Tag Archives: self

Logic

(I will be traveling and internet will be less available for the next couple of weeks. Please enjoy these posts from the archives. It’s Narcissist Friday posts will continue with new posts during this time. Thanks for being here!)

 

Suppose I were to posit that all dogs eat dog food. What if I then suggested that you could become a dog by eating dog food? Would that work for you? Of course not. We understand that many things can eat dog food. Crows will eat it. Kids will sometimes eat it. Skunks will eat it. But eating dog food doesn’t make someone or something a dog.

Simple logic. Most of us use it every day to keep us from foolish errors.

But if I go to church and hear a sermon my logical defenses may break down. I am tempted to trust the words of the preacher. For example: Paul was a great man for God. Paul served with great sacrifice. Therefore if I serve with great sacrifice, I will be a great man for God. God loved Moses and Moses accomplished great things. Moses left the comforts of life. Therefore if I leave the comforts of life, God will love me and I will accomplish great things. Many preachers are guilty of making these connections and many listeners eagerly accept this kind of teaching as being helpful in living the right kind of life. After all, why are we told about these people if not for us to use their lives as examples? Right?

Well, not that kind of example. Paul was a great man for God – because God chose to do great things through him. God loved Moses and God chose to work mighty things through Moses’ life. These things are not the result of effort or wisdom from these men. The amazing events of their lives are the result of the choice and activity of God.

That’s grace!

 

 

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Know Thyself

It’s Narcissist Friday!

 

The issue of identity, which this blog has begun to address, holds a special place in the discussion of narcissism.  The older teachers would say that narcissism is a problem in the “self.”  The youngest child does not see his “self” as distinct from his environment, at least not in the way that develops later.  Thus, mother and father and siblings are all part of “self.”  The world is entirely “self” centered.  The baby is so dependent on the parent or caregiver that there is little psychological distinction between the one who needs and the one who provides.

Of course, that changes.  Eventually, the child understands that the parent is a different person, one with a different agenda.  So the child learns to have needs met through a relationship with others.  The one who needs must somehow communicate and move the one who provides.  Usually, the parent cultivates this relationship with a predictable pattern of cause and effect based on communication.  Mothers, for example, can usually tell the difference between the various types of crying to discern when the baby is in pain or just trying to manipulate and respond differently.  The baby begins to learn how things work at the most basic levels of society.  If I do this, that will happen, the baby reasons.  The relationship between baby and parent is the foundation of life with others.  All of this, in my book, is normal.

But what if the parent does not cultivate that relationship?  What if the pattern is unpredictable or intermittent?  Then the child struggles to establish a “self” in relation to the most important other.  There is a lot of anecdotal evidence that narcissists are often raised in homes where parents are distant, uncaring, or unpredictable.  The child of an alcoholic, for example, never quite knows what to expect from the parent.  In some families discipline is administered almost arbitrarily.  One time the child receives brutal punishment for a minor infraction and the next a serious act is ignored.  Children in these situations find it very difficult to establish a secure sense of “self.”

It may not always be the parent.  There may be some children who simply interpret any discipline as rejection.  If the “self” is rejected, or in constant danger of being rejected, some find it better to promote a different “self.”  The child’s perspective of who he is may be hidden away, protected, while a better image is lifted up—one which is much less likely to be rejected.

Many people report that they never knew their narcissist.  In fact, the narcissist didn’t even seem to be the same person consistently.  The narcissist knows that the projected image is not real and struggles against the energy it takes to maintain the façade and the need to adapt to the situation.  But the identity of the narcissist will not be revealed, at least the identity the narcissist believes is his own.  He has found a way to avoid rejection.

Identity is key—and not only for the narcissist.  The victim of the narcissist often struggles with feelings of rejection and questions of identity.  Many have looked at their own perspective when they were vulnerable to the narcissist and have realized that they were afraid and lonely and needing affirmation.  The narcissist came to provide all of that, as the means to establishing support for his image.  But, as the relationship progressed, the victim experienced more and more loss of identity until he or she became part of the narcissist.  “Self” was lost in the process.

