Tag Archives: narcissists in church

Focus

It’s Narcissist Friday!

This is a busy time of year. There are so many things calling for our attention and energy. The net result is often a feeling of weakness and incompetence. We lose power and confidence when we are faced with so many competing voices.

When you think of people in crisis or people with PTSD because of crisis, you may think of someone who has trouble focusing. Bouncing from one topic to another in conversation, beginning a new project without finishing the old ones, even jerky motions and general clumsiness—these are signs of an inability to focus. Some simply can’t focus long enough to get anything accomplished.

Narcissistic relationships, with their unpredictable and manipulative natures, cause us to lose focus. Those who work retail this time of year will understand. The boss comes in right before the big shopping day with a list of projects that just have to be done, but cannot be done. Rather than being able to focus on customers and connecting them with their products, you are constantly thinking about the things on the list for which you will be judged. You end up not doing well on anything.

Narcissists provide these continual distractions to throw their victims off, to drain their strength. Clear thinking and self-confidence are the enemies of narcissistic abuse. Instinctively, the narcissist knows he/she must keep throwing you distractions.

So, now you are out of the relationship, but you still find it hard to focus. You can learn again. Just realize that the loss of focus is a normal part of narcissistic relationship. It’s not your fault.

And, please, don’t put yourself down for these effects. You are not stupid, so stop saying that you are. You do not “always” fail, so stop saying that you do. You have been beat up. The pain and infirmity you suffer does not define you. It is the natural result of abuse and, listen, will not last.

No, it is not the “new you.” You are a child of God, unique and valued. You are not the ball in the pinball machine. You have purpose and you have power. You can rebuild your life, with the help of the Lord and your support group.

Finding focus in the midst of distractions can be challenging. Perhaps, even now, the narcissist continues to throw things at you. Give yourself time and grace. Be patient. Find some resources—charts, journals, timers, whatever—to help you get your work done. Listen to those who truly want to help you.

And pray. Whatever you need, ask the Lord who loves you. If you find it hard to stay in relationships, get work done, even sleep at night—pray. Ask for what you need. Then trust that the Lord will restore what “locusts have taken.”

Two New Books!

Believe it or not, I have two new books on Amazon! I find myself to be a better writer than marketer, but I want you to know about these two new books.

The first is a book that has been in the works for a long time. I call it “Practical Grace.” The idea is that such an important topic should be relevant to our daily lives. Not everything in life seems limited to the spiritual realm. We struggle in relationships, with our mortality, with getting through the day. Does grace matter day by day? Yes! God cares about your real-life struggle. His grace is for you.

Click on the book for the Amazon link

The second book is meant to be for those who have understood the message of grace in the past, maybe you took a class or read something about God’s grace, but have found it hard to stay on track. It is so easy to slip back into a performance system. It is also easy to become discouraged. This book will give you five “touchpoints” to which you can return often as you walk your journey through life.

Click on the book for the Amazon link

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Health

It’s Narcissist Friday!

Stress causes weakness, infirmity, and disease. Does anyone really doubt that? I have long been convinced that, for many, cancer is the result of distress in relationships and daily living. Not for all, of course, but for too many.

Those who live with narcissists know what I am talking about. Maybe you grew up with one and still have to deal with him/her. Maybe you work with one or more. You find it hard to sleep. You eat too much. You do unhealthy things. And you are stressed.

Narcissists use stress like a carpenter uses a hammer. It is a tool they bring into the relationship to create the person they need their victim to be. Constant change (or no change), criticisms, false hopes, lies, expectations, pressures and more pressures. And did I say lies? Not knowing the truth is stressful by itself. Most narcissists use several of these strategies to bring enough stress into the lives of their victims so they can be manipulated.

Computer people will recognize the TSR (terminate and stay resident) program. The idea was that certain programs would stand ready to be used. That readiness was appreciated because it allowed the computer to move more quickly. Eventually, there were many of these TSR programs, and some of them interfered with each other and used up resources. We learned to look for and disable these programs.

Some have had the unfortunate experience of leaving a car sitting unused for a long period. When you get out to use it, the battery is dead. Why? Often it’s because of some small light or function that has stayed ready all that time. Resources were drained by staying ready.

