Recently I’ve had a couple of encounters with a small number of people who exhibit narcissistic tendencies. Let me be clear here – I’m not in any type of position to officially diagnose anyone of anything. And that’s not the point here anyway. I’m basing this solely on what I know about narcissism.
A narcissist is someone who believes they are the center of their universe, claims to the best (or worst) at literally everything, tries to make it seem that anything you are going through is minor compared to their hardship, refuses to take responsibility for anything, refuses to accept boundaries, tries to get an emotional response from others, and more.
Dealing with a narcissist can be quite tiring – exhausting actually. Throw on the responsibilities of Holy Week and you have a recipe for a bit of low tolerance for narcissistic behavior.
From what I have read, the best way to deal with a narcissist is to not deal with them at all. The second way is to be like a grey rock – to be boring enough that the narcissist moves on to someone else. The reason this advice is given is that a narcissist won’t ever change, unless they themselves recognize that their behavior needs to change.
This leads to a bigger question – can a person change? I tend to think that a person can change. Our bodies change as we age. Our ideas change. The type of abilities we have changes. Our relationships change. So do our jobs.
So how is it that narcissistic behavior is the one exception to this?
And secondly, how should a Christian respond to a narcissist?
I don’t know the answer to the first question. It is an interesting situation though.
And second, a Christian should respond with love. That doesn’t mean being a push over. That means offering love for each person you encounter may look different from the next person. Love could look not dealing with someone – it may be the best option you have and take the other person into consideration. Love could look like firmly saying no to whatever the narcissist demands. Love could mean setting firm boundaries. Love could mean doing anything that doesn’t enable the narcissist to continue doing what they do. Love could mean modifying their request and setting the expectation really low. It could mean lots of things.
Love is not feeding a person’s narcissism. It is not enabling them to continue with their behavior. Narcissism ultimately is a cover up – a cover up of flaws and deficiencies a person has in how they perceive themself.
Dealing with a narcissist will put loving your neighbor to the test.