One of the more difficult personality types to deal with is the narcissist. It is generally accepted that when it becomes extreme in a person, (Narcissistic Personality Disorder) the ability to sustain a relationship with them can be nearly impossible. If you are married to someone with NPD, it is necessary to seek professional help. If you are in a dating relationship with someone you suspect is narcissistic to a pathological degree, it should be a big red flag – some therapists will tell you to run – and run fast.
Narcissism, as opposed to healthy self esteem, can be described as an inflated sense of self importance and excessive self focus. I am not going to go into theories about the formation of a narcissist or the sub-types here, but simply to help you recognize the signs in yourself or others.
Mary is a pretty girl and easily connects with people. Men are naturally attracted to her outgoing and easy manner. The problem is, every conversation is about her – her life, her interests, her work and her friends. If you try to share some of you own experiences, she will always point out how your experiences relate to her own. Eventually you may become frustrated, but if you express how this makes you feel unheard or alone, she is unable to empathize with your feelings. Instead she will tell you how she feels about what you said – usually criticized or angry or some other defensive emotion. You are aware of how she once again brought the focus back on herself.
Mary probably lacks awareness of how she affects other people negatively. Or if she is aware, her need for attention overrides her ability to manage her behavior. It actually may be low self-esteem that anxiously drives her to maintain the focus on herself. The true narcissist will always see you as the problem in disagreements. They are superior, and your inability to recognize that fact is the difficulty.
What does the Bible say about this?
Romans 12:3 (NLT) Because of the privilege and authority God has given me, I give each of you this warning: Don’t think you are better than you really are. Be honest in your evaluation of yourselves, measuring yourselves by the faith God has given us.
Other translations say that we should have a sober appraisal of ourselves – neither grandiose nor self debasing. When love is our goal, our focus will naturally shift to the other person.
I can honestly say that it took the transformative power of God to help me grow in this area. My counselor (also named David) told me that he believes most men are (at minimum) a little bit narcissistic and most women, (at minimum) a little bit hysterical. But men can be hysterics, just as women can be narcissists. And either can be an hysteric (excessively emotional) narcissist! It is only by the grace of God working in our lives that we can overcome these character defects.
How about you? Do you see this characteristic in yourself? Can you commit to grow in this area?