In times of stress, we learn to stay ready to move or adjust or respond. We can’t relax, at least not completely. A person or a group that brings stress into our lives, especially unpredictable stress, forces us to stay ready. We draw on our resources without replenishing those resources. Patience, rest, nutrition, and other specialized resources are used up by this constant drain.

Narcissists provide stress. They do it on purpose, and they do it by nature. Because they suffer from internal stress, they force their stress on others. To control, they manipulate others by stress.

And listen: stress affects your health. Staying ready to react pulls resources from your soul and body. Worry, fear, anger, jealousy, guilt, shame—these things take from us without giving back. The narcissist knows how to manipulate all of these and many more.

Sadly, it is common for people to come out of a narcissistic relationship with health problems. After the smoke of the narcissistic exit clears, you look around and you don’t feel good. Some of these problems may last a long time. Others might go away when the stress subsides. Do yourself a favor and talk with a doctor about stress-related illnesses. Have your thyroid checked. Take care of yourself.

Some continue to stress after the relationship. There is a strange addiction to a certain level of stress. Guilt, fear, shame, anger—these emotions and others can continue to give you stress and drain your health. Find a way to relax. Give yourself permission to rest. Exercise, read, join a support group, get more sleep. If you can’t do it on your own, ask the doctor for help. Small doses of anti-depressants, sleep-aids, and pain relievers can work wonders. Just don’t do it on your own. Make sure someone knows how much you are taking and when—and has serious interest in getting you off the medications.

The point here is to understand where the health problems have come from and to give yourself permission to do something about them. If the narcissistic relationship is over, or if you have come to the place where you want to live in spite of it, then find the way to health again.

And pray. Ask the Lord for help. Ask the Lord for supportive people. Ask the Lord for wisdom. Then rest in His love.

Two New Books!

Believe it or not, I have two new books on Amazon! I find myself to be a better writer than marketer, but I want you to know about these two new books.

The first is a book that has been in the works for a long time. I call it “Practical Grace.” The idea is that such an important topic should be relevant to our daily lives. Not everything in life seems limited to the spiritual realm. We struggle in relationships, with our mortality, with getting through the day. Does grace matter day by day? Yes! God cares about your real-life struggle. His grace is for you.

Click on the book for the Amazon link

The second book is meant for those who have understood the message of grace in the past, maybe you took a class or read something about God’s grace, but have found it hard to stay on track. It is so easy to slip back into a performance system. It is also easy to become discouraged. This book will give you five “touchpoints” to which you can return often as you walk your journey through life.

Click on the book for the Amazon link

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Wonder

It’s Narcissist Friday!

I just watched one of those police dramas. A young female officer was supposed to go undercover as a prostitute. They brought in a “real” prostitute to make sure the officer looked right. She said something I found interesting and sad. She told the officer, “Turn the light off in your eyes.”

The light in our eyes allows us to see the beauty and wonder of the world around us. The joy and energy of children, the beauty of creation, the pleasure of human relationships, the wonder of God’s love.

One of the consistent marks of abuse is the lack of wonder. The lights are off in the eyes. Years of discouragement, shame, fear, and anxiety take away the wonder of the world around us. Apathy grows as opportunities decrease. With no way out, the next day will be just as bad as the day before. With no hope of change, there is little joy in noticing the good around you. Who cares about the rainbows and flowers when the soul is crushed by despair and cruelty?

I have seen husbands and wives, kids and parents, who have lost their sense of wonder. Wonder sparks the curiosity and awe in us, but who has time for curiosity when daily survival takes all the focus? I have seen the lightless eyes in retail and government workers. (“The TSA does not have a sense of humor, Ma’am.”) You see it in the homeless, the addicted, and the dying.

My heart pants, my strength fails me; As for the light of my eyes, it also has gone from me.
Psalm 38:10

Narcissistic relationships can rob you of your wonder. Constant criticism and shaming, abusive words, unfulfilled promises, twisting and manipulating. At first, you try to please the narcissist. You might keep trying hard for years. And every time the pain comes, the light goes out a little more. Every failure, every criticism, every disagreement—more is lost.

Now that the narcissist is gone, you try to sort out what is missing. One of the things that you may not even have noticed is that you can’t seem to “stop and smell the roses.” You used to do that—and many other things that allowed you to wonder and enjoy life. But life got complicated, you say. The days became so full of anxiety and work that you no longer even saw the roses.

