Narcissist – a person who is overly self-involved, often vain and selfish
I like to invent new words. It’s probably a product of stifled creativity. So I will use “narce” in this post (rhymes with farce).
We all know them. Give them your ear, or any influence in life and they’ll steal attention. They’ll take time and any other resource you have. Give them authority and watch a tyrant rise. All for their own glory and self-advancement.
But those who would seem best adjusted and most happy with life – at the expense of everyone else – often are nothing of the kind. Most telling is when things go bad for them. They uniformly fall apart and play the blame-shame game till everyone runs for cover. Or just leaves.
What looks like a triumphant, glorious life is actually a life built on a house of cards.
Now, this is not equate all love of self with selfishness.
The scriptural mandate to “love others as you love yourself” would be empty without self-love.
So how is a narce’s self-love identified? It is ..
- Selfish. This seems obvious. There may be a trickle of care to others. But all energy is focused on the narcissist.
- Fragile. When a narce is not the center of attention, s/he usually leaves. Or protests. Or takes offense.
- Fake. At least a good amount of the time, the narce is not really proud of him/herself. The self-love is a veneer over underlying shame. And the tenacious clinging to the veneer will not even allow introspection.
- Toxic. They cast shame. They withhold encouragement and affection. Their approval of others is measured, if it exists at all. Yet they have a strict caste system they observe. As Joe Walsh wrote:
Yes the man above you, hope you pass the test.
No to the man below you, leave him with the rest. 1
So, depending upon where you sit in the esteem hierarchy the narce will have one of three predispositions. S/he will either want your approval or refuse to approve of you or be at war with you.
If this description of a narce applies to you then you probably need to understand your pride. And deal with it.
But let’s say you have a narce in your life. And circumstances are such that you cannot just get away. Or you’re committed to love a narce – that’s awesome and I believe God- blessed!. But then, how do you then cope and get along?
- Don’t take offense. The pride of a narcissist is suffocating and s/he will speak and perform put-downs on anyone who is around. Just realize that it’s not personal. Also, the biggest threat you are the more you cause envy. And the more you cause envy, the more you will be the target of scorn.
- Be a friend. This takes time and commitment, but narces can be quite lonely. Even if they are surrounded by people.
- Give acceptance and praise. This is counter-intuitive. Remember that the narce often does not really believe good things about him/herself. It’s a front. If you can encourage the right things it can make a difference. Note – these are usually NOT those things that the person is publicly proud of. Do NOT enable a narce in his/her self-adoration, just celebrate the good.
- Adopt a counter-culture that’s vulnerable. I know, it sounds like emotional suicide. But if you’re secure enough this will present a visible example. Real is how you oppose fake. Generous is how you fight miserly. Accepting is how you fight exclusive. The narce may start to consider it an option. And once that person becomes honest, down will come the pride veneer. If nothing else, you will be relating as you should. And it will be noticed. Maybe others will follow suit. Then the narce will be surrounded by selfless people. Not a bad environment to get cured of your pride.
Now of course narcissism can be practiced by groups as well. In fact, I would argue that all caste systems and the major genocides the world has seen are centered on tribal narcissism. Either practiced by the victim group or perpetrators.
The steps above can be practiced by groups as well to undo tribal narces but often the cost is much higher because of the enforcement of the tribe.
Bottom line is that it’s possible to adopt an attitude of pride at any time. And it’s possible to be offended by pride at any time. I go with the following spiritual law:
James 4:6 God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.
I’ll go for the grace.