Identity is so important.  Knowing yourself.  Knowing the truth about who you are.  Being yourself.  These things can help to avoid the manipulations of narcissists and other users and can help to heal the brokenness brought on by these toxic relationships.

We will talk more about this.  The Christian gospel is fundamentally about relationship.  Love God and love others.  But love infers some basic and right understanding of identity.  Unless I know who I am and accept who I am, I cannot share my “self” with others in relationship.

Once again, there is significant overlap between the message of grace and the discussion of narcissism.

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If I lose my self…

 

… what do I have left?

I know that the “Christian” response is to say that I must die and He (Jesus) must live.  He is what I have left when I lose my self.

But that doesn’t make sense, does it?  No, that’s not the message of the gospel.  The call to the person is all through the message.  God loves you and He loves me.  He loves us—our selves.  He does not call us as a group; He calls us as individuals.  He wants a relationship with each of us.

Where do you see in Scripture this “dying to self” that so many talk about?  When did Abraham die to his self, so that there was nothing of Abraham left?  When did David release his hold on his self and lose his identity in his Lord?  Or John?  Or Peter?

No, this is not part of the Christian message.  Perhaps it fits better with some kind of Eastern religion where the goal is to become part of the great overmind or something.  But Jesus wants you!  He knows you as your self and He loves you as your self.

Actually, I think I know where some of the confusion comes from.  Many people mistake the old man of Ephesians with their self.  They think their identity, even as believers, is tied to the past and the sin the old man represents.  But the old man is dead!  The old nature/heart is gone.  It died with Jesus.

And, I think, some people point to the continuing sinful actions and attitudes in their lives and claim that there is some kind of sinful self that remains.  But believers have no sinful self, no sin nature.  There is only the flesh, the old way of doing things.  Yes, we are to die to the flesh, to live according to the Spirit, rather than the flesh.  But that is just a way of saying that we are to live the life we now have in Christ, not the life we used to have apart from Him.  You are still your self.

Now, I understand that someone might point to Abraham and show me how he died to his ambitions for Isaac when he was willing to sacrifice his son on the altar.  Wasn’t that dying to self?  No!  That was Abraham giving his goals, his hopes, to the Lord.  That was Abraham believing and trusting God with his future.  He still expected a future.  He still expected that the future would be full of the blessings God had promised.  Abraham didn’t lose his self when he yielded his life to God.

And someone will point out that Paul talks about dying daily (1 Cor 15:31).  But didn’t Paul expect to still be Paul the next day?  Of course he did!  He means that he dies to his own plans and comforts and expectations as he submits himself to the Lord.  That isn’t dying to self.

You see, we are not called to be worthless doormats, even in our relationship with the Lord.  He made us as individuals and He loves the differences among us.  We look at the same event and interpret it differently.  We handle challenges using different tools and see life from different perspectives.  That fact is good.  That’s how He made us.  You and I, our selves, are the expression of His creativity.

So, set aside the flesh, with its fears and habits, because that no longer defines you.  And let the old man be dead and gone, like the Word says.  Then come as your self, redeemed and holy and good, to the Lord who loves you.

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Narcissism and Legalism?

It’s Narcissist Friday!

(This blog will be offline for a couple of weeks while I travel.  Please enjoy these posts from the archives.  Feel free to comment or ask questions.  I will be able to respond when I return.)

 

What is the connection between narcissism and legalism?  Why would you bring the two together?

I noticed that several of the people I worked with exhibited aspects of narcissism, some severely.  Narcissism is a broken self-image, a hatred of self that is manifested as an inability to value or understand others.  Many people think that narcissism is self-love, but it is really only the love of the image of self that is put before others.  The real self is an object of rejection and hate.  Narcissists can seem to be very loving, but the person loved often feels used or devalued in the process.

Obviously, I can’t put the whole concept of narcissism in a paragraph or two, but it may be something you would find value in studying.  The primary way of dealing with someone who has narcissistic tendencies is to realize that you are not going to be the one who causes the person to change and to be able to see yourself separately from that person.  You have to maintain your own healthy idea of self in spite of everything that is said or done.  You can do that as you understand your own value and identity in Christ.

 

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