Wow, we had quite a lively conversation on our last question. Someone asked if I notify the person whose question is being asked. I usually do, but sometimes I forget to get their e-mail when I collect the questions that are sent to me. I appreciate your opinions and thoughts about being generous as well as not being enabling. Sometimes that is a hard balance to achieve and most times we will more naturally err on one side or the other and need growth and practice in learning the other side. But I think it was a great exercise in seeing that there are valid perspectives from both sides.
I’m a big fan of Brené Brown’s research and writing. I’m currently reading her new book Braving the Wilderness and she has a lot to say about how to have constructive disagreements.
Here’s a great piece of wisdom. She writes, “One response to this is to “Get angry and stay angry!” I haven’t seen that advice borne out in the research. What I have found is that, yes, we all have the right and need to feel and own our anger. It’s an important human experience. And it’s critical to recognize that maintaining any level of rage, anger, or contempt (that favorite concoction of a little anger and a little disgust) over a long period of time is not sustainable.
Anger is a catalyst. Holding on to it will make us exhausted and sick. Internalizing anger will take away our joy and spirit; externalizing anger will make us less effective in our attempt to create change and forge a connection. It’s an emotion that we need to transform into something life-giving: courage, love, change, compassion, justice…..Either way, anger is a powerful catalyst but a life-sucking companion.”
That said, I know that some of you feel angry with those you live with or those who “don't get abuse, especially the more subtle forms of mental, emotional, and spiritual abuse.” But let’s use that anger constructively as a catalyst for change, either in ourselves or in others or in the system itself. Let’s continue to speak to one another out of CORE and speak our mind, but not attack or accuse others.
One more thing, I have a free webinar coming up next Tuesday, Dec. 5 on the 3 most common lies women believe that keep them stuck, afraid and miserable. If you’d like to attend, sign up here.
|Today's Question: I am tired of everyone attaching the word narcissist to everyone else. That being said, I question if I am. My future daughter-in-law thinks I am. She is in the mental health field. She showed me the definition, and it looked pretty accurate. Here are the things that suggest I may be: For the most part, I don't generally like people. I am rarely compassionate or empathetic. I make conversations all about me. Here are the things that suggest I am not: I don't think I minimize or deny, and I definitely don't lie or gaslight.
I am sure I am selfish in many ways, but I don't know if I could say I am extremely selfish. I get the mail and paper for my elderly neighbor, and generally just look out for her I do more than my share at church; coordinating children's church and teaching twice in a cycle (everyone else does once), managing the AWANA store, buying and doing things as an outreach to mission work in Africa.
I have regular gatherings for my large family (7 grown kids, 12 grandchildren). I recently began a Christian music and movement business/ministry. I have gone over and above to minister to the kids. I pray for missionaries and persecuted Christians, marriages, leaders…I'm confused as to how I can, in some ways be so polar?
Answer: I agree with you that the term “narcissistic” is all over the place in today’s culture. I’ve been in this field for a long time and I’ve seen certain mental health diagnosis’s become more “popular” than others. A while back it was Dissociative Identity Disorder, where individuals were sometimes mislabeled as DID or the old label “multiple personalities.” Then Bi-Polar was a common label as was Borderline Personality Disorder. The diagnosis of Asperger’s became popular for a while although it is no longer a mental health diagnosis and people are now talking a lot about narcissism. Labels can be helpful. They are a shortcut so that we all are on the same page. But they can also be harmful to those being mislabeled so let’s dig a bit deeper.
Everyone has some traits of narcissism as I’ve said in an earlier blog, How Do I Live With A Narcissist? However, you’ve described recognizing yourself as having three traits that do fit the diagnosis (You need five of the nine defined traits to qualify for a diagnosis of Narcissistic Personality Disorder). One is your lack of empathy or compassion for others, your desire for attention in conversation, as well as selfishness.
However, in your question, you said something that perplexed me. You admitted you generally don’t like people, but then you went on to describe lots of nice things you do in ministry, many involving working with people. So why are you doing these particular ministry things if you don’t like people and don’t generally have much compassion? I would have thought a better fit for you would be doing something with numbers or helping do some paperwork or other volunteer work that doesn’t involve working with people.
It’s important to note that Narcissistic individuals can do wonderful things for people. Many narcissists are doctors, community leaders, and pastors. However, their inner motivation for helping people is what feeds their narcissism. It makes them feel special and important, even god-like for some. That doesn’t negate the good that they do, but God is the one who sees the heart and service towards others is done for their own glory, not God’s.
So here are two things I want you to think about. One is that your future daughter thinks you are narcissistic and has even shown you the criteria for that diagnosis. What’s up with that? It feels bold to me that someone who is marrying your son would confront you with such a strong label. Have the two of you had a pattern of conflict? Are there ways you have been uncaring or hurtful towards her? And what’s going on with her that she thinks it’s her responsibility to bring this matter to your attention right now? I imagine that there is a whole backstory to this that you have not shared, but might help clarify things a bit.
Second, where are you before God as you reflect upon your own admitted lack of compassion and selfishness? You mention all your service to God and his people, but Jesus confronts the religious leaders by saying “you're hearts are far from me.” As a Christ follower, our hearts are to be transformed from a self-centered and other-centered heart to a God-centered heart (Ezekiel 36:26). Does it cause you any pause in your own spirit when you see your own lack of love for others (Psalm 51:6, 17 or Matthew 15:8)? Is this something that causes you grief and does it move you to a deeper repentance before God?
Paul encourages us all to be imitators of God and live a life of love (Ephesians 5:1). What would that look like for you, not on the outside in more acts of service, but in a true change of heart?
I wouldn’t worry as much about the label, but if I were you, I would give a greater thought about your character development as a woman of God. Are you growing more tenderhearted? More caring? More compassionate and empathetic? More interested in listening to others than dominating conversations. Is the Holy Spirit teaching you his ways, even if they aren’t naturally your ways?
I love the fact that you took time to reflect upon what your daughter-in-law said, but I wonder in your reflection if you are simply weighing your good deeds against your weaknesses and believing that your good deeds are enough to outweigh your deficits.
Please don’t misunderstand me.
We ALL have deficits. We all fall short of who God calls us to be. But that’s exactly the good news of the Gospel. We are not only forgiven, but we are restored. Click to Tweet
Meaning, that God doesn’t just cancel our debt but he wants to transform our heart into a heart like His.
Therefore, friend, I would encourage you to use this “label” to look primarily at your lack of love for people. Ask God to give you his heart and his mind. It’s true, love translates into action and good deeds but with his heart, we do it for His glory not our own.
Friend, when you hear negative feedback about yourself and reflect that some of it might be true, what steps do you take to repent and change?