoration, power-mongering, selfishness, vanity, egotism,

Narcissist: egomaniac, braggart, spoiled brat, little god

None of these is quite enough. We can do better. So I turn this over to you. If you didn’t use the words narcissism or narcissist to describe your N, what would you use? Pretend you are describing your N to someone, a pastor, a counselor, a police officer. What words would you use? Remember that describing the actions in those situations would be great, but that isn’t what we are looking for. We are looking for a word or very short phrase that could substitute for narcissism or narcissist.

Your turn!

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Clues

It’s Narcissist Friday!     

 

Is there any way to discover a narcissist before you get into a relationship with one? Are there clues we should be seeing?

Yes, with one caveat. We probably won’t know that a person is actually a narcissist until we dig deeply into that person’s life. Instead, we can identify a “toxic person.” It doesn’t really matter whether the person is a narcissist, you want to know if this person could hurt you. There are signs that many people overlook when they meet another person.

Let’s break these clues into two groups: What you see in the person and what you feel in yourself.

 

So, first, what do you see?

 

Criticism:

The narcissist criticizes without regard to propriety. You and I feel like we have to earn the right to share a criticism. The narcissist doesn’t feel that way. He/she will criticize your clothes, your car, your work, anything. You will probably hear him/her criticize others, especially behind their backs. The girl who goes out with a new boy and hears criticism of what she wears or anything else in her life should become very alert. It begins early.

Insincere praise:

It may be surprising to realize that narcissists are quick and generous with their praises. The truth is that this is a manipulative tool narcissists learn early. They use praise to get people to like them and to disarm any hesitation. It often works. (Remember Eddie Haskell?) If you meet someone who is overly generous with praise of you or others, be careful!

Discovering secrets:

Contrary to what some might think, narcissists are good listeners, at least early in the relationship. They gather personal information to use later. It is always best to be careful about sharing personal things, but if you notice someone asking inappropriate questions about sensitive things, that person might be toxic. If he/she returns to a sensitive area after you stopped talking about it, be alert.

Cheating:

In a recent post I shared about how narcissists cheat. Not only will the toxic person break some rule in your presence, he will probably make you aware of it. You are supposed to understand that he is superior. Letting you see him break a rule will impress you with his boldness and deceive you into thinking you share a secret. Many people like the “bad boy” as long as he isn’t hurting them. But the bad boy might become toxic in a relationship.

Fantasy future:

Narcissists can be big talkers with big dreams. Sharing dreams isn’t bad, even early in a relationship, but the dreams of the narcissist will revolve around others admiring or submitting to him. He will be a rock star in some area of life so that others will notice and look up to him. But, as you get to know him, you will see that he doesn’t have the courage or determination to make those dreams come true.

Complaints:

The reason the dreams don’t come true will be because others hold him back or fail him in some way. Narcissists have complaints. They are under-appreciated at church, used at home, passed over at work. The reason he was fired at his last job was because the boss wanted his relative to have the position. People just don’t understand her. Life is always unfair to the narcissist.

Excuses:

The failures of the narcissist’s life are someone else’s fault. He will admit to a weakness if it gives him an excuse for failure. He was late because he never really learned to tell time. (Of course, you better not be late.) He forgot the commitment he made to you or to someone else. It wasn’t his fault. The boss had him working late. His mom took the car. His roommate was loud all night. On and on and on.

Selective memory:

When the narcissist tells the story, it probably isn’t the way you remember it. He will be made to look smarter or stronger. The others will be made to look more foolish. The excuse won’t be quite true. After the argument, your version is different from hers. You were mean, and she was the victim. But that’s not the way it was. Narcissists see truth as something that can be molded to fit their needs.

 

And how does that person make you feel?

 

Compromised:

You walk away from the conversation feeling like you said too much, maybe even exposed things you shouldn’t have. Why did you do that?

Manipulated:

You are painted into a corner. You have to answer the way the person wants or you will feel like you are doing something wrong. You have to do what the person wants, or agree with what she says, even if you don’t want to.

Complicit:

You feel like a partner in a crime you didn’t commit. The narcissist lies, and you are put in a situation where you have to cover or agree. You bring the narcissist to an event, and he breaks the rules. Now you feel guilty.

Drained:

Even at the beginning of a relationship, narcissists can be draining. You are the one who talked the whole time. Or maybe you listened so intently to his talking that you feel exhausted. You worked so hard to present your best that you are wiped out now. Ask yourself why that person drained you.

Mean:

You come away from a time with this person and you realize that you have said so many mean things about others that you are ashamed. Does that person draw out those comments from you, those feelings?

Pushed:

Not just manipulated, but pushed into things. You didn’t really want to go to that movie. You didn’t want to talk about that person. You didn’t want to wear those clothes. Yet, you feel like that person pushed you somehow. It isn’t easy to explain why you didn’t stand up for yourself, but you just didn’t.

High:

This might surprise you. Narcissists know which buttons to push to make someone feel really special and valued. They know just what to say and how to say it. Sadly, this is just another form of manipulation. If you come away from an early contact feeling like this new relationship is too good to be true, it might just be.

 

The whole idea of a clue is that it is not proof. None of these, standing alone, proves that a person is toxic, let alone a narcissist. But when you see several of these, in that person or yourself, then you have some red flags.

So what other clues have you realized? Hindsight does help! It may at least help others.

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A little Narcissism

It’s Narcissist Friday!     

 

Over and over I read about how narcissism can be a good thing in our lives. I know that business and leadership seem to favor the narcissistic style because it gets things done. But most of those who talk about “healthy narcissism” mean we should all have a little of it.

