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Posts Tagged ‘purpose’

angel-and-moon

What can we know? What are we all? Poor silly half-brained things peering out at the infinite, with the aspirations of angels and the instincts of beasts. –Arthur Conan Doyle

Standing in the accelerating sleet last night, the pinks and blues and purples burst above us like the Space Needle was imploding in the most beautiful way.

2017… a new year, a new start, a chance to make things right. That’s what the New Year is for, correct? A giant reset button that lifts our spirits and refreshes our souls?

As I made my way through the mass of revelers and vehicles that leached out into the streets from every corner and crevice as if the city was a giant washcloth being wrung out, reality set back in. New year, same problems, even new problems.

Most of the world has more serious issues– I need to keep mine in perspective. But that doesn’t make them any less real, and one thing I don’t like about having problems is that it impedes my ability to help other people solve theirs.

This night is always a good night to forget about our challenges for a while and just feel alive. I needed that; I did that. As I went on to my next activity, though, I thought about how many of our efforts to feel alive please the body for a few hours but aren’t good for the soul.

We are masters at temporarily numbing our pain without digging down to the root cause of why we continually engage in self-destructive behaviors. Eventually these flimsy fixes we fashion to avoid processing the larger issues will fail. It might take decades, you might get away with avoiding your demons most of your life, but they will catch up to you.

Why? Why do we persist in doing things that devalue ourselves and seemingly ignore the fact that in the end we have to answer for our choices? This is not judgmental; I include myself in this analysis. And I was reminded as I pondered this that we don’t know who we are. Or we don’t care.

We are born. We learn pain. We try to find love. We find flawed human beings who are selfish and hurtful. Some even take pleasure in harming others. The enemy of our souls exploits our weaknesses and tries to convince us we have no need for God. Our bleeding hearts scar over, our walls go up, we keep a good face on but inside we withdraw farther and farther into the desolate labyrinth of prison cells that our life experiences have built for us.

This was never God’s plan for us. It’s still not His plan for us. I write this as someone who feels like I’ve had every reason in recent years to walk away from Him. The losses have been repeated and immense, the physical toll brutal and embarrassing. I understand as well as any why people feel betrayed by God and ask why He can allow such terrible things to happen, especially when you’re trying to be true to His ways.

In the beginning we walked with God in the garden. Then we met a deceiver who convinced us we could be our own gods. And our race has largely been stuck there ever since– doing our own thing, hurting and killing each other, destroying our souls. As C.S. Lewis astutely noted, all of human history, all the crazy things we’ve done, is an attempt to find something other than God to make us happy.

Do you know what gives me hope in those moments I feel like I’ve taken yet another shotgun blast to the chest and my internal organs are hanging out in shreds? I am His child. He has a solution for every sickness, a plan for every problem, a miracle for every mountain. Tonight might be the darkest night of your life but He’s awake and working. He has unlimited resources. And He’s going to make a way.

Some who believe in Him will tell you to be a good little doormat and to just be glad it’s not worse. Don’t listen to them. He has no intention of keeping us stuck in the same mud until we drown. He might allow us to make our own bad choices again and again until we hit rock bottom and wake up, but you are a child of light, not of mediocrity. You are a victor, not a victim. You are a purposeful creation of the force that not only made this universe but exists beyond it.

You might say, “you don’t know what I’ve done.” That goes both ways. You don’t know what I’ve done either. But I know He offers forgiveness and has had a plan for your life since before you were born. If you ask for His help and make an effort to live His way, He’ll start showing you the path you’re supposed to be on. Chances are He’s already given you some clues, but you feel too afraid, unworthy, or used up to go for it.

Our modern culture has no use for God except in times of tragedy. It’s become so very normal to believe that drinking, drugs, sex, sports, fashion, money will solve our problems. They mask our problems. They are Band-Aids. One more shallow relationship, one more beer, one more pair of designer shoes– no. Those just prolong the inevitable. You will still wake up one morning with the realization that your life could have had a deeper meaning. You might be 30, you might be 90, but it will come.

If you know who you are– His child– your life has that deeper meaning. You were not designed to function on your own and fuel your part-body, part-soul amphibious self with the things of this world. You were made to run on God, Love Himself. The more you realize this, the less you need the Band-Aids. It can be so hard to believe this when parts of your life have been like a horror story. I get it. Yet every time I choose Him instead of the Band-Aid, I am making it more possible to overcome my problems. This is because I’m surrendering my way to His, and He knows better than I do.

This is my challenge to all of us in 2017. Will we choose to believe that He has great plans for our lives and the best is yet to come as sons and daughters of the Most High? Or will we keep doing the same things over and over hoping that this time the outcome will be different (it won’t)?

New year, same problems as yesterday. Life didn’t magically start over during the fireworks. But you are most powerful when everything looks hopeless and lost and you choose to believe anyway. When life gets out its baseball bat again and beats you senseless, get upFight back. When temptation comes, remind yourself that you’re better than that. When people who don’t know your whole story judge you, remember that they don’t know but God does.

