Wednesday, May 6, 2015

How much narcissism do we live with?

We would probably be surprised if we understood God's perspective on our narcissistic tendencies. All of us have them even though we would never want to be labeled a narcissist in the clinical sense of the term. Synonyms include vanity, self-love, self-admiration, self-absorption, self-obsession, conceit, self-centeredness, self-regard, egotism and egoism. The common theme is that it is all about "me" and "self." In its extreme form this presents itself as a clinical dysfunction. You probably know someone who displays these characteristics in an extreme form.

At a more subtle level, however, narcissism is something that dogs many of us and we might never notice it. Is my drive to succeed in ministry really about me (self-absorption) or about God? Is our tendency to hold on to material things with a tight hand (often being stingy with God and others about self-centeredness and fear of not having enough or about generosity and an open hand? Does our desire or need for the applause of others, fancy titles, or authority reflect Jesus or our own egotism? Even overconfidence in our decisions can reflect a significant level of narcissism which is why supremely confident leaders rarely listen to the advice or push back of others. 

On the part of leaders, here are some of the behaviors that reflect a level of narcissism.

  • Taking credit for work performed by others
  • Needing the limelight
  • Not listening to the input of others
  • Needing to get one's way
  • Supreme confidence in all decisions
  • A need to be at the center of attention
  • Being stingy on thank you's and platforming others
  • Insecurity with staff who are better at something than themselves
  • Poor treatment of others
  • A critical spirit
  • Using others for our own agendas
  • Defensiveness
  • Focus on ourselves and our issues to the exclusion of  the needs of others.
  • Quick anger when things don't go our own way
  • Being jealous of the success of others
  • Needing to be in charge
  • Not apologizing for failures
It is worth thinking back over the past month and asking ourselves what decisions reflected narcissistic tendencies and which reflected a generous spirit that looks like Jesus? We are by our lower nature intrinsically selfish (narcissistic) and it is the Holy Spirit's work in our lives that moves us from a focus on self to a focus on Jesus and others. But it is a long journey of a deeper understanding of who we are, what motivates us and where we reflect our own interests more than those of Christ. All of us live with narcissism. The question is how aware we are of it and what we are doing about it. 

Posted from Grand Rapids, MI



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