I have written about this before, but it does bear repeating. If all we mean by narcissism is self-esteem, then of course it is healthy for all of us until it gets out of hand. But narcissism means something far more dangerous and destructive than self-esteem. Even if we mean self-interest or self-protection, there is a healthy limit for us. I believe the Bible teaches us a healthy self-love.

But narcissism is necessarily cruel and abusive. Narcissists don’t care about others, at least not apart from using them. Narcissism destroys marriages, families, businesses, churches, and more.

Years ago I was visiting with a group of pastors and noted that a few people had left our church to go to another. I was thankful they had left because they were disruptive and divisive. The church they went to was quite large, so I thought they wouldn’t be so much of a problem in that church. One of the pastors, a wise older man, said, “So, what you are saying is that a little cancer is okay, as long as the man is a big man.” I hadn’t thought of it like that before.

Narcissism devours relationships and victims much like cancer. A little can go a long way. A little fire can lead to big problems. Even the Scripture speaks of a little leaven/yeast making the whole batch of dough rise. One narcissist can destroy a church. A little narcissism can ruin a relationship.

I find it hard to see the good in narcissism of any kind. Yes, narcissists get things done, almost always at the expense of others. Yes, narcissists can make quick decisions, almost always without regard to the effect it will have on people. Anyone who is willing to think long term will see that narcissism is a negative.

So when you hear people say that narcissism can be a good quality, that there is such a thing as healthy narcissism, ask them which of the nine characteristics of narcissism is healthy. Ask how a disorder, one that is defined by consistently negative terms, can be positive. Ask them how a disorder that has destroyed so many marriages and families, that has caused victims so much depression and despair, can be good.

We don’t talk about a healthy murderous rage, or a healthy manipulative abuser, or a healthy inveterate liar—so why should we talk about a healthy narcissist? And if there isn’t such a thing as a healthy narcissist, then how can there be healthy narcissism?

Again, this is a popular way to affirm self-esteem or self-affirmation. But that’s what it is, not narcissism. Narcissism is evil.

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Winners and Losers

It’s Narcissist Friday!    

 

I wish I didn’t think that a person had to be a narcissist to be in politics these days. Maybe it isn’t true on the lower levels, but it seems almost a requirement for higher offices. Narcissists love the praise and adoration of politics, and their supporters faithfully shield them from the criticisms or help them blame the accusers. Most politicians are used to getting what they want, from people who want to serve them. Politics offers a wonderful playground for a narcissist. Power, attention, prestige, admiration—these attract narcissists like spilled 7-up attracts ants. Politics offers all of these.

But please don’t think of this as a political post. I have never wanted to use either the pulpit or the blog for that purpose, in spite of my own opinions. Instead, my desire is to point out something about narcissism that we all see but may fail to recognize.

I recently watched both the victory and the concession speeches of a couple of the candidates. For the last year or two, especially the most recent days, the opponents had accused each other of terrible things. They had attacked policies, character, family, even personal appearance. Their sycophants had carried the insults even further.

Then, suddenly, when it was finally over, they say nice things about each other as though they have always been friends. Each praises the other for the passionate campaign and for service to the country or state. And life is supposed to go on as though none of the arrows had ever been shot, as though none of the injuries caused continuing pain. Now, I understand that Americans like to view politics in the same vein as sports contests. We admire fierce combat, but we remember that it is “just a game.” Someone heavily involved in slinging mud and filth during this season just said, “Well, that was just politics.”

I can’t help but think of the narcissist who rips your life apart, accusing and lying and manipulating. Then, when the battle is over, he says, “Hey, no hard feelings, right?” As a pastor, I have been through some hurtful church battles. I have had people lie about me and accuse me of pretty bad things. And, after it was over, they say, “Well, we can still be friends. Maybe catch a cup of coffee sometime.” No, we couldn’t be friends after that.

It doesn’t seem to matter whether the narcissist wins or loses. Either way, he forgets his cruelty and ruthless maneuvering. He just wants everything to be good now. He is shocked when you don’t return the “kindness.” You took things too seriously.

I have heard newly divorced wives say that the narcissist suggested they get together for intimate times once in a while, “now that it’s all over.” I have heard employees say that the boss who fired them just before they reached retirement and pension age thanked them for their faithful service. The narcissist friend who turned everyone against you offers to get together for lunch sometime, “just to catch up.” Mom rips you with accusations and insults then complains when you don’t invite her over for tea.

And our heads spin. They might be able to shift their emotions and perspectives that quickly, but the rest of us can’t. But, you see, for the narcissist it’s all a game. You were just an opponent, not a real person. When the narcissist told those lies about you and manipulated others to oppose you, he was just trying to win, not to hurt you.

I think there is a part of the narcissist that believes that. Since they don’t see anyone as real people, they can’t be accused of trying to hurt anyone. But I also think this is a lie. The anger and evil you saw in your battle are still there, just under the surface. The narcissist hates all opponents with nearly equal passion. You might not have been a real person, but you were a real enemy. The threat you presented required whatever the narcissist brought to the battle. The moment you present the threat again, the evil will return.

And the politicians who seemed to hate each other a couple days ago? Are they friends now? Can we trust them to work together for the good of all of us? Probably not. It’s just politics.

The claws might have pulled back under the skin, but they are still there.

 

(I should have said this earlier.  I know that people have differing ideas about politics and I have no desire to entertain that kind of debate on the blog.  Comments centered on the political scene, for or against candidates, parties, or ideologies, will be blocked.  You will notice that I didn’t mention names and held all politicians to the same standards.  If there is some perceived political statement in the post that offends you, I apologize.  That was not intentional.)  

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Filed under Narcissism