You are His child. He wants the very best for you. Remember who you are and what He has promised, and you will be happier, healthier, and more able to love and be loved.

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©2017 H. Hiatt/wildninjablog.com. All articles/posts on this blog are copyrighted original material that may not be reproduced in part or whole in any electronic or printed medium without prior permission from H. Hiatt/wildninjablog.com.

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angel-1

We often feel that we get what we deserve. The basic law, “the wages of sin is death” is operating. We think that if we are not loved, it must be because we did not earn it. The truth is, we can’t earn love. It is just something that someone decides to feel toward us. We can earn approval, but not love. We don’t deserve it, we don’t not deserve it. Deserving and love are unrelated. –Henry Cloud

It starts when we’re children and we’re cut and bruised until we scar. We’re bullied at school. A parent takes their dissatisfaction with their own life out on us. Someone violates our trust. Some shallow person breaks our heart. So we grow up with a warped self-image, eventually, at least to some degree, succumbing to the abuse so that we believe no one could ever truly love us the way we want to be loved.

We feel unworthy. We’re vulnerable. We associate with people who injure us, but we’re so used to it we make excuses for the abuse and largely overlook it. When we inventory the internal hurts and wrongs along with our own bad or desperate choices, we decide to lower our expectations. We think that no one could ever love us if they truly knew us or if they knew what has been done to us. We settle.

Life goes on. We wash, rinse, repeat. We might be attracted to those who seem exciting and daring only to find that their lows are dangerously low and their highs are exhausting. We might try to turn off our emotions and just go have our fun only to realize that it rots our souls. Perhaps we finally escape. But in that solitude and freedom, those original feelings of rejection and unworthiness have a peculiar way of festering unless we truly begin to understand who our Creator made us to be.

When you’re alone, do the words that abusive people said to you come back? You’re not good enough. You’re too this. You’re too that. No wonder that happened to you. Who could ever love you? And you wonder… if someone ever really knew you, could they truly respect you? Could they understand? Could they overlook past transgressions or see beyond how you were wronged? What if they found out about that time? What if they disapproved of that decision?

Maybe you’re not willing to try again. Perhaps you just want to keep someone at arm’s length and stay at the fringes of a relationship. That’s up to you. You will know when you’re ready to try again and no one should deprive you of your free will. Good things can take time too. But the strong caution I want to issue tonight is this: do not let your past, even what happened yesterday, define your future. To do so could be to miss out on life and even your divine purpose.

As the author of the Boundaries books alludes to above, you should not reject love on the basis that you don’t “deserve” it. Love is a gift. You could try your entire earthly existence to rack up enough brownie points to “deserve” to be loved the way God intends you to be and not succeed. When the real deal comes knocking, open yourself to the possibility that the way you originally envisioned love is still possible. Don’t start counting all the reasons they shouldn’t love you; acknowledge that someone sees you as your Creator intended you.

You’ll know the real deal when it happens. It’s exactly that–real. Not phony, but raw, honest, and deeply desiring to get to know your whole person, strengths and weaknesses alike. There is a mutual give and take as the relationship develops, with truths and fears and hopes and dreams being woven into the developing tapestry. It’s work, yet it yields great rewards and deep intimacy. It can be terrifying to let another person into that part of yourself you’ve had locked off for so long. But once you crack the door, you’ll find that parts of yourself you thought were long dead start to come alive.

The real deal treats you with respect, doesn’t try to control your life, and builds you up instead of tearing you down. It acknowledges that there will be ups and downs, yet deals with them in an inside voice. It stands with you regardless of what life throws at you and stays with you through both tragedies and victories. The real deal wants to do life together as a team and together grow into the people God intends for you to be, realizing that you can accomplish more together than apart.

But, you say, but you don’t know my past. You don’t know what was done to me. You don’t know how I’ve suffered. You don’t know the choices I’ve made. You’re correct. I don’t. But I know that your Heavenly Father, Love Himself, paid for all of that one hellish day in 33 A.D. outside Jerusalem. Everything our race had ever done wrong, everything we would do, was carried on those bleeding shoulders. He gave us a blank slate.

Once we say, “yeah, I believe You are who you say You are, and I’m sorry for the wrongs I have committed” He gives us a fresh start. Why, then, do we keep crucifying ourselves for times gone by when it’s done, finished, over? That is a complex question and we each have our own reasons for playing the tapes of our past over and over in our hearts and heads, often unresolved trauma. We might need professional help working through that. There’s no shame in that and I recommend it.

In order to truly escape our abusers and demons though, we need to cut loose from the identities they assigned to us– the ones that say we’re ugly, stupid, unworthy, ridiculous, damaged, and all the other concepts they projected onto us when their real issues were with themselves. Think about it. Healthy people don’t take such delight in putting others down and trying to manipulate everything they do. Unhealthy people often torment others by blaming them for what’s wrong with themselves.