But the wonder isn’t gone. You just shut it off because it interfered with the struggle. You couldn’t afford the distraction of wonder. Let it be turned on again.

The world is filled with mystery and wonder. There are people to meet who will impress you with their energy, hope, and joy. The creativity of some people is amazing. The little ones can enjoy such simple things, and holding them is one of the greatest blessings of life. There is beauty in the sky and the earth beneath your feet. God’s creativity is marvelous!

You are a wonder. You made it through the pain. You are still surviving and growing in spite of the opposition. Your body, your abilities, your reasoning—are all miracles.

The wonder of life is worth fighting for. You are worth fighting for. Find the way to get the light back into your eyes.

The light of the eyes rejoices the heart
Proverbs 15:30

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Confidence

It’s Narcissist Friday!

The narcissist wants to be the focus of your attention, of your heart. You are supposed to consider the narcissist important, even necessary, to your life. The center of your world should be the narcissist.

You may think I am exaggerating. Yet, the narcissistic mother will want you to think of her before you think of your husband, wife, or children. The narcissistic boss will want you to serve him without regard to your family. The narcissistic friend will call you in the middle of your meeting or family time. Why? Because they are more important.

People outside the relationship, who do not understand, will say that you should maintain boundaries. Like that’s something easy. What they don’t understand is how the narcissist has managed to strip you of your confidence. You worry that you might lose your job if you don’t do what the boss says. You remember how mom gets when you don’t answer the phone or help her with something. Something bad will happen if you don’t give in to the narcissist. Instead of standing up for yourself, you yield.

But that isn’t all of it. You used to feel good about your decisions and your reasoning process. Now you worry about choosing the best things. Over time, the narcissist has challenged so many of your ideas, showing you to be wrong, that you have learned to doubt yourself. Maybe you never thought of yourself as wise, but you didn’t think you were foolish or stupid. Now you wonder. Maybe you do need the narcissist.

When you finally leave the narcissistic relationship, you may find that you struggle to make decisions. Your confidence has been taken away. It was done on purpose, so that you would be dependent on the narcissist. The narcissist would not be the center of your attention if you trusted yourself or had the confidence to stand alone.

So what do you do now? You listen to those people who are telling you that you are smart and capable, and you move forward. You remember that not all decisions are good ones—even for the smartest of us—and you let yourself make mistakes. Start with small decisions and work up. The best decision you will make is to pull back from the narcissist.

And trust the Lord’s leading. I know that you have been taught to distrust your heart, but the Lord does communicate with you through your heart. Trust that He will move you in the right directions, and that He will overcome both your fears and your mistakes. Be confident in Him when you can’t be confident in yourself. Trust in His love.

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Peace

It’s Narcissist Friday!

It doesn’t seem to matter what kind of narcissistic relationship you are in. One thing that is lost is peace. If you connected with the narcissist at a difficult time in your life, you might have thought he/she would bring you peace. And, maybe, for a little while, things seemed better. The crisis might have gone away. What you didn’t expect was the new crisis that came in.

You didn’t expect to jump when the phone rang. You didn’t expect the fear of not measuring up to expectations. You didn’t expect to dread the end of the day when he comes home. The questions. The accusations. The insinuations. The arguments. You didn’t expect any of that.

If you grew up with a narcissistic parent, it is likely that you have never really known peace. You have never measured up, and you have never known what the next crisis will be. All you know is that something negative is coming. Always.

Narcissists don’t want the people around them to have peace. It’s easier to control people who are off-balance, afraid, or emotional. If the narcissist can create an atmosphere of comparisons, criticism, and worry, he/she can be right in the center. So narcissist mom will pit one child against another. Narcissist boss will stimulate unhealthy competition in the office. Narcissist friend will overwhelm you with problems. Narcissist preacher will tell you that God is disappointed in you. The narcissist might stand ready to be your savior in the midst of the crisis, but you will find he/she does little to bring you peace. Even if the problem is solved, you are now in debt for the help.

