If you want to engage in some disconcerting reading on some quiet evening, go online and read the clinical descriptions of “Narcissistic Personality Disorder.” Most of us have had to deal with narcissists at some time in our lives; if you have, you know it’s no mean task.
In a nutshell, a narcissist is a person who grew up with little or no inner sense of “self.” The only self they know is the one they see in the eyes of others, and so they learn well-honed behaviors over a lifetime, designed to elicit positive responses from others. The truest narcissists are highly skilled at this; at first impression they may be very impressive to others. The only problem is that if you are no longer helpful in their self-centered project, you are expendable.
Jesus showed much wisdom when he told his followers to deny themselves. This was not a call for poor self-esteem, but a reminder that a life built around the needs of the self alone will be an empty life indeed.
Both the clinical information and the spiritual wisdom serve as a challenge to all of us to do some honest self-examination. To what extent am I selfish? Am I self-centered or other-centered? Considering this, I thought I’d compile a little 10-question test made up of the things I need to ask myself.
• Do I worry more about myself or others?
• Which do I do more: talk or listen?
• How would I feel if I had to live with me?
• Do I talk mostly about myself, or do I ask others to tell me about them?
• When I’m in a social gathering, do I concentrate on the person I’m talking with, or do I look over their shoulder to see who else is in the room?
• When was the last time I wrote a note to someone going through a hard time?
• What portion of my income do I keep for myself, and how much do I give to the needs of others? How about my time?
• When someone disagrees with me, religiously or politically, do I start a fight or do I seek to know the true reasons for their opinion?
This is my favorite: What kind of driver am I? Do I consider others? Do I use my turn signals? Do I obey speed limits designed to keep the roads safe? When shopping, do I put my cart back where it belongs, or do I leave it in the middle of a space? How often do I let someone go in front of me with a wave and a smile? You can tell — I think my behavior behind the wheel is the best place to decide whether I am a narcissist!
Finally (and I do mean finally), when I die, what will the headline of my obituary say? What will they say at the funeral? How would I feel about that?
Just a few uncomfortable questions for a February day. And, by the way, don’t forget to buy a card for your Valentine. That would be a good start.