When you think of yourself as undeserving of love, you are choosing to live by those false identities, those forced masks that bullies made you wear. In a sense, you are even choosing to identify with your abusers. I’m not saying you don’t have issues to work on. Maybe you have some things to clean up before you can reciprocate and be an equal partner in the real deal. I am challenging anyone struggling with the idea of being loved to not allow voices from the past to dictate their future. You are a beloved, purposeful creation of God, unique and specially gifted to fulfill a purpose. You are a child of the King.

There will always be negative voices in life trying to tear you down. Shut them up. Shut them out. Look up. Keep your eyes on the One who made you, who knew every one of your days before you came into being. The enemy of our souls wants to keep us groveling in subservience to our former masters: fear, anger, loneliness, unkind words, hate, violence, jealousy, exploitation, betrayal, heartbreak. When we stay chained to those evils we fail to grow into true relationship with God and others. We feel unworthy. We stay vulnerable. We get hurt again. We lower our expectations. We settle…

Enough is enough. It’s time to say goodbye to the masks, chains, and voices. When they say hello, quote scripture to them because it is in the Manufacturer’s Handbook that we find our true identities: I am more than a conqueror. I am a light-bearer, not one who hides in the darkness. I was created to do good works. He said I will do even greater miracles than He did. I no longer have a spirit of fear, but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind. I am a victor, not a victim. I am empowered by the One who spoke the universe into being and designed to love deeply, fully, selflessly, passionately, with reckless abandon. I am not going to allow my yesterdays to dictate the way I love.

It takes practice. But the more you realize that you are who God says you are, the more able you are to give and receive genuine love. You are free to flex the muscles of your true self, the one you used to have to hide to keep the peace or survive. No more hiding. No more kowtowing, placating, or dumbing yourself down to try to please someone. As author John Eldredge said, let people feel the weight of who you are and let them deal with it.

You get one try here on earth, one chance to determine your station in eternity. Don’t waste it being who other people say you are; be the you that you’ve always known you are. The you that wanted to be an astronaut when you were four years old. The you that felt weak in the knees when she walked by your locker in middle school. The you that could see him kneeling in the drizzle under a golf umbrella as realize what he’s about to do. The you who heads up a team of relentless do-gooders making a difference in the world. Don’t you think these sensations and dreams were put there for a reason?

Deep down, you know that you are called to greatness. Even deeper, somewhere in the infinite depths of your heart, you know that you still desire that forever love, that fusion with an equally flawed human being who just has that undefinable, intangible something… Yes… it’s still there. Despite all your efforts to board up the windows and barricade the doors, there is still a spark, a kernel of hope, a seed waiting for the flood.

It’s your choice. It’s always your choice. No one can take that from you. There are benefits to being single and there are benefits to being part of a team. But that spark, that kernel, that seed was planted for a reason. And when the rains come, will you push it even farther down or will you slowly open up your arms and give it a chance to flourish? Will you acknowledge that this is not about what’s been done to you or what you deserve but that someone loves you for who you are? That it is a gift, not a contest?

My friends, do not let dark forces and selfish, insecure humans rob you of love the way God meant for it to be experienced. Do not live your life in slavery to the past. The debt has been paid.

Tonight, as you sit in your chair and for the millionth time run through all the reasons that you keep your heart in a box on the shelf, consider the possibility that all of those reasons are now irrelevant. You are free. Real love will enhance that freedom and respect and protect you. It will help you become the you God has intended for you to be all along.

Then it hits you. You breathe in sharply. Could it be…? 

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Other than heaven, the only place where one’s heart is completely safe from the dangers of love is hell. –C.S. Lewis

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©2016 H. Hiatt/wildninjablog.com. All articles/posts on this blog are copyrighted original material that may not be reproduced in part or whole in any electronic or printed medium without prior permission from H. Hiatt/wildninjablog.com.

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This week I was struck by the power of Death Cab for Cutie’s video for Black Sun. 

We Northwesterners have been enveloped by the sounds of Death Cab for nearly two decades now, and while I don’t agree with some of their politics or lyrics, certain songs reach down deep. They also have a way of translating our local precipitation into wispy, whispering ruminations.

Black Sun has been said to be a commentary on the pain and ugliness of divorce. To me the video reads as one person knocking themselves out to try and please another who hardly notices. And it reminded me of a friend’s recent commentary on the challenges of trying to find the right person. After a few wash, rinse, repeat cycles, to borrow words from another friend, the act of trying again can become more trial and task than a voyage of discovery.

While going about the usual mundane tasks this week a light bulb went on somewhere in the front left compartment of my mind, just beyond the grocery list and reminder to fix some squeaky hinges. I already know this, but this time it stood out like neon lights on stilts against an inky central Washington sky: with the right person, you will be more of yourself, not less. You will not have to compromise who you are.

