A few words are swirling around our Christian culture lately and I can’t help but broach the question on the infamous word narcissist.
Is every selfish person a narcissist?
I’d have to say no. And I’d love to speak into this a little because I think it’s important for christian women not to label people (and especially their husbands) too quickly.
Sometimes, someone’s just selfish, tired, clueless, or socially and emotionally unaware. Or, a person has a driven personality and just needs to learn to also think of others. These are good people with some basic needs who really don’t want to hurt others and feel badly when they do so.
And here’s a big one: sometimes the very person who doesn’t quickly apologize actually wants to grow and easily says “I’m sorry” when he or she is outside of a constantly critical atmosphere.
Self protection can kick in quite hard when a person feels under attack or scrutiny all the time. This can make them less quick to apologize and therefore, come across as unwilling when the opposite is actually true. They just need a safe space.
Everyone needs to know they have space to make mistakes.
A culture of honor creates space for the mistakes of others. As Bob Goff says, “Grace looks unfair until it is our turn to need a little.”
We all need so much grace.
Someone can also have narcissistic tendencies without being an overt narcissist. Take the person who easily blame shifts and justifies actions, BUT apologizes the next day and, when he/she makes a huge mistake, repents in tears because the gravity of what was done settles in.
Let me assure you, no matter how quickly a person like this justifies him/herself on a habitual basis or how fast a temper flies, this person is not a narcissist.
So, what constitutes actual narcissism? I believe it important to know the difference because some of you are in despair when you don’t need to be. You’re simply dealing with an emotionally immature or unaware person who has not yet learned the graceful art of loving well.
Others of you are confused and live in mental agony because, as you already know, a narcissist will never change apart from a heaven sent miracle.
If this is your person, and especially your spouse, you need fortitude, understanding of what you’re up against, and a whole lot of wisdom to know how to keep yourself intact.
Let’s look at a few things that allow you to identify what’s going on.
1. A true narcissist will pull off abnormally hurtful behavior but will want you to act as if nothing’s wrong.
This can look like a lot of things. A husband may disappear into the wee hours of the morning, yet blame his wife for “ruining his night” when she’s in tears when he comes home.
He may mention the possibility of having an open marriage someday, yet become angry when his wife no longer wants to spend time with the people he’s discussing it with.
He may give extra-ordinary time and attention to other women, yet want his wife to be silent and happy as if nothing’s wrong.
If she’s not happy, he may tell her that he doesn’t want to be in a marriage where his wife isn’t happy. She tries to tell him that she is happy, except for these things.
One of the clearest signs of narcissism is an inability to see the pain of others, caused by his/her own actions. Do what they will, awful as it may be, the only thing that “works” with a narc is giving admiration and approval. Or, at the very least, silence and acceptance.
When you’re under extreme pressure to be approving in spite of abnormally hurtful behavior, your brain can be at constant odds within itself.
The mental manipulation and confusion has only begun—and I’m here for any woman who wonders why under heaven her brain feels foggy, her heart pounds for no reason, and she can’t make sense of the mental confusion.
Hear me carefully—the greatest tactic of the enemy for abuse to thrive unchecked is the silence of its victims. Christian women, why has the church bought into this lie?? Why are women everywhere wanting help but too afraid to reach out for it?
Remember this one thing: if your husband makes you feel like you need his permission to get help, you can and should find help immediately.
I want you to know that none of this behavior has to make sense, and you can stop trying to find a way to justify it.
I want you to do one thing. I want you to sit with reality, painful though it is. Let it sink into your head that your husband has a problem and you will no longer live in denial.
Taking that one mental step will clear your mind, but that is just the beginning. Day after day after day, you will need to rewire your brain with truth, even if the truth is ugly.
Owning the truth of it all is difficult and means you will need to have some honest talks with your husband where saving your marriage is important, but saving your mind is also important. You will speak truth even if he packs his bags.
Some of you may need mentors flanking you on either side just to help you take the steps necessary.
Some of you will need to wade through overwhelming false guilt, just to find your voice.
You can and should decide not to study the topic of open marriage, and let him know that.
You can now tell him, “I will no longer sleep with you if porn is an unapologetic part of your life.”
If he stares you down and asks, “So it’s your way or no way?” you can calmly reply, “Yes, because this is God’s way. I’m going to take a stand on this thing but I’m willing to give on other things.”
Ladies, if he loves you and God, he’ll do what it takes to be with you. And if he doesn’t, I’m here to tell you that being alone is not worse than being in an abusive marriage. Your mind deserves to be clearly loved rather than chaotically confused.
A lot of you are hidden, silent, even in the church.
Christian women confuse a meek and quiet spirit with silence and mental quicksand. But what if we were so dependent on Jesus that we were no longer willing to have our brains twisted? What if the light of freedom was so inviting that we no longer cowered under cult-like oppression and abuse?
What if we walked in truth and gave the results to God? Because God, not us, can save our marriages—and we are not the only deciding factor. In fact, God can do more when you walk in truth rather than cowardice. If silence and intimidation is what it takes to keep your marriage “intact”, let me assure you that is not God’s way of saving and is really not saving your marriage at all.
You are not saving your marriage by silencing your voice.
Sister, you can try to be a perfect wife til the cows come home—but if you’re dealing with a narcissist, your efforts for perfection will drive your own soul mad—and hear me carefully, they will not save your marriage.
It’s time for you to give your marriage to God and allow Him to clear your mind. Say it with me, “I will walk in truth. I will no longer hide or be confused because God is not the author of confusion, but of peace.”
Then, find yourself trustworthy people who will support you on all sides. Never, ever walk this way alone.
Peace is coming. Clarity is at your door. Mental healing and emotional clarity are your next greatest gift whether your marriage heals or not.
Not everyone’s a narcissist, but some people truly are. Surround yourself with great people (there are a lot of “normal”, really great people out there).
And on this side of heaven, I’m here for you, all the way. Until next time, all is grace and grace is here for YOU.