“Outwardly you look like righteous people, but inwardly your hearts are filled with hypocrisy and lawlessness.” Matthew 23:28 (NIV)
Behold, Here’s Poison is the title of a mystery book by Georgette Heyer in which the murderer is discovered to be the one person so cloaked in outward goodness that there is shocked disbelief when he is exposed as the villain by the one discerning person who sees through the deception. Mysteries are often that way; it’s the guy next door, the best friend, or the one person who appeared most innocent. Sadly, those mystery books mirror real life.
In his book People of the Lie, M. Scott Peck explores and exposes the evils of narcissism, often one of the personality disorders of the perpetrator. Just as often, however, these people are entwined in our own daily lives and we fail to recognize their destructiveness because it is covered so beautifully with pseudo goodness, charm, and flattery. There is usually nothing glaringly visible like the skull and cross-bones used on chemical bottles to indicate the poison within and warn of the hurt, harm, and destruction they can cause. The narcissist has the proverbial heart of stone though few would realize it by their public behavior.
These are summary points from People of the Lie about narcissists:
1. Narcissists don’t consider themselves to be wrong. When their wrong is revealed, they deny, justify, or minimize its impact. A narcissist is adamant in denial.
2. They are highly concerned about what others think of them and want their outward lives to be seen as normal and moral. So concerned are they about their image that they will fabricate to maintain it and involve others to do so for them.
3. They are extremely intolerant of criticism. Accepting criticism for most is an opportunity to make a positive change, but the narcissist doesn’t believe there is a need for change and thus finds the criticism offensive. It is bitterly rejected and they will put forth numerous rebuttals.
4. They don’t truly accept responsibility for their actions but find something or someone else to point at as being responsible. Because there is a great need to maintain their own image, they attack others and justify their actions by pointing to how others impacted what they chose to do.
5. They are great actors and convincing liars, and invest belief if their lies. Even when confronted by evidence of their lies, they doggedly stick to them. The truth is too difficult as it will mar their self-image.
6. They are very clever deceivers, able to confuse others with lie upon lie, prevarication upon prevarication, and are quite adept at using diversionary tactics. They lie by omission, or easily spin a believable tale to cover their tracks. Because their lie may be entwined with some truth, they are able to deliver it quite convincingly.
7. They are greedy in that their needs, wants and desires must be met, even at cost to others. They dismiss the hurt they cause by blocking or ignoring it, pretending it has nothing to do with them.
8. They are consistently determined to have their own way and do not acknowledge their need to submit to a higher authority, particularly if it is in conflict with what they want. They are often at odds with authority and do not like to conform.
9. They like to be in the driver’s seat, having power, control, and influence over others. They crave affirmation and admiration, and call attention to themselves or inflate themselves in seeking it.
10. Though they may express empathy, the plight of another doesn’t really touch them. Help or assistance given by the narcissist meets their own need first, including the opportunity to be admired or affirmed in the image they strive to maintain.
11. They create a symbiotic relationship that is “mutually parasitic and destructive”. Despite consequences, both parties refuse to end it, feeling drawn to one another no matter the cost or loss. Neither cares enough about the other to separate; both consider their own desires first despite professions of concern for one another.
12. Narcissistic tendencies seem to run in families and create familial destruction and harm.
Hope for the narcissist is when their behaviors are owned and named for what they are, and they earnestly seek to make changes.
‘I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you; I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh’. Ezekiel 36:26