How many of us have been in relationships in which we had to tone down who we are, what we love, and what we stand for in order to please another? That’s not what a relationship, particularly a marriage, is supposed to be. Marriage should be the one place in which you can be completely naked with another human being without shame, utterly yourself with your whole soul on display. On this sacred ground darkness and light can both be exposed in the safety of the shelter formed by the continual intertwining of two imperfect human beings.

That’s not what the world tells us. It’s not what most relationships in our spheres of influence teach us. Our race, the human race, has come to accept far less than what we were originally designed for. Go back to the garden. Did the first man look at the first woman and say, “you’ll do?” No. He would have been captivated by how different from himself she was and yet how wonderfully she complemented his own character and interests. He would have seen her as a marvelous gift, an enigma begging to be explored, an alien entity whose personality invited him into all its tantalizing twists and turns. I’m sure she was at least as entranced by him.“Who is he?” she thought as her heart stood still in a timeless and ethereal moment.

But here, in this time, the human race has become largely self-absorbed. We go out into the world asking what other people can do for us rather than what we can do for them. Many suffer from the delusion that an initial sexual attraction is spark enough to sustain a potentially lifetime-long relationship. There has to be a multidimensional framework to hold that up. We’ve lost track of what constitutes successful relationships– common values, common goals, mutual interests, a commitment to becoming more like our Creator, Love Himself.

So we go on the prowl and find that it’s so easy to join the other contenders are splashing around in the shallow end of the dating pool. “No expectations!” they say. “Let’s just have fun and see what happens!” But there’s a tug at your heart as you wade around in the moral morass. You find yourself longer for something more. Something richer. Something deeper. It’s passionate. It’s primal. It’s like an unseen, magnetic force is drawing you to the deep end to experience something better than you’ve ever had planned. The garden is calling.

Unfortunately, there are those who will follow you to the deep end without having the actual fortitude to sustain a relationship at that level. Eventually they will panic and scramble back to the shallow end or drown. This can also happen when you’re a deep person hanging out in the shallow end. If both of you aren’t made of the same stuff, one or both ends of your union will start to sink. And sometimes it takes both people down. You find yourself alone, disillusioned, screaming at the universe, asking why you’ve been abandoned when you tried so hard and gave so much. Often the other person walks on like you weren’t even there in the first place.

So you try. And try again. And it seems like you keep finding the same people, or the same problems, or the same conditions. The quest for that one person can become an exercise in pain, an unnecessary drudgery, even torture. Like the man in this video, you might be practically killing yourself just to get one glance from the object of your affections. So you pull back. You start stuffing your hopes and dreams down into some forlorn hole in your metaphorical right pant leg. You start trying to be someone you’re not to get attention and please others. You begin to lose yourself. Internally it’s like you see yourself standing at 50,000 feet and are watching your soul tear lose from your body only to plunge down below the clouds.

The right person won’t make you feel this way. The right person isn’t going to walk past like you’re a ghost despite your best efforts. You shouldn’t have to tone down your personality, shave off parts of your intellect, and pretend to like things you detest to get the kind of relationship you want. The right man or woman will look upon you, warts and all, and love who you are and what you stand for. Being with them will encourage your strengths and build your uniqueness rather than tear that down. Your differences will complement one another and you will not lose the freedom to pursue your hopes and dreams. This is someone who will help you get there. This is someone with whom you will accomplish far more than you ever could have on your own. You will be more of who God intended you to be, not less. 

Do you hear what I’m saying? If you’re an intelligent person, and your potential mate is threatened by that, should they be your potential mate? If you’re a fun-loving person who could care less what other people think of your flamboyant interests and adventures, why join forces with someone who belittles some of your friends or activities? If you feel that you should raise children a certain way and want them to have particular ethics, why risk their futures by connecting with someone who’s not standing on the same moral ground? Yes, you’re going to have some hobbies she doesn’t, and relationships are work. You’re never going to agree on everything. There will be times you have to agree to disagree. But don’t compromise on the foundation.

As the singles among us go out there and try and try again, my advice to them is to know who you are and what you want, and walk away if you have to compromise your core characteristics or values. But be open to surprises. Sometimes the right person defies the picture you had in your head and turns out to be something even better. Sometimes a friend becomes something more. Sometimes the best answers are hiding in plain sight. Most of all, remember who your Creator made you to be and know that those passions and missions buried in the deepest part of your soul are from Him. That’s no accident, and He’s likely put someone else on the same trajectory who burns with a similar fire.

Whatever your approach to the dating game, you probably already know that there are hordes of self-absorbed people out there who will gladly treat you as a commodity no matter how good you are to them. To much of this world, you’re disposable. They’ll use you, beat you up, put your heart through a blender, and drive off in a cloud of dust without a second thought. But the more you come to realize that you were created as a unique individual with a specific purpose, the more you will gravitate towards like souls. The truer you are to yourself, the more courageously you’ll move out into the deep end of the human pool. You will learn to swim and not sink.

