“He’s such a narcissist”.
I counseled a woman for three years who happened to be married to a narcissist – an incredibly self-absorbed man. With significant emotional disconnect in their marriage, suspicions of infidelity, and an intrusive drinking problem, they were in dire need of marriage counseling. But he would never participate.
He wasn’t even willing to acknowledge there was a need. In his mind, their marriage was fine, and any problems that arose were the result of things she needed to change, not him. According to him, she was the problem. And so for three years she attended marriage therapy by herself, with him showing up every once in a blue moon just to keep tabs on what we were doing.
With time and effort, she began to recognize her enabling behaviors and eventually get herself to a better place—with or without him.
NARCISSUS IN ALL OF US
You’ve probably heard the term narcissist used to describe someone lately. It’s a word that’s come up more and more frequently in recent days. It’s a term that originates from Greek mythology, referring to the story of a young man named Narcissus, who was so handsome that he fell in love with himself. But in the end, his self-absorption caused him to believe he was too good for anyone, and so he ended up living lonely and isolated all the days of his life.
You may not know this, but this Greek tale influenced an official mental diagnosis on the DSM-V which is currently called, Narcissistic Personality Disorder.
It’s only diagnosed in a tiny percentage of the general population, but refers to people who have traits such as an ongoing sense of entitlement, an exaggerated self-appraisal, a pervasive self-centeredness, and a lack of empathy and interest in others.
I don’t know about you, but in reading that list one thing becomes clear: we all carry a little but of Narcissus inside of us. We just call him by another name: pride.
We all carry a little but of Narcissus inside of us. We just call him by another name: pride.
God’s word refers to pride over 60 times in Scripture. And often, it’s followed by terrible things such as devastation, death, and destruction. Pride is also the number one thing that impacts our relationships because “where there is strife, there is pride” (Proverbs 13:13). The two will always go hand in hand.
ALTER YOUR EGO: Recognizing YOUR pride.
In order for us to combat pride, we have to alter our ego and choose humility. But in order to do that, we first have to recognize our pride.
We’ve got to learn to let go of the polished picture we have of ourselves and instead see ourselves for who we really are: sinners in desperate need of grace.
Because it’s so much easier to see the flaws of others and all the while completely miss our own. And in marriage, that fact becomes especially true. We’re so quick to point the finger, pass the blame, and see the faults in the person before us.
We blame faster than we forgive.
We criticize better than we apologize.
We want to be heard, before we’ve even listened.
We magnify the faults of others, and minimize the faults in our own lives.
But for a relationship to have any hope of thriving, we need to learn to let go of our pride in exchange for something greater – humility.
Whether we’re the one who was wrong or the one who was wronged, both ends of the spectrum require an exchange to occur in our heart: from pride to humility.
It takes as much humility to accept an apology and offer forgiveness as it does to give an apology and receive forgiveness. Humility has the power to bring two people together in a way that not many other things can manage to do.
And marriage has the power to shed our ego, but the real question is this: will we allow it to?
Can I give a recent example of how pride has impacted by ability to love well?
Ephesians 4:2 NIV
“Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love.”
This short excerpt was taken from the beginning of Chapter 4 of Choosing Marriage called Alter That Ego: From Pride to Humility. The the rest of the chapter, we talk through some really important things about pride, forgiveness, apology, and humility. Here are some of the topics I cover in this chapter:
- How to recognize pride in your own life – two things to look for.
- A detailed look at the story of Narcissus as well as Narcissistic Personality Disorder.
- A scriptural overview of the problem and consequences of pride.
- A front-row look into a “marriage fight” Debra had with her husband John, and how they resolved it.
- A discussion about three things you can instantly do to practically deal with the pride in your life when it impacts your relationships.
- A candid talk about forgiveness – what it means to forgive, when to do it, and why forgiveness and forgetting are NOT the same thing.
- The art of an apology: learning that saying “I’m sorry” is not enough – and understanding the fours important steps to an apology.
- An overview of humility in Scripture, and psychological studies that link humility to healthy relationships.
And that’s just Chapter 4!!! Pre-order your copy of Choosing Marriage before May 1 to get $50 of free bonuses thrown in!
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Debra Fileta is a Professional Counselor, national speaker, relationship expert, and author of True Love Dates: Your Indispensable Guide to Finding the Love of Your Life, and Choosing Marriage: Why It Has To Start With We > Me where she writes candidly about love, sex, dating, relationships, and marriage. You may also recognize her voice from her 200+ articles at Relevant Magazine, Crosswalk.com, and all over the web! She’s the creator of this True Love Dates Blog, reaching millions of people with the message that healthy people make healthy relationships! Connect with her on Facebook or Twitter or book a session with her today!