It’s Narcissist Friday!
After last week’s post, I began to think about responses. I could hear people thinking, “Well maybe he’s a narcissist, but he/she really cares about our country/state/district.” A phrase popped into my mind at that point and I did what I often do, I googled it. Sure enough, there’s a lot of discussion about “benevolent narcissism.”
A benevolent narcissist.
Just doesn’t sound right, somehow. Sounds like an oxymoron.
I read something recently where the writer suggested that God is the ultimate narcissist. After all, this person said, God thinks that everything is about Him. He takes care of us because He is benevolent. If He were malevolent, like many narcissists, he thought, then God would be very dangerous. Okay. More later. (Next week.)
Can a narcissist be benevolent? Let’s ask a different question first. Can he/she do things that benefit you? Of course! In fact, one of the reasons narcissists get by with so much is because their actions benefit more than just themselves.
I can think of two ways a narcissist’s goals and actions might benefit you and me. First, as the narcissist woos people into relationship, he/she is quite willing to create benefits. Narcissists are often influential. They can help you make that sale, get that job, gain that privilege. Your desires and goals can be greatly helped by the narcissist. Yes, you might end up owing him/her, but you got what you needed. And, yes, he/she will think you are now a servant, but you still got what you needed.
Second, the goals of the narcissist are not necessarily evil, they are just self-serving. That means the goals of the narcissist might be the same as yours, at least for a while. Your boss might want the store to look good so that he gets promoted. At the same time, you might get promoted. Your husband buys a nice car so that others will see him as successful, and you get to enjoy the car as well. As the narcissist rises, sometimes others rise with him/her.
Let’s say you have an illness. The doctor has wanted to try a new procedure so he can write a paper on it. He tries the procedure on you and it works. You have received a benefit. You are cured. The doctor writes his paper citing your case and gets accolades from the medical community. If you had died or your suffering was extended, he would have written about that and maybe changed tactics on the next case.
In other words, not everything a narcissist does will hurt you. Sometimes the narcissist will benefit you. But that does not make him benevolent. He has no intention to benefit you as a person. His only goal is self-promotion. If you happen to benefit at the same time, he doesn’t care. If it takes benefit to you to get what he wants, he will do that. Again, he really won’t care. As easily as he benefits you, he can hurt you.
A “benevolent dictator” is still just a dictator. He may want the people to love him, and he may seek to accomplish that by doing good things for them, but he may still persecute certain people or require certain restrictions without regard to how that will cause harm to some. Many of the German people considered Hitler to be benevolent. Those who were born Jews or handicapped or who dared to disagree found him to be something else.
Of course, narcissistic methods make the benefits a little less acceptable. If you own stock in a company, you might benefit when the CEO fires a large number of older employees. If you want to sell your house, you might benefit from a real estate agent who stretches the truth to get the sale. The goal isn’t wrong, even if the methods are not what you would do.
Is it benevolent when others are hurt in the process of benefiting you? Not really. We would not call someone benevolent who made others suffer even if we gained at the same time. So it could be beneficial without being benevolent. That’s an important distinction.
Benevolence is a matter of the will, or the volition. The words are connected. When someone chooses to do good for you, that’s benevolence. When someone chooses to do evil to you, that’s malevolence. The point is the volition. The narcissist does not really choose to do good for you. He chooses to do good for himself, and part of the cost is the benefit to you.
Benevolence and narcissism really cannot be connected as “benevolent narcissism.” To do so is to ignore the depersonalization of the narcissistic relationship. Others don’t matter as the narcissist strives to bless himself.
If the narcissist is driving in the same direction as you are walking and stops to offer you a ride, don’t get too excited. He may expect you to help pay for the gas.