When you go out into the masses armed with the truth about who you are, the more likely it is that someday soon you’ll feel an electrifying glimmer of recognition– is it him? Could that be her? And if, in the course of the exploratory exercise of friendship, you discover that the real you is growing and thriving, and being continually invited out into the open, perhaps you have finally found that rare treasure the Creator has been preparing for you for years. During all that time you felt dejected and alone, He was at work causing your paths to meet and preparing that ancient memory to stir.

And the man or woman who drives away in the black car after smashing your heart to pieces will become little more than an afterthought fading into a distant past life.

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And I say also this. I do not think the forest would be so bright, nor the water so warm, nor love so sweet, if there were no danger in the lakes. –C.S. Lewis, Out of the Silent Planet

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©2015 H. Hiatt/wildninjablog.com. All articles/posts on this blog are copyrighted original material that may not be reproduced in part or whole in any electronic or printed medium without prior permission from H. Hiatt/wildninjablog.com.

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When pondering what New Year’s related song I could post here, I considered Bing Crosby’s Let’s Start the New Year Right and the playful video I featured in last year’s post.

But more than anything else that came to mind, Matisyahu’s Live Like a Warrior encapsulates what I wish for others in the New Year. Please join me in cranking up the video above and letting yesterday burn in the fire.

While I always wish for hope, peace, truth, justice, and for people to come as they are to the Savior, this year I specifically want people to find the freedom to be themselves. Too many of us, for far too long, have lived within the prison walls of how other people want us to define our lives, or act, or speak, or dress. It’s time to break those chains and start living out loud as the unique, beloved, talented children of the Creator that we really are.

If I want to eat cornflakes at midnight dressed in a Spongebob Snuggie while watching ’60s Godzilla movies, I’m going to do it. Well, maybe I already do. But more than that, I want us all to be tired of toiling in the shade of jobs that don’t utilize our abilities, in unnecessary relationships that sap our sanity, and simply existing in a world that instead needs passionate warriors to beat back the rising tide of hatred and evil.

It’s time to be who we really are, people. You know full well that there is a dream inside you, a seed planted by the One Who made you and knows you, waiting to spring out into the light. It isn’t just a fantasy. It is a spark waiting to be fanned into an inferno. You are more than your past. You are more than your present. You’ve been purposely placed here now, at this time, to do the most good you can do in the time that you have with the gifts that you have been given.

As Marcus Aurelius said, what we do now… echoes in eternity. This new year, my prayer is that we all wake up from our slumber and come alive like never before, daring to accomplish mighty feats that others think are just plain crazy. Let’s stop worrying about what other flawed human beings think and start growing into our true selves as the Creator intended. When you look back, do you really want to say that you spent your time on earth in safe mode, or in OH YEAH! BRING IT ON! mode?

Dance when you want to dance. Sing when you want to sing. Love with reckless abandon, take a stand for justice, defend the poor and oppressed. Do that thing that only you can do. And someday, a long time from now, in another place, we’ll look back and celebrate the day that each of us decided to shed our scaly cloaks of human opinion and started letting our true selves shine. God never intended you to pretend to be less than you really are.

Live like a warrior.

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©2014 H. Hiatt/wildninjablog.com. All articles/posts on this blog are copyrighted original material that may not be reproduced in part or whole in any electronic or printed medium without prior permission from H. Hiatt/wildninjablog.com.

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Ye Shall Be 1

It’s the original lie: you can be your own god. This seems to be the mantra that narcissists exercise regularly through their thoughts, actions, and words. THEY are superior. THEY are special. EVERYONE should bow down to their every whim, whine, and wish.

We all know these people. Somewhere in their dysfunctional upbringing or exclusive social cliques, they’ve lost touch with anything resembling humility, gratitude, and empathy, trading it in for a soul-sucking mentality in which the world revolves around them. Period. No one else’s wants, needs, or views could possibly be as important as theirs.

Narcissists are cheese graters on the nerves of life. Their self-absorbed temper tantrums and constant demands drain those around them of their time, money, and energy. Their extreme need to be the center of attention and be praised or spoiled is exhausting. Narcissists are sometimes talented people, but they believe the spotlight should be on them far more often than their actions or efforts merit. If they are particularly gifted in certain areas, they might well be deficient in their social skills or lacking meaningful relationships altogether. All that glitters is not gold.

To be diagnosed with narcissistic personality disorder (NPD) by a mental health professional, a person must have five or more of the following symptoms (the symptoms have been copied directly from Psych Central):

  • Has a grandiose sense of self-importance (e.g., exaggerates achievements and talents, expects to be recognized as superior without commensurate achievements)
  • Is preoccupied with fantasies of unlimited success, power, brilliance, beauty, or ideal love
  • Believes that he or she is “special” and unique and can only be understood by, or should associate with, other special or high-status people (or institutions)
  • Requires excessive admiration
  • Has a very strong sense of entitlement, e.g., unreasonable expectations of especially favorable treatment or automatic compliance with his or her expectations
  • Is exploitative of others, e.g., takes advantage of others to achieve his or her own ends
  • Lacks empathy, e.g., is unwilling to recognize or identify with the feelings and needs of others
  • Is often envious of others or believes that others are envious of him or her
  • Regularly shows arrogant, haughty behaviors or attitudes

Notice how these traits are very much the opposite of what God requires of us. The more deeply these traits are indulged, the farther away we get from values that require us to love our neighbors as ourselves and respect our Creator. It should be no wonder, then, that narcissists wreak so much havoc in life. The path they are walking leads further and further away from the original design. Eventually it leads downhill and over a cliff. It will never come to a good end.