One of the churches in our town has a familiar meme on its sign: “No Jesus, No Peace. Know Jesus, Know Peace.” I like that, but it tells only part of the story. The reason knowing Jesus brings us peace is because He accepts us and loves us without criticism. The Christian knows two things about crisis. First, no crisis identifies us. In other words, I am accepted and loved no matter how I perform or respond to the things around me. Second, no crisis will last forever. Because I trust Jesus, I know that I will outlast or overcome any crisis. And I know He is with me through it all.

I have used a little story about a man whose boat capsized in a storm. He was able to climb onto a large rock, but the rock was battered by high waves and strong winds. The people on the shore saw him in trouble but could do nothing to help him. Finally, when the storm subsided, someone was able to get a boat out to rescue him. Someone asked him how he could endure the terror of the storm. His answer was that the rock beneath him had never moved.

Obviously, that’s an old preacher story, but it has a good point. The love Jesus has for you and me is stronger than the crises the narcissist brings into our lives. We may not find peace in our daily circumstances, but we can find peace in our relationship with the Lord who loves us. And that peace can make a difference day by day.

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Violation

It’s Narcissist Friday!

Someone has been in your house. Things are not like they were. Everything has been moved and touched and changed. You call the police and a good friend, but they keep asking what the intruders took. The scene is so confusing, so filled with emotion, that you can’t even think. All you know is that you have been violated. Someone messed with your life.

The police say they really can’t do much unless you can tell them what is missing. Your friend tries to calm you with the suggestion that the violation is less because you can’t see that anything has been stolen. Yet, you know things are gone. Things that used to be there, that used to be yours, are gone. Once the police leave, you and your friend start putting things back the way they were. But you can’t because you can’t find some of the important things. That’s when you begin to see what was taken.

Healing begins as you put your life back together. When you can name what was taken, verbalize the loss, it helps you work toward restoring your home. It’s the difference between saying, “Well, they took the TV,” and staring uncomprehendingly at the large blank spot on your wall. You make a list and start to find replacements. No, they won’t be the same, but they will again be yours. Life will be different, but normal settles in.

When you leave a relationship with a narcissist, you are almost certainly coming out of a crisis. When you look at your life, all you see is a mess. Confusion, grief, anger—a mess. Nothing is the same. Your emotions are all mixed up. If you have a good friend to stand with you, you might find things a little easier. But so many don’t have anyone. Even friends and family don’t understand. Those who want to help may not know how. And, of course, there are those who just want to blame, and they blame you. What they really want is for your crisis to be over for them. So, you have to try to put things back together yourself.

Narcissists take things from you. They touch everything in your life. Nothing is off limits or special. And they mess things up. They break things, move things, change things. The more important something was to you, the closer you held it to yourself, the more the narcissist wanted it. It is not unusual for victims to feel like they have been robbed. Yet, everything is such a mess that you can barely seen what’s gone.

One of my goals for this blog is to help people see life beyond the narcissist. For many, that will mean after the relationship is over. For some, it will be a rebuilding process while the relationship continues. Narcissistic relationships come in many shapes and forms. Not all are marriage or intimate relationships. Some are family. Some are work. Some are friendships. Some are even in church. All of them take precious things from your life. All of them can leave you in a mess.

Finding what they took and learning how to get those things back will be a process of restoration and growing health. So, over the coming weeks, I want to point out some things narcissistic relationships take from us. There are many. Some will relate to almost all personal relationships: marriage, family, friends. Some will connect with organizational or corporate relationships, like work or church. I want to look at these in the context of Christian experience, but there will be applications for anyone.

Not everyone has experienced the same losses, of course. Different narcissistic relationships take different things. Different narcissists seem to need different things. While some take your sense of peace with their many and unpredictable crises, others take your sense of adventure and leave you a life of drudgery. Some take concrete things, like savings accounts, while others take more spiritual things like hope. We will talk about these and others.

Feel free to comment and suggest topics, although I have a long list already. I would especially like to hear from those who have discovered precious parts of themselves that were taken away or lost in the narcissistic relationship, and how those have been restored to you.

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Are there more Narcissists?

It’s Narcissist Friday!     

(I am traveling and thought this might be a post worth repeating.  The times, they are a changin’!)

I often get asked if there are more narcissists today and, if so, why. That’s a difficult one to answer because the diagnosis of “narcissist” keeps changing. Many psychologists now believe that the narcissism we see in our relationships is simply a personality type, rather than a disorder. They reserve the label of narcissism for only extreme cases, those who commit gross crimes or who are sociopathic.