Like a lot of people, I’ve interacted with narcissistic people in nearly every area of my life. I’m sickeningly familiar with each of these symptoms and have experienced the damage they do to families, friendships, workplaces, and organizations. Narcissism can factor heavily into family violence and workplace bullying among other evils, and narcissists often get away with being childish, sadistic tyrants because people won’t stand up to them out of fear or because they’re concerned about litigation. To protect myself and my family, I’ve had to end or severely limit relationships with narcissists multiple times.

Ye Shall Be 2

Over the years many arguments have been made that some degree of narcissism is essential to success. Successful people, of course, are frequently confident and competitive. But you don’t have to be a jerk to get ahead. You can be driven, sure of yourself and your God-given abilities, and focused without being a massive black hole that devours everyone else’s happiness and sanity. You don’t need to steamroll over everyone else to achieve great things, or even to create the appearance that you have. When you are living as the person your Creator intended you to be, your actions and achievements will speak for themselves.

Looking more closely at each symptom gives a clearer picture of why those with a narcissistic bent, diagnosable or not, can be so taxing to be around. When someone has a grandiose sense of self-importance, it’s like they want the first place trophy while giving a third class performance.

I remember seeing an audition for American Idol one time in which a young girl gyrated and mumbled a Christina Aguilera song. Her mother became very upset when the judges passed on her, snapping, “she’s the total package.” I was taken aback because her daughter’s audition didn’t show any exceptional singing, dancing, or entertainment talent, but in her mother’s eyes, she was Christina’s clone. While it’s good for mothers to cheer on their children, this mom seemed delusional (or possibly tone-deaf).

Similarly, narcissists believe that just because they have some good qualities or talents, they are THE BOMB. They can have a very skewed and unrealistic view of their own abilities. In their minds they can be royalty, worthy of the highest honors and awards without putting in the sweat equity that would get them to that level. Does the word actor come to mind? There are actors and actresses who carry a heavy sense of self-importance because of their acting resumes. But I puzzle over their fame when they seem to play the same guy or gal in every movie.

Do they truly deserve the attention and praise lavished upon them? Or do we pay attention simply because they and their agents make such a big deal of themselves? This reminds me of the “popular” kids in high school. Were they “popular” and “cool” because they were friendly, kind, generous people, or because they constantly kept themselves in the public eye through their drinking, sexual escapades, and designer clothes?

Narcissists can be more than preoccupied with fantasies of unlimited success, power, brilliance, beauty, or ideal love– they can be obsessed. The Great Gatsby is a fair example of this. His desire for riches and success (and Daisy) motivated him to go to extremes that were eventually his downfall. Narcissists don’t want imperfect love; they want perfect, effortless love (which often involves meeting a mirror image of themselves, because it would bore them to partner with someone who has different interests). They don’t believe they should rise to middle management and spend a career there; they believe that they should be the CEO, whether qualified or not. They can live in a fantasy world in which their family members and friends become swept up in, and expected to work towards, their lofty dreams. I’m all for aiming for the moon and being the very best, but that involves a strong individual work ethic, not climbing up others’ coattails and bank accounts.

Believing that he or she is special and unique, and therefore should only rub elbows with other special or privileged people, is another frequent trait of narcissists. In their minds, they are so special and unique that 99 percent of the world’s population is riff raff who are beneath them. They think that only other chosen ones can truly understand them because they are superior to the rest of humanity.

Ye Shall Be 3

Now God did, in fact, create each of us as special and unique individuals with a purpose and mission. No human is an accident. You are worth more than gold to Him, so much so that His son died to bring you life everlasting. He did not, however, intend for you to be an elitist snob who only associates with other intolerable elitist snobs. While we should choose our friends wisely, it’s important to remember that the ground is level at the foot of the cross, and your life is not worth more than the guy’s standing next to you in the checkout line.

Narcissistic people have a serious need to be told how good-looking, talented, funny, hard-working, insightful, creative, generous, ___ (insert another adjective, repeat, etc.) they are. They might not be any of those things, but boy do they need you to remind them every single day that they are all that and a super-sized bag of potato chips. If you dare to suggest that they need to make some improvements or aren’t as spectacular as they claim to be, they will attack you. When you do so, you are disturbing their fantasies and their skewed view of themselves. Perhaps that attack comes out of a deep-seated insecurity that could even have traumatic origins, but it’s vicious and unnecessary.

“Has a very strong sense of entitlement.” Whew… I think I have a PhD and a black belt in dealing with this narcissistic demon. When you are around a narcissist, you had better jump when they say jump. You’d better act scared when they want to be intimidating. You’d better grovel and beg and mooch as soon as they hold out the royal ring. If they want food or sex or to watch a particular TV show or to be entertained– you’d better snap to it regardless of your own needs or time.

THEY dictate the terms of your relationship. THEY decide what is best for you. They will punish you if you don’t bow down immediately, and will incessantly remind you of your failures to comply as time goes on. The only way you can stay in their good graces is to treat them like a god. If you have a discussion about people’s rights, they are only concerned with their rights. Any exercise of your own rights is seen as a violation of theirs. If you try to solve a problem, you will soon find that not only is the problem yours to solve, but you are the cause of the problem as well.

Narcissistic people have, as the symptoms say, unrealistic expectations of the people around them (even the pets around them). Like a spoiled prince with half a jelly donut smeared all over his face who has tired of breaking his new toys, they will demand that those around them pay attention to them at all times and keep them from being bored. They take little responsibility for furnishing their own amusements. They want everyone around them to “dance,” as if they are toddlers who need mommy or daddy to keep bringing them the latest and greatest gadget to bounce around their highchair tray and then toss onto the floor. While they should be asking what they can do for others and how to engage others in mutually enjoyable activities, they are so laser-focused on themselves that life with them is a 24/7 reminder that you exist for their pleasure.

Exploiting others is as natural to narcissists as planting a tree in the ground. That’s where you’d plant a tree, right? So that’s what you do with other human beings. Whatever can be gained from the people around them will be taken unless they are stopped. They are powerful vacuum cleaners who contrive all sorts of darling (yet usually transparent) lines about how to gain your money, get you to pay for a trip, buy them clothes, and generally take advantage of you. Some can be intimidating and mean rather than darling, but the goal is the same– to use you as a filling station on the road of life. You are a means to their fantasies of perfection and glory.

It should be noted that narcissists don’t just exploit your time and money, they can exploit you sexually, emotionally, and in other ways. In their eyes their victims must seem like one-stop shopping centers. They pick and choose what they want for themselves regardless of the costs to their victims. It doesn’t matter if you’ve been exploited before or have little to give; what matters is that your store is open. This is why it’s so important to set and maintain boundaries with narcissists, and cut off the relationship altogether if needed. Don’t let people tell you that you have to keep a door open for a narcissist because they’re family, or you’ve known them for years, or they’re your boss. You already know the hell they cause and need to draw a line in the sand to protect yourself and your own people.

Ye Shall Be 4

Narcissists lack empathy. What is empathy? It is the ability to stand in another person’s shoes. Narcissistic folks frequently lash out at others when their demands aren’t being met. They will say the ugliest, most horrible things to try and force others to comply with their wishes. They will tell you you’re stupid, ugly, unfair, evil, selfish, abusive, and any other insult during their tantrums designed to force you to give in. They don’t care how much this hurts you or how low this makes you feel. Yet if someone were to call them stupid, ugly, unfair, evil, or even one of those things, they would be horrified at how deeply you’ve wounded them (and not let you forget it). “Do unto others” is lost on them because life’s all about them.

People like this are often envious of others and think others are envious of them. Their eyes are on what makes them most noticeable, the most outrageous, the most “popular.” They will sometimes do shocking and perverse things to remain the center of attention as they attempt to outdo their perceived “competition.” Again, this sounds like high school. But it also sounds like a lot of so-called celebrities who are basically famous for being famous (or because they “leaked” a sex tape). Life is a cutthroat beauty pageant for them. When they enter a room they want everyone to drop what they’re doing and come fawn over them as if they’ve floated in on a throne perched on clouds. If you don’t pay these games, then you’re “jealous” of them or there’s something wrong with you.

This brings me to the last symptom of NPD, regularly showing arrogant, haughty behaviors or attitudes. I once worked with a woman who liked to let me know that my opinions and beliefs were inferior to hers. There was no rational basis for her objections; she just enjoyed trying to let others know how superior her tastes were. If I was talking to other coworkers about how much we liked ravioli, she’d enter the conversation uninvited and expound upon the reasons that spaghetti was far superior to ravioli. The verbal spaghetti bludgeoning would be accompanied by a knowing smile and chuckle, as if the rest of the idiots in the office didn’t have the mental capacity to comprehend why no adult could possibly like ravioli better. What a sad way to live. There was such an unhealthy need to dominate others’ views and conversation, particularly mine.

Narcissistic people are adept at communicating like snotty little fifth graders who don’t want the kid in hand-me-downs to play with them at recess. They sometimes lack adult communication and problem-solving skills, yet believe they communicate perfectly well and continually remind you that “you’re not listening.” They like letting you know that you’re not ___ enough (insert giving, fun, adventurous, cool, smart, or other adjective) but that they are. Just the other day I was listening to this type of person extol their own virtues and was reminded how much I can’t stand being around this. I was doubly reminded when I tried to find common ground and a personal jab was taken to remind me that they were “superior.”