I suspect that the reason for this change is that we seem to see narcissism everywhere. Churches, politics, entertainment, even in small organizations and in our families. Most of us are simply more aware of narcissism and see it more, as when you are told that there are a lot of pregnant women in your community and you begin seeing them more and more. We are talking about narcissistic behavior and abuse more today than ever, and we are seeing it all around us.

Yet, I think the simple answer is: Yes, there are more narcissists today. At least there is more narcissistic behavior. I think there are more abusers, more cruel and manipulative people, and more attention seekers.

Of course, there are more of almost every kind of person today. In 1980, there were over 32,000 100-year-olds living in the US. In 2014, there were over 72,000. Not all of this is because we are living longer. There are just more people. We added nearly 100 million people to the US population during that same time.

I suspect that there are several factors in what we see as a rise in narcissism. One of the more influential factors could be the increased difficulty of being noticed when so many people are involved in our lives. If you consider just the memorable history of an older adult today, you will see the changes that have happened. Farm families spent most of their time apart from other people except for church or social gatherings. When the children started going to school, class sizes were small, just the local kids. When rural kids began to be bused into town, the schools were still smaller and class sizes allowed the teachers to actually know the kids. Today’s schools are consolidated and student bodies often number in the thousands. How does one kid stand out?

How do you get noticed in school today? Achievements that might stand out are already eclipsed by the trophies in the hallway case. Even bad behavior today has accelerated beyond anything that could have been imagined 60 years ago. How does a kid stand out?

How do you get your resume to stand out today? It used to be that you could drop in on a local store to see if they have any openings. Today you are told to send your resume through their website. You will probably join 200 others who have done the same thing. Almost all employers report the difficulty of sorting through the hundreds of resumes and applications they receive.

There’s lot of pushing going on out there. You see it when you drive. You see it when you try to buy a certain popular product. You see it when you want to advertise your skill or organization. Everybody is pushing to be seen and heard.

Some people respond to life’s pressures by developing a need and a will to push themselves into the limelight. Do you realize that only nine out of 10,000 high school football players in the US will eventually play in the NFL? Even if the student stands out in his school, how can he stand out later? Yet, those who must will find ways.

Today’s students and workers do not compete against those who do well. They compete against those who push hard. Who pushes to become the boss? Who pushes to become popular? Who pushes to make more money or get the more attractive spouse or enjoy the attention of others? Well, the narcissists certainly do.

And, because they have to push, they justify the abusive and manipulative behaviors of the narcissist. If you want to become the supervisor at work, you can’t let the work of others be considered better than yours. You have to draw attention to yourself, and you will probably be more willing to push others down to do it. The tools of the narcissist become the tools of advancement: lying, cheating, manipulating, belittling, using.

Most of us will refuse to stand out if that means we have to hurt others. But the narcissist doesn’t care about hurting others. The narcissist doesn’t recognize the personhood of others. The narcissist only wants to get ahead, to be noticed. Since that seems to take more these days, the narcissist is the one who can win.

Who gets the job or the scholarship or the position on the team? We all know that good people who are more capable are often pushed aside so the narcissist can get the prize. The company hires the one who pushes, rather than the faithful employee who knows the job so well. The school honors the one who “did what it takes” to get noticed, rather than the most qualified. The team uses the loudest and most outgoing player, rather than the one who practices diligently and works best with the other players. We see this all the time.

So we see narcissists more, I think. Narcissistic behavior is rewarded more. We may even be creating more narcissists by requiring that behavior to get ahead of others.

How does this change? I don’t think there is an easy answer, except on a personal level. Tell your daughter that the flashiest guy might not be the best, that the regular guy who is kind and thoughtful might make a much better life partner. Help your church to find the pastor who will serve and love, rather than mold the church to his will for his own benefit. Again, avoid the flashy pusher. If someone gives you good service, send a note to the boss as a thank you. If someone is kind, be sure to tell others. These things do make a difference.

If the game is set up to use the skills of the narcissist, we will see more narcissists. People will begin to use narcissistic behaviors to get what they want. The only way to overcome this, I believe, is to value the kindness and patience and service we have learned to take for granted.

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