If you identify as a narcissist or struggle with NPD, please consider how much your arrogance and haughtiness alienates people. Your family members or coworkers might have to tolerate you to the extent that they see you at family gatherings or work with you every day, but in time they’re going to pull away to protect themselves. If you treat them as commodities rather than fellow travelers on the road of life, your motives will become obvious and they will create distance. Everyone needs a support network and some semblance of a family, so you’re ultimately damaging yourself and your world by being so take and not give. Someday you’re going to wake up and find that they’re no longer there for you, and that will be a very lonely place to be. Now is the time to seek help. You need an intervention. You need therapy.

You also need your Father. Why? By setting yourself up as what we call in my church a little g god, you are denying the power of the big G God in your life. God is love. Who would deliberately turn away more love? Love can cause a radical shift in our behaviors and worldview. The more love we have, the more inclined we are to turn outward rather than focusing inward. The more love we have, the more we ask what other people need rather than what they can do for us. The more love we have, the more power we have to change the world in ways that can last forever. As Marcus Aurelius said, what we do now echoes in eternity. Do you truly want to be remembered as someone who never matured beyond an infantile sense of self-entitlement, or do you want this life, this mere beginning in the grand scheme of things, to count for something far greater than yourself?

Philips Brooks said that the true way to be humble is not to stoop until you are smaller than yourself, but to stand at your real height against some higher nature that will show you what the real smallness of your greatness is. Stand at your highest, and then look at Christ, then go away and forever be humble. How small we are indeed when the created try to measure up to the Creator. No matter how magnificent we think we are, not one of us has ever spoken one complex little atom into being. Not one of us makes the stars come out at night or makes the grass grow or can cause a man and a woman to look at each other and experience a depth of feeling so profound that they are left speechless as some ancient memory is stirred. There is simply no value in being a narcissist when you consider that all of your greatness and all of your glory has been made possible by Someone infinitely wiser and more powerful than you anyway.

If your life is being impacted by a narcissist, start setting boundaries today. Lay down clear ground rules and do not waver from them. You must also provide consequences for violations of those rules and boundaries. You might also need to take away the tools they are harassing you with. You might be in a situation in which you have to tell the person that you will only communicate about specific matters at certain times and by certain means. If you have to obtain a court order to enforce this, do so.

Narcissists will pick at you and remind you of how needy they are by every means imaginable. You might ask them to only speak on the phone and ignore their obsessive texts, or you might ask them to communicate in writing only so you have a record of what was said. Don’t respond every time they prod you. That rewards the bad behavior. Expect them to act within guidelines and stick with it. This applies to children as well. Don’t give in to them by jumping every time they say jump. That’s how narcissists are made. You’re the adult; lay down the law and provide consequences when they start acting like they’re the grown-up instead.

Narcissistic personality disorder is a real problem and can’t be fixed overnight. I believe it can only be fixed if the person exhibiting those symptoms truly wants to change. To change, they generally need to realize how their mindset and choices are hurting themselves. They’re not good at understanding how their actions affect others, so they need to realize that ultimately their behavior is self-destructive and that people they depend on will only tolerate it for so long. So you cannot continue to allow them to act like little tyrants with jelly donut on their faces. You are doing both them and yourself a disservice if you don’t set boundaries and– boom– put them on notice when they try to cross those, which they inevitably will. Think of a gate that comes down when a drawbridge is about to go up. They shall not pass.

Ye Shall Be 5

In conclusion, I am deeply disturbed that narcissism has become so pervasive in our society. Every day self-centeredness is evident by people’s driving, shopping, lack of manners, and lack of empathy. WE are more important. WE are entitled to great things. MY time is more valuable. These are the lies that are dividing people instead of bringing them together. These are the lies that crush families and destroy relationships.

My hope is that as we look towards true perfection, and a truly flawless character in our Creator, that we will use Him as the mirror in which to look when wanting to compare ourselves and not each other. In this form, in the here and now, we were not created to be as gods. We were created to glorify the one true God, and in doing so, to become more and more like Him instead of more and more like humans who took a chance on the lie and ate the apple. The original lie has never worked and it never will.

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Until you have given up your self to Him you will not have a real self… Nothing that you have not given away will ever be really yours. Nothing in you that has not died will ever be raised from the dead. Look for yourself, and you will find in the long run only hatred, loneliness, despair, rage, ruin, and decay. But look for Christ and you will find Him, and with Him everything else thrown in.

-C.S. Lewis, Mere Christianity

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©2014 H. Hiatt/wildninjablog.com. All articles/posts on this blog are copyrighted original material that may not be reproduced in part or whole in any electronic or printed medium without prior permission from H. Hiatt/wildninjablog.com.

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